Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Holy Shit

We watch The Voice at my house. Mostly because I like to drool over Pharrell Williams' (smart boys and girls give me the shivers) incredibly smooth voice and ideas and well, because Gwen Stefani is just freakin' hot.

But, I keep getting introduced to new music and this is good for me. (Or as I told Liv last night, "You youngsters sure got some good things goin' on..." This made her laugh. She likes it when I go all old school and say words like youngsters or even better...younguns...)

Seriously though, how did I miss this:

Or this!

Am I the only one who could just eat Chris Jamison with a spoon?

Or this one? Taylor John Williams taking on Swift? And I actually LIKE his version better.

Another smart boy...they slay me. They really do. I told Liv that he was EXACTLY the sort of guy I would have snagged at a party in college. She gave me her look. That You're my MOTHER look.

Yup....youse youngsters shore got it goin on, dudes.

And I get this crazy feeling that you are all SO much smarter than the rest of us......

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas time in the City and the power of two

It'll be a Christmas without Liv this year. She leaves on the 20th to spend Christmas in Denver with her Father and his girlfriend. She'll be back on January 3rd, just in time to go back to school.

Bing and I wanted to spend Christmas in New Orleans, but my bloodwork is still a little wonky, so we are settling for a shorter holiday. We'll leave on the 23rd for Chicago to spend Christmas with our friends, Vince and Thuan and come home on the 27th and then bring in 2015 alone with some Cornish game hens, champagne and each other.

We had no one to care for Socks this year, so yes....we are almost like those people who don't go places because they don't have a dog sitter! Our next door neighbor, Sven's Mom, is going to spend Christmas in New Mexico with him. My nieces are all unavailable. We don't want Socks at my Sister's house. Their dog is mean. I mentioned this to Vince on the phone as we sadly looked into kennels and then...voila! A plane ticket arrived...FOR SOCKS. To Chicago. Believe it or not. His ticket cost more than OURS! We were befuddled, but if Vince wants a dog to spend to Christmas with us, fine and dandy.

We still put up the Christmas decorations. Why not? And today, Liv and I went shopping for our Christmas dresses.

Hers is a pintucked prima dress.

Mine a saged silk dress.

We will both feel prettied up on Christmas.

I haven't been shopping with Liv for ages and we had fun. We stopped for chestnut and praline lattes at Starbucks. Tried on hats. Toyed with seeing a movie. Nixed it.

Christmas has been incredibly simple this year. All Liv wants were clothes and gift cards. She circled several items in the Free People catalog and I selected a few of them and ordered them. They came gift wrapped, which I hadn't ordered and wasn't charged for, so a Christmas gift for me. We also bought her a gift certificate to a local book store and another gift certificate to Starbucks, so she is set. Socks will get a nice bone as he does every year.

Bing and I already shared our Christmas gift to each other: we saw The Nutcracker ballet in November. It was so frothy and lovely. Our other gift certificate to each other was a little odd in some people's eyes: we ordered DNA kits. We will now spit in vials and send them off to reveal our true genetic makeup. Mine will be fairly straightforward, I think, since both of my parents were born in Ireland. Hers will be more interesting. She is so many things. French, Cajun, Cherokee. Maybe more. It'll be fun finding out.

The best part of shopping with my daughter was having her drive. She has her permit and I willingly admit that she is one of the best drivers I've ever seen. She has no nervousness and can easily chat and talk as she drives. I just sit and let the seat warmer toast up my back. Bliss. And we talked as we sipped our lattes.

Liv is looking forward to getting away to Denver. She wants time away from her life here, time to be with her Father and time to just think about things. A lot has happened lately. She is starting to weigh colleges seriously. She is looking into a degree in marine biology, environmental engineering or maybe just a teaching degree. She thinks that she might enjoy teaching high school history. Long gone are her dreams of a math degree. She knows that she wants the kind of career that will interest her for a long, long while. I am relieved. I worry about all those people with useless degrees. I have a niece with a masters in art restoration and she has nowhere to go with it.

We talked about Sven. Just a little. She is not in love. She has no idea what she is in, just that when they are together everything feels right. Safe. Sure. We talked about my relationship with Bing, how it took a very long while for me to find the strength to be sure of my self, how I beat my wings hard for many years, not sure what I was doing, only knowing that I felt the need to move, to never be that proverbial pot with a lid. We discussed family background, how perhaps I felt like that since I lost my Da so early and was disowned by my Mother. Maybe my need to prove that I could fend for myself was overpowered by my need to be loved and love. Liv talked about her safety in the nest that I have built for her, for our family. And how she loves me and loves Bing and loves her Father, but also is beginning to ache to leave too.

We talked about current politics. Whether torture is necessary. (We both decided that it isn't.) Where our country is going. How she thinks her generation will take over those reins.

And then...we sang.  When she was little, we used to listen to Christmas carols all through December and one of our favorites was Mary Chapin Carpenter's "Christmas time in the City." So we sang that. And then, we were quiet for a long while until I started singing an old Indigo Girls tune called "The Power of Two." Bing and I had it sung at our wedding by a good friend who is a jazz singer but who managed to go all rollicky folk for us.

I sang the first few sentences in my soprano and then beamed with surprise and pleasure when Liv harmonized with me using her soft alto. We kept it up until we had sung the whole song and then both laughed at how freaking GOOD we were! I reached over and squeezed her hand. Told her that even though that song was one of Bing and my favorites, it also reminded me a bit of her too. She smiled back.

"I know that, Mama."

And she does.

Our little family won't be together for Christmas but it hardly matters. We will be with those we love, Liv with her Father and Bing, Socks and me with our dearest friends. We will skype. I know that one of Liv's gifts is a new car that is a gift from Bing, her Father, me, Vince, Thuan, her paternal grandmother and my best friend, Harriet. She only has a one way ticket to Denver. She and her Father will be driving the car back and he plans to stay to visit with us for two weeks in January. A gift for all of us. There will be plenty of nights of hot apple cider with either Bing or Liv playing the piano. Lots of laughing and dog petting.

Our love is this encircling wave of something impervious to darkness. It weaved around us in the car as we sang and drove. It will weave around she and Sven when he returns to our city. It will encircle all of us when her Father comes home with her and he and I talk about the wonder of how we earned the right to be parents to this incredible child-woman who is ours.

I will feel it tonight when I go into her room to say goodnight. When I take her to school tomorrow and look over at her all bundled up in her white coat with the fur rimmed hood. Her bright yellow mittens.

Yes, we're okay, we're fine.....

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

One of the most unsettling conversations of my life....

Sven is back in New Mexico....but will be back next month. His lease runs out on January 15th, so he plans to move home and go back to school and finish his degree. And work. And get a place of his own. Not sure how he will pull this all off, but he says he has money saved and that will allow him to work part time for a couple of years and afford to finish school.

Trust will probably be an issue with me for a while. I am not an easy truster but when I do trust, it is pretty hard to lose it with me. Sven lost that trust and now it's going to take a while to win me back. I'm a hard sell, I guess. Which he says he understands and respects.

It isn't that I don't like Sven. I love him. I'm just a cautious person in general and with the last several years of his addiction, as I said...I am a very hard sell.

But, if he stays the course, I'll get there. And I might just have to.

One night, Sven and I stayed up talking after everyone else had gone to bed. Even Liv. And Liv stuck to him like glue when he was around. But, I think she knew that he wanted to talk to me, so she pattered up to bed early. And then Bing gave in.

Sven asked me if we could talk seriously. I nodded. Held out my glass for more tea. He poured.

And then he hit me with it.

"I need to talk to you about Liv."

I went very still inside. Listened.

"You may have noticed that Liv and I have spent a lot of time together."

I nodded. Very slowly. Warily.

"Maria, I think that I've found my match in Liv."

I started to speak immediately. He held up his hand. "Okay, that was NOT the way I wanted to start this. Let me say this first: I have NO intention of putting any moves on your daughter."

"GOOD!" I said, surprising even myself with the anger in my voice. "Because she is fifteen and you are twenty five. That is a huge difference and you are not to lay one finger on her in a romantic way. Are we clear?"

He nodded vigorously. "I have no intention of touching that....until she has graduated from college. If we both still want to be together, then well....ONLY THEN will anything happen. But, Maria. The feelings are there. For both of us. We know that this is too soon for her. Liv is so smart! She knows that she is on unsteady ground at her age and while she acknowledges that she has...feelings....for me, she also acknowledges that I am WAY too old for her at her age and that she needs to date a lot of other guys and go to college and travel and be away from home. Right now, we are just very good friends and it will stay that way. I PROMISE you. Until she graduates from college. And who knows? By then, some wonderful guy might swoop her away or I may meet some other woman and fall in love. But...frankly....I knew the second I saw her last week that this was us. It was like I could see us in seven years when she'll be 22 and I'll be 32 and this won't seem so....creepy. I think Liv and I are destiny."

I crossed my arms.

"What does she say about all of this?" I asked. I admit it, I was mad. I kept thinking just how ICKY this was. He was a 25 year old MAN, and a recovering addict. Not my idea of a proper date for my child. And over my dead body.

"She agrees. We've talked very logically about this," he said, leaning towards me as if he might touch me and then swiftly leaning back when he saw that I was not open to that. AT ALL.

"She admitted to me that she had feelings for me and I refused for many days to admit that I had feelings for her, but she knows me like no other, Maria. She knew I was stalling. So, I just admitted that okay...she was devastatingly beautiful, and shockingly smart and grown up. But, that I wasn't comfortable acting on any feelings I happen to have for a fifteen year old girl! And she fully agreed with me. She even came out and said that it would be totally creepy for us to even think about acting on this. That we should remain friends and be FINE with each other dating others, but that this would sit in the back of our heads and the time she has graduated from college...we still both feel the same...well, lucky us. If not, well. Good luck and our friendship would stay intact."

I looked at him, steel in my face. I could feel it.

"You are a recovering drug addict," I told him. "This is not a good time for you to be making ANY big decisions."

He agreed.

"You are not to touch my daughter in any romantic way, shape or form," I told him.

He agreed.

"You are to immediately pull away if she makes the very bad decision of touching you in any romantic way, shape or form."

He agreed.

"You are not to say a WORD about this to Bing," I said.

This time he laughed.

"She already had it figured out," he said. "She cornered me two nights ago and told me that if I laid one speck of a finger on Liv that I was dead meat."

I had to chuckle. I can see Bing doing that. With a loaded rifle casually laying across her arms. Except we don't believe in guns in our home, so we don't have a rifle....

But, it was implied, I'm sure. I was kind of surprised that she hadn't said anything to me. And even more surprised that I hadn't figured it out before this. It just...never occurred to me. Not once.

We talked more about it. He made more promises. They are just between he and I. And I admit that I was less open to them going out for coffee together or going alone to a movie. Until I talked to Liv, who assured me that she would NEVER let anything happen between them.

"Mama, listen," she said. "I know that I am 15 and I know what I don't want to happen and frankly just the thought of it freaks me out. I swear on Grandpa Lastname's grave that I won't act on anything. But, it just felt like....coming home....the second that I saw him. Did you ever feel like that?"

Yes, I admitted (not to her but to myself...) I felt that way with only three people in my life. With Bing. With Liv. And with my Da.

So.....a lot to think about, to take in. And I'm not sure how I feel yet. I do know that I adore Sven. I love him like my son. I am beginning to take baby steps back to trusting him. I will watch and see how this goes.

Bing and I've talked. She agrees that since we can't do anything about it, we should just be vigilant watchers for now. To forbid them to even see each other socially would be stupid, might cause things to veer in the wrong direction. But, we will watch.

And Liv has um....many, many suitors. Many gentleman callers. She is currently being pulled in four different directions by four different boys. All her age. And she says that she is having fun, enjoying the attention. She had a date while Sven was here and he didn't bat an eye when she left with him, all dressed up for a dance. Just waved from his truck as he pulled into his Mother's driveway.

He's gone now for a month. So...watching. I don't know what else to do. I don't want to tip this the wrong way. But, I am not pleased either. Yet, I have to admit that when Liv talked about feeling as if she had come home when she saw Sven, something twittered in my stomach. Something understood. It was almost as if I'd had the premonition but hadn't allowed myself to look at it.

So...what do you think? What would YOU have done? C'mon...I have a steely backbone. I can take it.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

My daughter, the beast.

The night before Sven left to go back to Texas, he went to Liv's first basketball game with us.

To say that he was shocked was pretty fair.

We sat in the bleachers watching the girls warm up. He watched warily.

Finally, looked over at me. "She's not bad," he said.

Uh huh.

Then I saw it. That look in her eyes. That look that Bing says she gets from me. She calls it the"hollaback look" and says that I used to get it in college right before every test.  I watched Liv bend at the waist and pull her hair even tighter into her ponytail. And when she rose back up, she was lost to us. Forgot we were there.

All she saw, all she could think about was that basketball. How to get it, how to steal it, how to keep it and how to overpower that other team.

She stormed down that court, slapping at the ball, stealing it and smiling triumphantly. And swished away to hand it off to Cindy, the girl who can make any shot if she's within twelve feet of the net.

She pranced, she thrashed. She showed her stuff and then some.

After the first quarter, Sven leaned back and looked at me.

"Good Christ, she is really good!" he said. "I mean, she's what? 5'10? And she's just this...little beast on the court."

"Nothing little about my girl," I retorted.

We won by 3 points and she and the rest of her team played their hearts out. Afterwards, as she met us in the lobby, still sweaty, lugging her gym bag, her hair in a warm hat, winter coat on, she smiled sweetly when she saw us. Came up and hugged us all.

Sven was still kind of in shock.

He held her by her arms, about a foot away from himself.

"I couldn't believe that was you," he sputtered. "It was like this skinny girl I used to know turned into this....menacing, smiling beast on that basketball court. It


She laughed her full throated Livvy laugh.

"I'm full of surprises," she told him. And sashayed away to talk to her friends.

Oh, man.

She's got it. My girl's got it. And then some.

My daughter, the beast on the basketball court.

Who came out wearing pink lip gloss afterwards.....

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Let's talk about Darren Wilson

....or not. Most people I know feel very strongly one way or the other.

I, on the other hand, have been biding my time. It seemed foolish to jump to one conclusion or another without knowing the facts, doing some extensive reading from both angles.

So, I did. I've read the transcripts. All of them. I've read as much as I could stomach, trying diligently to stay away from those who seemed very pro Wilson or very anti Wilson. I for a middle ground.

Our country is very clear on legalities. Yet, so many of the eyewitness accounts directly differ from each other. The coroner report is clear. No, Michael Brown was not shot in the back.

I've read many accounts where this young man was described as a gentle giant. But, I saw with my own eyes the video where he robbed a store and then very openly bullied the small Asian owner. This seems a strange juxtaposition, but I suspect that most people have two sides. Also, I agree with Pharrell Williams in his Ebony interview that we might want to question too why Michael Brown felt it was acceptable to treat the store owner this way. Maybe he was a gentle giant in other areas of his life, but he was not a gentle giant in this area.

And, I think about things that my wife has told me about her first hand glimpse of what the black experience is like, in real life. A few weeks ago, she took three of her students to a local furniture store (a major one in our've heard of the name) to buy some new computer equipment with grant money that they had won. This was during the school day. The students all had permission from their teachers and parents. All three students were honor students. Good kids. All three had black skin. After they got into the store, she left them in one aisle as she veered to an aisle over to check out something else. And then she heard it.

"What do you BOYS want?"  A clerk had approached her students.

One of the students tried to explain the part that they were looking for, even used the word sir when speaking to the clerk.

The clerk cut him off, waved his hand the next aisle over and put his finger up and pointed at their faces.

Keep in mind that I'm WATCHING you. Keep that in mind. You hear me?"

Bing had seen enough. She went over to the clerk (or as she called him, "this two bit pip squeak who was strutting like he thought he was hot shit"....) and asked him if there was a problem. That these were her students, that they were helping her look for a computer part and what right did he have to speak to them in that tone? The guy immediately backed off and began stammering that he was in charge of this section of the store and, and, and, and...

Bing interrupted him. Told him that she wanted to speak to his supervisor, please and his store would not be getting her business today. After the guy slunk off to get his supervisor, the three students all implored to her to just buy the part here. It was cheaper, they said, and it wasn't like there was going to be a difference in how they were treated anywhere else. As long as she was with them, all would be fine, but if she left them alone, well....all kinds of bad stuff could happen to them.

Long story short, Bing told the supervisor what happened, who apologized and offered them an even better discount on their equipment and assured her that his clerk would undergo a thorough "talking to." Bing declined the discount and noted that as they left, walking through the exit doors, the supervisor and the clerk were standing together laughing. Apparently, that was him being talked to.

They bought their equipment at Radio Shack and Bing made certain not to leave the students alone.

When she told me about it, she had tears in her eyes.

"These kids endure this EVERY FUCKING DAY," she said. "And I HATE it. But, what can I do? How can I make it better?"

The day after Thanksgiving, I had breakfast at my Sister's house. All of my other Sisters were there to eat before they left for their homes in Iowa and I wanted to see them since we had missed Thanksgiving dinner together.

The talk came around to what I had missed. I had missed my great nephew showing that at the young age of 4, he already knew how to flip a polygon. Pretty impressive. I had missed the best pecan pie on the planet that Celia had brought, but too bad for me, not one bite was left. I had missed one of Jessie's daughter's reading out loud a great short story she had written. I had missed Jessie's other daughter teaching the younger ones how to do an Irish jig, something that ALL of my Sisters and I know how to do, but that all of our children do not. We agreed that we need to keep that tradition going. ALL of us must know how to do an Irish jig. And even though my Sisters and I are 48, 56, 61 and 65, we got up, stood in a line, and showed that ALL of us still remember how to jig.

And then one of my Sisters said, "I was almost glad that you weren't there because you would've gone off like a rocket when Bill (Patrice's husband, otherwise known as that creep in everyone's family that everyone hates who is basically just a racist pig) said that he was thankful that Darren Wilson had "made the world a better place."

Uh huh. Right. Because now a whole town is in shambles, someone is dead, a good portion of people in the town have lost their livelihood because the town has been ransacked, children are unable to attend school, and there is hatred in so many eyes. So, the world is a better place. Gotcha. Man, someone give this dumb ass a kick in the balls.

Really glad I wasn't there.

I think Bil would've been surprised that he and I actually do agree on one thing: I don't believe that Darren Wilson should have been indicted either. But, this is after a careful reading of the facts. And a belief that we must allow the laws of our country to stand. My agreement with him has everything to do with logic and nothing to do with gut feeling.

I believe that black people in this country are still not treated equally with their white counterparts. I believe that we are aching for a symbol of that. I don't believe Michael Brown is that symbol. And most importantly, I don't believe that looting and ransacking a town is a way to solve a problem. Hate is never the answer. Ever. Rage breeds pain. Always.

I understand a few things. Being married to a woman, I understand what it feels like to have someone hate me who doesn't even know me. Being a woman, I understand what it feels like to always earn less than my male counterpart. I fully understand how frustrating that is.

But, I will never understand what it is like to have black skin.

I'm saddened by what I am seeing. I am not proud of my countrymen and women. I wish that I knew the answers to these terrible problems of racial inequality, of homosexuals not being allowed their civil rights, of women always earning less than men, of what to do to turn all of this hate into acceptance and love and goodwill.

But, honestly? I don't have a clue. Do you?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Best coffee in the world

I am a coffee addict. The family rule is that whoever hits the kitchen first in the morning starts the coffee. It is nearly always Bing since she gets up early to jog with Socks every day.

I have my first cup when I am downstairs after my shower, fully dressed and checking everything in my briefcase. Bing has usually left for work already, coffee to go in hand. Liv sips her coffee while she goes over her homework. We rarely speak. We just breathe in the smell and taste and wake up.

Then we drain the pot by each of us filling a to-go cup with more coffee.

When I get to work, I have at least two more cups in the morning.

And then...I'm cut off for the day.

I spend the rest of the day drinking either mugwort, horsetail or green tea.

But...this...this is the nectar of the GODS.

I don't know how other people get going in the morning....

It has to be Kicking Horse and has to be a blend called Kick Ass.

Try it and join me here in paradise.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Roll me on home

Home from Thanksgiving.

Stuffed to the gills.

Turkey. Ham. Something called cheesy corn that was wickedly good. Stuffing. Mashers. Gravy. Black olives. That green bean dish with the crunchy onions on top. Buttermilk biscuits. Salad. Stuffed mushrooms. Cranberry sauce. Pumpkin pie. Homemade chocolate cheesecake. Whipped cream. Coffee with real cream. A very, very delicious drink called Angel's Delight that had rum in it and made me feel like Lauren Bacall when I held the glass in my hand.  Eggnog. Gingersnaps. Peanut butter cookies with a Hershey's kiss in the center. Oreos dipped in white chocolate.

Being a type 1 diabetic, I had to settle for one bite of all the treats instead of a plateful of them, but even that one bite was decadent.  And everyone was good at sharing. Sven shared a bite of his gingersnap. Liv, of her oreo. And Bing gave me a nice little sip of her eggnog.

But, the Angel's Delight? I let myself indulge in the full monty.

Socks was invited too, and was given the ham bone to gnaw on as we ate dinner. He sprawled on the kitchen floor, in sheer doggy heaven. And now he has the hammiest breath.

We all said what we we were thankful for.

Sven's Mother, Lindsay is thankful for good neighbors.
Sven is thankful for Liv. And um...oh, yeah, his Mom.
Liv is thankful for Sven. Oh...and um....yeah....her parents.
Bing is thankful for students who love to learn.
I am thankful for good books. And good neighbors and my wife and child.

The atmosphere was so different from our usual Thanksgiving of sitting tight lipped with my stomach churning, listening to my brother in law make ignorant remarks about the rhymes-with-biggers and "wet backs."  And me taking the bait every time and calling him a dumb assed redneck pea brain. My Sisters rushing around trying to change the subject and keep me from launching myself at him. The ride home with Bing trying to get me to calm down and realize that I will NEVER change him and Liv assuring me that she KNOWS that he's a jerk.

For the first time in many years, I sat at a Thanksgiving table and felt very, very peaceful, joyous and thankful. There was laughter. There was serious talk. There was just enough time. And then we walked across the back lawn to our home laden with plenty of leftover turkey for sandwiches and a half of a pumpkin pie.

A few more things to be thankful for:

1) My niece, Amelia, has a new job ALREADY!!! A friend of my Sister has a Mother who is elderly but doesn't want to go into assisted living. They need someone to stay with her during the day until one of her children can come to stay with her until bedtime.  Someone to make her a light lunch. Do laundry. Dust. Water plants. But, mostly, someone to sit with her and watch game shows with her. This is so tailor made for Amelia that it is almost like a TV movie.

2) Sven is moving home mid January. His lease is up on January 15th and he plans to come home and live with his Mother while he returns to school to get his degree at the local university and find a job as a mechanic (he can put anything together or take it apart) to make some money. He has been clean and sober for a long while now and wants to stay that way. He has two years to complete his degree in secondary education.

3) Liv made the JV basketball team. I will spend many evenings and Saturdays sitting on the bleachers cheering again.

4) I pigged out on turkey skin today. I adore turkey skin and since Liv and I are the only ones who like it, we ate our fill.

5) At Sven's house, after dinner, we were all sitting in the living room, happy and full. Liv shyly stood up and said that she had a gift for Sven, for his homecoming. Sven's Mother fussed about the piano not being tuned perfectly, but Bing ran her fingers through the keys and with a few tweaks here and there, pronounced it good to go. And then Liv sat down on the piano bench with her back straight as a board and her hands poised, her shining golden hair in that customary braid. And she played that song, that haunting song that I have heard her play pieces of many times. She's been working on it off and on for years. She would play it and her face would go sad and yearning and I always wondered what she was thinking when she played it. Now I know. She was thinking of Sven. And calling him home to her, to us. So, she sat quietly for a moment and began. When she was done, we all had tears in our eyes, except Liv. She had this incredibly peaceful look on her face. As if she had been waiting and waiting and waiting and finally, finally, finally, it had happened.

Our happiness is a great, wonderful thing.