Posts Tagged ‘Georgia Grace’

It only looks like a doughnut

January 30th, 2008    -    14 Comments

I’ve written before about the kind of work my h-u-s-b-a-n-d does. He’s in the long-distance business, the very long-distance business. Outer space.

Specifically, now he’s working on Mars. Seriously. When you work on Mars it involves daily side trips to the far reaches of Pasadena and occasional launches to Los Alamos, Washington and France. Before he worked on Mars, he worked on a couple of asteroids, which was a kind of a code word for Italy and Germany. When we met on that fateful evening in Florence, Italy, 13 years ago he was actually working on Saturn.

So you think it’s a surprise to me that I find myself alone so much? I always say the same thing to my friends in a similar circumstance, although it’s nubby comfort: Every mother is a single mother.

Now careful: I mean no offense to the single mothers who are fathers, or to the single mothers who really are single mothers. I do not know the depth of fear or frustration or anxiety, the financial hardship, the personal sacrifice, the sadness, the isolation or the inconsolable straits you may find yourself in, I only sense that most of us are in these things alone.

To his credit, Ned tries to interest me in the curious question of the composition, age and origin of the dust on the surface of the red planet, but that is not the aim of my life’s mission. My mission is to uncover the truth of my life on Earth, a mission that in my earlier days I had no earthly interest in at all. And so I know that I am indeed lucky to have this field to roam so freely on my own, to resolve my questions, to find the deep source of life and love right where I stand.

Even so, Ned’s absence gives me time and space to make trouble; it lets me boil and burn in my own flaming grievance; it invariably wears out my welcoming heart. He’s always happy to come home, and I am usually quite pissy about it. He has this habit of stopping near the airport and picking up two doughnuts as a coming home prize for Georgia and me. How is it that I can hate when he does that, but love when he does that? I eat mine promptly that night or next morning.

When I eat that doughnut, mind you, it only looks like a doughnut. What I am eating is my own clogged heart and deep-fried resentment. I’m swallowing residual anger and bad attitude. I’m chomping that ever-living ego of mine back to a manageable size so we can start over.

The search for intelligent life involves a lot of starting over and an advanced form of mathematics. As my daughter wrote in an email to her dad last night: YOU + ME + MOM + MOLLY (the dog) = 1.

***

Join me for more fun with marriage all week. And just for grins, here’s your chance to win an autographed copy of my book, Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood by leaving a comment on Monday’s post. The winner will be drawn after 12 noon PST on Sunday, Feb. 3. Good luck!

Change with a capital G

January 10th, 2008    -    20 Comments


Did she win? Can we vote? Is it time?

We pause for this political message, which I hope is not political.

My daughter has always had an interest in the election process. She learned to read by sounding out the Kerry/Edwards bumper stickers in the preschool parking lot. She has accompanied us to the polls. Of course she’s aware of laws, and wars, and her parents’ occasional invocation of the former and abiding aversion for the latter. Her reaction sweetly mirrored our despair when she said in 2004, “Have we ever voted for anyone who won?”

This season I am not particularly attracted to any candidate and repelled by only a few. You can see how I’m teetering on the knife’s edge of an opinion. I am inspired, however, by my daughter, because she is purely, gleefully, hopelessly, and totally for the girl.

Perhaps this is the state of mind when you’re a girl in the state of 8. She and her friends are totally, unabashedly, fearlessly girls. And by that I don’t mean anything in particular, but that they are completely free and unafraid to love themselves. They love themselves and they love each other. They adore one another. They hug and kiss each other endlessly. They have not yet acquired any reason to withhold themselves, to judge themselves as too this or too that, to hide any part of their hearts or minds. Of course they notice the boys, they like them too, in silly ways that you can tell will soon be too much.

“The boys all love me but I only love Amy,” she said last year in first grade.

This year she has new crushes and allegiances, and one of them is Hillary. “Because she would be the first lady president!” she says while jumping up and down. In her unbiased and uninformed view I see something I no longer see in myself and hardly anywhere else.
I see a place that I fled, through pain, cynicism and calculation, many, many years ago. I see the place that my daughter herself may abandon as she feels the weight and strictures of the world we live in. I see the Girl’s Team, and I wonder if I shouldn’t glance back over with an open mind.

I don’t call myself a feminist. I try not to call myself anything. And believe it or not, to be a Buddhist is to work your whole life on getting rid of the -ist. And so I read with unexpected awe this eye-opening essay by Gloria Steinem earlier this week, “Women are Never Front-Runners.” Oh, I know what the arguments are, the feelings, the hunches, the dislikes, the gossip, the distaste. But when I see the brutal lash of cynicism, the extraordinary criticism, the arrogant, all-knowing, analytical, dismissive discounting of what and who this woman is, I flinch. I flinch because we are so much harder on her than the boys. Have I been this hard on myself, just for being a girl? Am I sending my daughter into this cruelty, where she will never again jump up and down for the girl?

In short, when my girl speaks, I listen because there is a message in it for me. There’s a message in everything that comes our way.

The other night I told my daughter that the girl might not even be a candidate for president, and I told her who it might be.

“Would he be the first African-American president?” she asked.

Yes.

“Cool!” she said, her eyes once again twinkling with the possibilities.

One of these things is not like the other

January 8th, 2008    -    9 Comments

For my daughter’s second-grade homework:

The Big Ten
Pretend you are going to be taken by helicopter to a deserted island where you must live alone for seven days. You may take only 10 different things with you. Think before you begin writing. If you forget something important, you may not survive!

1. Nintendo DS
2. DS games
3. Food
4. Water
5. Clothes
6. Toothbrush
7. Toothpaste
8. Floss
9. Bathing suit
10. Sunscreen

As a matter of survival, may I point out that the floss is big number 8.

What goes around

January 6th, 2008    -    11 Comments


I need help today, I say dully, after too many nights of too little sleep and a cough that won’t go away. The rains have descended and the allergies too and I’m feeling low and dim and all alone.

I’ll help you, she says, and she lugs two grocery sacks in from the trunk. She’s chosen the heavy ones with gallons and cans and her arms hurt, but she’s beaming.

I need to rest today, I pine, piling my woes on the kitchen counter.

I’ll make you a schedule, she says, and she bends over a pad then posts it on the refrigerator.

Relax Scedule

Sun 12:00 to 1:00
Mon 11:00 to 12:00
Tues 1:00 to 2:00
Wed 10:00 to 11:00
Thurs 9:00 to 10:00
Fri 10:00 to 11:00


Now I’ll set the timer, she says, and you go lie on your bed.

And if you need to schedule a makeup time, she adds in a stroke of management genius, write in on a piece of paper and give it to me before.

She’s thought of everything, you see, everything I need, and she gives it to me in the same way her needs have been tended and timed all these years into a sane and healthy rhythm. A time for this, a time for that. I take to my room and close the door. She turns the dial on the timer, and I feel it rushing back to me in a flood, all of it coming around again in terms never more certain, never more genuine, and right on schedule.

I am loved.

There comes a time

December 29th, 2007    -    7 Comments

To simply say goodbye.

To ferry you through the dark distance of being gone

December 21st, 2007    -    11 Comments





The more things stay the same, the more things change.
Greetings of this timeless season
from our home to yours.

The many-colored mosses are as abundant as ocean waves.
– From the calligraphy on our front gate

One true sentence

December 17th, 2007    -    13 Comments

I’m half Jewish, half Buddhist and half Christian – Georgia Miller

Only the sublime logic of a child can sort through messes like the one I have. “I wish our street was called Miller Street so our whole family would live here!” she offered up one day, seeing through ideological distance with the wide eyes of a sage. Everything she says is so wholly true, it breaks open my heart, and much later, it might even lift my eyelids.

Lately I’ve been overcome by the oneness of it all: called by name, caught and dragged out onto the street to see how completely alike we are. The woman last week trapped in the deep recess of depression calling for a way out: I know that place. The friend who recently confided the tawdry abasement of a romance gone wrong: that was me too. And then this morning the email from a self-described gay curmudgeon who recovered in my memoir the stunning certainty of his own mother’s unfailing love. We are children, all. We are mothers and fathers, too. We are the mothers and fathers of our own true lives. Can we see it?

If you read nothing else today, I want you to read what this remarkable man wrote on his own blog, because he writes so perfectly to and for us all. This fellow said something else to me many years ago that he won’t remember but that I’ll never forget. He said, “You have written one true sentence.” What writer wouldn’t be gratified by that, but he gave me the only encouragement I’d yet been given to keep writing, and to keep making it true.

And now I’m called to live it true too.

My husband is Jewish. I am what I am. My daughter insists that she can be everything. And she can! Can I?

The problem, I tell myself, is not me. It is my husband’s family, more precisely, his brother, who has elected to live a most extraordinary Orthodox Jewish life in Israel. Of course, he objected to our wedding. He ultimately came but did not enter the ecumenical sanctuary for the Reform Jewish service. He cannot, by his law, touch me to shake my hand. He says next to nothing to me. I feel awkward and excluded in the midst of this family, and I imagine they feel it too.

That’s what imagination does: create boundaries that we then project out onto the street, the street that is not named Miller Street. Onto the family that does not love us nearly enough.

Recently my cousin recounted some family lore of my own. She said that my aunt, my mother’s sister, surmised that my mom must have been outraged when I became a Buddhist. But she wasn’t. What my mother said to me at the time was, “Now I don’t have to worry about you anymore.” She was a true Christian.

Can I be as true? As transcendent? By what calculus do I define my limits, my parameters? My share, my heart, my home?

Last week my Zen teacher, who knows too well my tired saga of religious persecution, called me by name. “Maezen,” he said, which always gets my attention. “When are you going to Israel?”

“It will be good for you,” he said. With a mother’s love. A father’s love. True love.

I told my husband and daughter that we will go to Israel next summer for sure. Everyone is thrilled. Like Georgia, I want to be half of everything. Like my friends everywhere, I want to be whole.

I want this one sentence to be true.

“God bless us, every one!”

Goes well with martyrdom

December 13th, 2007    -    17 Comments


Feel her forehead, take temperature, stay home, make soup, make tea, try lemon, try honey, try every old wives’ tale, call doctor, call school, cancel babysitter, stay home while hubby goes to awards dinner, take temperature, start medicine, cancel another day, drag her to the post office, and so forth, no change in sight, rub her back, be patient, be tender, ask how long can this go on, cancel four days of everything, make that five days, make muffins while she curls up on the kitchen floor, call the doctor again, clinch jaw, husband says I’ll take her this time, I’ll cancel my meeting, I say no I’ll go again I just don’t know how to get her better in time for your trip to see your folks this weekend, wrap presents for hubby’s family, lose temper, lose faith, lose the whole week, shout at daughter while she signs gift cards, tremble, call teacher, she says be sure she stays home until she’s well, accomplish not one lick of work or anything I want, go to doctor again, get the tests, get the shrug, get the look that says, it’s just a virus.

Feel the familiar tickle in the back of your throat.

Perfect as you are

December 6th, 2007    -    15 Comments

MathEquationsLike a lot of news, this article has me laughing and weeping. “Unhappy? Self-Critical? Maybe You’re Just a Perfectionist” poses the New York Times in one of the more ridiculous examples of news, let alone medical news, in recent circus history. Pity the poor perfectionists. Not only are they imperfect, but they’re also depressed. They drink too much and they sleep too little. They don’t eat right. They have a really hard time.

This is like squinting to read a headline that says, “Need Reading Glasses? Maybe You’re Just Too Old.” Now that would be news.

The stunted logic and stumbling blindness of psychological science amazes me. Because, like, where are the non-perfectionists? Are they in a secret society with the I. AM. NOT. A. CONTROL. FREAKS ???!!!!!

Let’s face it. We’re all perfectionists. We’re all control freaks. Some of us deal with our perfectionism by trying really hard. Some of us deal with it by trying really hard not to try hard. How do I know that? Because we’re human beings. We all have thinking minds, the picking-and-choosing mind, and we judge. Can’t be otherwise. We judge everything as good or bad and no matter how hard we try to be good we judge ourselves as not-so-good. Isn’t that what we all agree on about life in general: We’re human. We’re imperfect. That sounds like it settles the matter; only it just settles it on the side of imperfection! It’s still a judgment. Who needs that? Remove the self-judgment and we are what we are.

“Mommy, I’m too dumb for second grade!”

Georgia was wailing on Monday morning before school. She moaned and rolled in bed, begging for an out. The reason? She was going to have a math test.

Don’t get me started on the lunacy of school testing, and the absurdity that such educational “improvement” was championed by none other than the child tyrant of mediocrity. School is what it is, and it’s a lot like the rest of life. One thing after another.

“I thought you said you liked tests,” I reminded her, and it was true. That comment put a swing in my step just a week ago.

“I like them when I get 100%,” she quivered.

Ah yes, don’t we all? Diagnosis complete. She’s a certifiable problem child, a syndrome, a case. Only I happen to see that she’s perfect as she is.

PS. Intervention averted. She got 100%.

 

Coming home to the place you never left

November 18th, 2007    -    12 Comments


We pulled to a stop at the light on the way to the dentist, of all places.

Mom, there’s a man holding a sign that says homeless.

We do this nearly every time, handing a very small bill to this very same man in the very same spot. I roll down the window with my offering. He blesses us and the light turns green.

That’s going to take him a whole year, she says as I pummel the accelerator.

A whole year for what, I ask with imperceptible interest.

To save enough for a home.

And the curtain rises to reveal the innocence of a child, seeing the hidden dignity in the humbled, the obvious depth of the need, the unbiased purity of the gift. And I hope that in this one exchange, this folded paper passed between a crack of glass, this man has indeed palmed a full dollar’s worth of peace and comfort, a home sweet home, as he is and where he is.

He is not, of course, saving up for a home. But the rest of us are. We force and finagle. We fret, scrimp and plan. We set our sights on an impossible someday, when things are finally set, the ship comes in and the planets align. When the grass is cut and the pie crust is perfect. At last, or so we envision, we arrive at a life of ease and fulfillment. Until then we scramble like mad to recast a life with a different beginning in urgent anticipation of a life with a different ending. We go looking for home.

In this week when tradition calls us home, can we find it? Can we set aside the expectations and standards, the wishes and dreams, the old resentments, the tired conversations, the grudges, the comparisons and judgments? Can we avoid the build-up and the letdown? Can we accept, forgive, forget, make peace and pass the mashed potatoes? If we can do that, really do that, then we might find home – our true home – in the very spot we sit, and we might for once – I don’t mind if I do – just eat.

A detail from the woodcarving on our front door.

In celebration of our home’s inclusion in the remarkable new book, At Home: Pasadena.

Fill me with pie

November 15th, 2007    -    14 Comments


Georgia and I have volunteered to make the pumpkin pie for this year’s family Thanksgiving. I could just go to my safe-bet recipe source. Or to the tried and provenly true. But I’d much rather take a tip from you. I have in mind that nearly everyone else but me is deliciously crafty and outrageously homespun. And some of you really are. Yes, I’m talking about you.

Before the holiday week barrels over us, before we all become overwhelmed, underwater and out of touch, send me your favorite pumpkin pie recipe please. It can be a link or a list; it can be elaborate, unusual or as easy as pie. Georgia and I will whip it up together and take a piece of you on the road to the glistening winter wonderland of Newport Beach, California, where one more faraway friend will have a seat at our table of thanks.

From the bottom of our crusts, thank you.

Attention readers, bloggers and opinionators: if you would like a review copy of the new paperback edition of Momma Zen, my publisher will provide! Just contact me via the email on my profile page.

Don’t tell Daddy

November 9th, 2007    -    9 Comments

Mommy, promise me you won’t tell Daddy.

She had been a little squirmy on the way home from school. Preoccupied.

What is it?

Well, Mandy, she . . . promise me you won’t get mad?

Tell me, honey.

Mandy said not to tell you. She gave me this to keep and bring to school so we can play with it and she told me not to tell you. Promise me you won’t tell Daddy?

She was petrified, tormented as she reached inside her backpack. I had never seen anything like it, not that there aren’t plenty of things like it, a little toy, one piece of a two-way text messaging set that must be the walkie-talkie of these degenerate times. It was harmless, really, but Georgia had heard enough about how cell phones and iPods and mp3 players and every handheld electronic thingy orbiting her world was not a toy and not for her and Mandy had encrypted it all in a secret and Georgia was now trembling, crumbling with the weight of this second-grade conspiracy.

We didn’t tell Daddy. I told Georgia to give the toy back to Mandy the next day. I said I could see that having it made her scared and uncomfortable so she couldn’t keep it. I didn’t tell her how good she was or how bad she was. I didn’t scold her, and thereby add insult to her self-inflicted injury. And I didn’t tell her how happy she made me. Happy not because she trusted me. Not because she couldn’t keep a secret. Not because she couldn’t tell a lie. But because she couldn’t tell a lie to herself.

She’ll be OK, this little one. And Daddy (right, Daddy?) will be OK too.

I’ve about had it with the Truth. We’re off for a long weekend in Seattle to meet the mysteries that turned up one day in the mailbox.

Truth, as told by

November 5th, 2007    -    15 Comments



The following post is based on the truth.

Things my daughter has said when I’ve been attentive enough to hear:

At the amusement park:
Sometimes the noisiest places are the most peaceful.
Looking at the sky:
The moon follows us wherever we go.
After a nightmare:
My brain is mixed up.
Asked to subtract 2 from 32:
I’ll know that in high school.
On setting the alarm:
My eyes have timers in them so I know when to wake up.
On her religious persuasion:
I’m half Jewish, half Buddhist and half Christian.
Hearing that what she wants costs $139.
I’ll ask Santa and it won’t cost anything.

I could take exception to any or all of these statements. I could see these as teachable moments. I could subtly nudge, correct, expand, or explain. I could interject scientific, biological, psychological or theological concepts of my choosing. I might note, for example, that the moon is not following her, per se, but that through Einstein’s Theory of Relativity we know that the interplay between mass and curvature causes the gravitational and centripetal forces that hold the moon in its position relative to Earth. Would that be more true?

Children’s views on the life around them are at once literal, lyrical and magical. They are simultaneously very small and simplistic, and very large and profound. They are always true; we just may not judge them to be right.

When my daughter speaks, I listen for a teachable moment. That is, a moment that teaches me. And I stifle the impulse to limit the possibilities of her universe. Her life will do that for her. She will inevitably acquire knowledge, cultivate reason and encounter her own doubts and dark nights. She will ask me difficult questions and I will respond as best as I can. I save her nothing by shortcutting her journey to what I believe to be right or rational, provable or true. I play along, because these are the days for play.

Right now and for the briefest flicker of time, she stands before a wide open window, inviting me to come see. It is a breathtaking view, and I want it to last far longer than I know it will.

When it ends, I’ll still be standing by her.

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