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Archive for February, 2017

That green apple

Saturday, 11:45 a.m.

As we inched toward Hollywood in traffic, I asked my husband, “Do you have a snack in your car? I need to eat something.” He knows my blood sugar’s been giving me grief recently.

“Don’t you have that apple?” he asked.

“You’re right!” I smiled as I reached into my purse for that green apple.

Saturday, 11:00 a.m.

My husband and I were on our way to our first date in months. We’d almost made it out the door when our seven-year-old,  Li’l D, asked me, “Aren’t you going to take the apple with you?” He’d set a green apple in front of me a few minutes earlier.

“I don’t need an apple, sweetie,” I said. “But thank you!”

He looked so crestfallen, I put the apple in my purse. For show.

Saturday, 7 p.m.

My littlest one, Littler J, babbled with overtired zeal as we loaded him into our car. Li’l D was quieter in his sleepiness as he climbed into his car seat.

“Hey. You know what?” I told him. “I ended up needing that apple!”

“Told you!” he cheered. To himself, he murmured, “I helped.” His chest puffed out for a moment, leading my heart to swell in return.

“You sure did,” I said, smiling. “You sure did.”

Categories: Family, Love, Parenting Tags: ,

It’s not a priority.

About twenty years ago, I took Econ my first term at university. Since it was online, I could fit it in whenever I wanted from week to week.

I don’t remember much of what I studied in that University of Oregon basement Social Studies computer lab. My brain’s been filled with law, contracts, and IT knowledge that’s displaced much of what came before. And yet, reading a political text a couple of weeks ago, I rediscovered an economic concept that matters very much to my life right now: opportunity cost.

From Chalmers Johnson’s Dismantling the Empire: America’s Last Best Hope

 

Before I read that, I’d understood I haven’t been using my time well recently. I just didn’t have a way to explain it clearly, not even to myself … until I saw the words “opportunity costs.”

When I spend hours on Twitter, when I have arguments not worth having, when I type long essays in states of dismay, I’ve wasted precious minutes much better spent elsewhere. In doing one thing impulsively (or compulsively), I’ve lost an opportunity to do something else that I genuinely wanted to do. Something that might power me through fights worth taking on.

I decided I need to be more conscientious about how I spend my time. I’m making better-for-me choices (virtually!) every day.

Today, home sick with an adverse reaction to something or other, I cheered at this post … and an exchange of comments below it. Athena’s words spoke to thoughts already on my mind, reminding me to actively choose my priorities.

Rather than regret opportunities squandered, I’m going to start saying, “It’s not a priority.” No one else gets to define mine or dictate them to me, though my husband, kids, and manager have some say!

Today, my priority is resting, followed by snuggling, reading, and reflecting. These things refuel me in ways that no amount of caffeine or sugar can.

I need the real stuff. The good fuel.

What about you? Are you getting enough good fuel?

“I’m obnoxious.”

My little boys love racing each other down a ramp near our house. Yesterday, much to my two-year-old’s chagrin, my seven-year-old, Li’l D, only wanted to run down twice.

“Could you please run down one more time with him?” I asked D. D, seizing the opportunity, said he’d run down it one more time … if I said I was obnoxious.

I weighed his proposal for a moment before mumbling, “I’m obnoxious.”

“What? I couldn’t hear you,” he teased.

“I’m obnoxious!” I said, much louder.

He grinned before racing down the ramp with Littler J. 

“Again?!” D asked. 

“I’m obnoxious,” I replied. 

Both my boys laughed as they raced down the ramp one more time, and I? I laughed, too.

Resilient: what we are

Reading an article on resilience recently, one particular paragraph struck me:

Academic research into resilience started about 40 years ago with pioneering studies by Norman Garmezy, now a professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. After studying why many children of schizophrenic parents did not suffer psychological illness as a result of growing up with them, he concluded that a certain quality of resilience played a greater role in mental health than anyone had previously suspected.

My mother, who was beautiful, vibrant, and offbeat through her 2010 death to cancer, had schizophrenia. I thought my husband understood the complexity of this until we had a startling conversation in 2015. Afterward, I wrote: Read more…

Hydroplane

Downpours flooded SoCal streets yesterday, but all had mostly dried up by mid-morning today. This meant I was unconcerned when I set out for a meeting.

Trouble struck when I tried getting onto the freeway. Turning sharply onto the ramp that’d deposit me on the freeway 20 or so feet below, I found my car suddenly floating just above the road. My steering wheel did its own thing.

First, my car veered right toward foliage. I didn’t dare try countering the pull, because I felt like flipping was inevitable.

The car then veered left, taking me precariously close to the thin metal barrier that kept me from tumbling down onto the road below. I kept my hands poised above the steering wheel, ready to seize it when it seemed ready to respond to my touch (without flipping my car). 

I managed to miss the barrier by a few inches and steer myself safely down the ramp. My heart raced as I drove northward and contemplated the possibility of different outcomes.

The next 30 minutes, I found myself appreciating with new clarity how tenuous is the connection between tire and road. Every skid and shudder had me on alert.

Ultimately, I made it safely to my destination. My return trip was pleasant. Now, safe at home, I’ll be content to drive nowhere else this long weekend …

Categories: Los Angeles, Reflections Tags: ,

The memory of typhoons

In 2004, I experienced my first typhoon in a small coastal town on Japan’s main island, Honshu. I filmed myself standing in the middle of a street while everything shook and swayed around me.

All was silent and still in the eye of the storm. I couldn’t believe the winds would soon whip around me again, but they did. I howled with them when they returned. The windy days I’d loved at home were nothing compared to this.

I enjoyed my later typhoons, too, but none invigorated me the same way my my first one did.

Today, an ocean and a dozen years removed from my first typhoon, I look out my SoCal windows and see the trees thrashing in the wind. The wind rattles my home’s windows, slamming sheets of rain against them.

I don’t know what it is about the wind, but I have always loved it. I will always love it. This wind-advisory afternoon, I’ll snuggle up with my husband and my little boys, content in now … but also remembering the thrill of being one small body standing strong against ferocious winds.

The New Jim Crow & the Nightmare River

When I started reading The New Jim Crow a couple of years ago, I felt my world rippling. I don’t mean this allegorically. I felt the smoothness disturbed by something else clawing to be let in.

Before I picked up the book, I’d been floating along on the smooth, clear water of U.S. life. I assumed all was (mostly) good and well straight down to the river’s bottom.

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow‘s author, invited me to stop floating and actually dip a finger into the water. Beneath the thin veneer of calm, her recounting of recent American history informed me, I’d find turbulence and boiling water that was scalding people alive.

I dipped in one finger and discovered she was right. Horrified, I returned my hands to the surface. I set Alexander’s book aside and enjoyed my onward drift.

Over the summer, little burning bubbles began emerging from the water around me. They were uncommon and only a little painful, so I ignored them at first. Why would I go seek out more pain?

But then I saw bigger bubbles roiling below the surface and understood: the U.S. is a world in which only a few are allowed to float at the surface. Others are forced down, trapped in the murky, hot water beneath and struggling to reach the surface for even a moment’s gasping breath.

I understood: they suffer so that I might stay comfortably afloat. “Oh, shit!” I started shouting to those floating near enough to hear me. “People are drowning below us! We have to see the whole river beneath us, not just the sparkles up top, or they’re going to keep on drowning!”

Alone, I saw, I could pull very, very few people up to the surface. If I could enlist other surface-floaters to reach down, though, I knew we could together evacuate this nightmare river and seek out one with cleaner, genuinely smooth waters where all were equally able to experience the river in its fullness.

“Shhh, you’re disturbing our ride,” fellow floaters admonished in return.  Read more…

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