13 October 2011
The nuns taught us that no one who loves the way of grace ever comes to a bad end.
17 September 2011
The first day of school Jake asked, "when does baseball start?"
"Nobody starts anything the first week of school. We'll hear from someone soon," I assured him.
Later that same evening Coach Robert called. "Practice begins tomorrow," he said.
Jake started catching imaginary pop flies in the air, and I imagined this: practice tomorrow and he doesn't own a glove, a bat, shoes, socks, pants, or a hat.
He jumped out of bed on Wednesday morning, eager to start the day. Every sentence uttered included some form of base or ball. "What do baseball players eat for breakfast?" "Can we get a ball when we get my new bat?" "Will I get to steal bases?" "Should I slide on every base?" And on and on.
At the end of the second day of school, while headed to the sporting goods store, ready to surrender my weeks pay on equipment for yet another sport, Hope called. She probably really didn't want to know what I was doing when she asked, but I told her all about Jake's baseball dream and my lack of equipment. "Come by here," she said. "I have a closet full of baseball gear." Hope shows up when I need her.
Hope who mentored me as a first year teacher. Hope who wanted to visit me in New Jersey. Hope who came to me when Jake struggled into the world. Hope who accepts me on my very unfair terms. Hope who gets my hyperbole. Hope who trusts me. Hope who prayed with me when George took his last breath. Yes, that Hope. Again, giving me exactly what I need.
Her son's equipment inventory for Jake: new Nike cleats with changeable logo colors, two bats, a helmet, 3 pairs of baseball pants, batting gloves and a bag. At home, he changed into his gear and practiced sliding through the kitchen and down the hall. Jake showed up at that first practice looking like a pro.
He hasn't played a sport since 2008, the spring that his dad died. He played T-ball then, but a fog hovered over that season. He never asked to play again.
But now he wanted to play ball. He watched the Braves with Alex this summer, asking questions, learning the players. He asked me to take him to my hometown to see the Pittsburgh Pirates play. In September my parents took him. He brought books about baseball home from the library and read them.
On the way to practice, Jake said, "Well, I think I'll be one of the top two players on the team."
I hesitated, then carefully explained that these 9 & 10 year old division boys had probably been playing for 4 years or so. Jake at 8, the youngest boy on the team would do just fine if he listened and learned.
As we were walking up to the field, one of the coaches spoke to Jake. Jake responded politely with a "yes, sir." His enthusiasm was drifting, I figured he was on the down side of his late lunch French toast sugar high.
In what appeared to be an abrupt energy shift, he moseyed onto the field. After a few lifeless tosses, he came out to the stands and said, "mama, I don't feel so good." The humid air formed droplets on his forehead.
"Go on," I told him. "You're going to be just fine."
He went back out to warm up. A few more minutes went by, he came back.
"Mama, I think I"m gonna be sick," he said as he drug his little body to the men's room.
He came back out, not looking much better.
"Go back out on the field and play," I insisted. "You'll be fine."
He walked through the dugout door, onto the field, turned back around, with his head hanging low, rushed toward the bleachers, and threw up all over me, my school papers, the bleachers, and the concrete.
"I'm so sorry" he cried, as I rubbed his back telling him it was all going to be okay in my gentlest voice while he continued to vomit all over me.
After cleaning and disinfecting Jake and me, I returned to spray down the bleachers and the concrete. First I threw my student's English 101 essay away. Then I hosed the area. The coach's brother Mike watched the whole scene unfold. He told me Jake said he was nervous when he got there.
Jake sat in the dug out for a few minutes. I finished cleaning. I walked over, bent down on my knees, and told him that he was a part of this team, quitting wasn't an option, he had nothing left in him to throw up, and he was going to be fine. I told him we were staying, and he could sit in the dug out the whole time if he wanted to, but if it were me, I'd go back out on that field and say, "coach, I don't feel so good, but I really want to play, so I'm going to give this another try." I walked away, and gathered the papers I brought to grade.
A few minutes went by. Jake picked up his glove and jogged back onto the field. The coach hit him a few balls. Jake made a few stops and throws.
Then the coach said, "come on in guys, we're going to run some bases."
This worried me. Jake just finished vomiting all over me. Run?
As each boy rounded first, the next one would begin. The goal was to catch the guy ahead. Jake was fifth in line. He passed the fourth boy around second, and passed the third runner too.
Jake had their attention now.
The coaches explained the positions and plays, and Jake listened. They encouraged him when he listened and instructed him when he didn't.
In Jake's first game, he got an infield hit, but he outran the throw. The coach told him not to watch the ball when he hit it, just run hard to first. Jake did, and he was safe. They gave him one of two game balls. The other went to Sam who made an unassisted double play.
In the second game, 5 of the 7 runs scored were because of Jake. And one of his hits was a double to right field.
Jake's baseball season had more losses than wins, more walks than hits, and more errors than plays, but he had so much fun. In his last game, he got a great hit to left field and made a great play from second to first. The team lost the game, but Jake had a winning season.
Jake plays baseball now.
Last night on the way to practice I asked him where his glasses were. He thought for a minute, and very confidently told me they were in his desk at school, right where he left them. Lucky for him, Abbey left all of her school clothes in a bag at the gym after volleyball.
So we dropped Jake off at practice, and Abbey and I headed back down town. First, we called Christy (the volleyball coach) to see if anyone was still at the gym. She was still there, but ready to leave to have dinner with her family. She didn't see the Steelers duffel bag anywhere.
Abbey called Ansley who had picked up the bag in an attempt to help. After many phone calls and mixed communication. Ansley gave the bag to Christy, and the coach brought the bag from the gym to the school - where we were headed for Jake's glasses. We found the glasses, retrieved the bag, and headed off to Jake's practice.
Abbey and I discussed how many people needed to get involved to fix our problems.
We delivered Jake's glasses and he could again see the ball.
Jake's coaches are these 3 really great guys, all positive, all encouraging, all showing special interest in Jake's success.
At the end of practice, Jake's glasses were missing again. At 7:30, dusk falling, the coaches, their sons, a few other players, Jake, Abbey and I all began the search again. Jake's tiny black rimmed glasses were somewhere between the red clay and the plush grass. With the stadium lights out and the last of the sun setting, we were out of luck.
Coach Robert and his brother Mike wouldn't give up though. They grabbed a flashlight, retracing Jake's steps to the water fountain and the woods where he went to the bathroom (which incidentally weren't woods at all, but someone's shrubs in their back yard.) Still no glasses.
It was dark now and it was Friday night. I was finished. I thanked everyone for their efforts, but we surrendered.
Coach Ray offered to go back in the morning and look again. I thanked him for the kind offer.
Again on the way home, Abbey and I discussed the ridiculousness of the amount of people involved in our lack of responsibility.
We went to bed and I did some financial calculations in an effort to order new glasses at the beginning of the week.
At 8:30 on Saturday morning, Coach Ray's wife Linn called . They went over to the field and found Jake's glasses. They were even willing to deliver them to me.
Who are these people? I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I just rolled out of bed and this family had at the crack of dawn combed the baseball field and found my son's glasses.
Grateful? I think yes. Inspired? For sure. Hopeful about humanity? Indeed.
I know some good people in Charleston.
21 August 2011
13 August 2011
For weeks, I’ve watched the status updates of teachers preparing to start a new year. The study, the structure, the devotion impressed me but did not inspire me. My nerves start catching mini waves just under my skin, and I wonder, do I know what I need to know to start this year? I haven’t really read all the new books I intended, but I did read Usain Bolt’s autobiography at the library last week.
Fortunately, I had the foresight a few days ago to finalize the Abbey and Jake preparations. I shopped online, ordering rain boots and tennis shoes. I traveled to the uniform shop and made a trip to Staples. A tactical strike, I’ll be about the business of planning English lessons in no time.
With a major task accomplished, I rested my mind some, thinking of nothing deliberately and everything accidentally.
After sufficient decompression, I planned a few days rest, nothing on my schedule, just me and my children. And they have their own special end of summer rituals, usually involving the sentence, “she looked at me.” Followed by, “he looked at me first.”
Only days now until I have to show up to work; days filled with meetings and team building activities. The hour of opportunity has passed and Zeus’s daughters elude me.
My vision for cleanliness and organization has arrived, so I purge all half empty bags of perishables, sanitize the refrigerator and organize every cabinet, shelf and drawer. Who could think clearly with half a foil wrapped block of cream cheese in the refrigerator?
Once order is in the house, I detox. A total mind and body cleanse, including my gratitude prayer and meditation for creativity, Epsom salt baths, and green tea.
I move easily into the next phase: closet organization. It will help me decide what to wear when I show up unprepared for work. I color code all my shirts, pants, and dresses, mostly primary colors, blacks, browns and grays. The unlikely print gets its own section. I shop online for khaki pants, and now I too am almost ready.
I have books to read, and news, and blogs, and magazines (September’s Vanity Fair is now available on my iPad.) Not to mention, I should be researching videos and websites for information to incorporate into those lessons I haven’t planned. I take copious notes and make lists in mini notepads. Occasionally, I get sidetracked and start planning my fall break trip.
And then I must write about the experience as though it’s profound.
For me to work all day like this would not be fair to my children, so I also schedule some bike riding, surfing and swimming each day.
There is also the business of eating every day, which means carefully studying recipes and making trips to the Farmer’s Market and Whole Foods.
After I make dinner, Peas and Pasta, I’ll have to check Jake’s summer reading and math. Then the full moon tonight, so I’ll need to kayak. It appears as though Urania has arrived. By then it will be time to decompress again. I think Calliope might show up tomorrow.
12 August 2011
Watch the Ted Video of Thandie Newton: Embracing otherness, embracing myself.
25 July 2011
On July 23rd I climbed a literal mountain, Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak East of something.
Thirty feet or so on the other side of the water, was a 3 sided shanty, fairly well kept, with a Guns n Roses T-shirt hanging from the roof, a few porn magazines rolled in the rafters, a bench, random camping gear, and most impressive a chimney made of trash cans on the outside attached to a homemade oven and cooktop on the inside. Who built this? His or her shack became a focal point for much story telling. Something about a message left on the answering machine at our cabin and a warrant for Seth.
Flip flop heard me coughing and came out offering to "bang on my back or punch me in the chest."
In my research about my faux fear of bears I learned that 5 was the magic number of hikers. No reports of bear attacks in North Carolina for groups of 5 in the last hundred years. As a matter of fact, the number of fatal black bear attacks in North Carolina in the last hundred years was zero.
One of the natural highlights was definitely the bear footprint. We actually saw 2. The first one was much bigger than the second, so we decided it must certainly be Sasquatch. The 2nd was definitely the footprint of a bear. I figured the bears and cougars, coyotes and snakes were all watching us, but they had no interest in interacting either. My fear of wildlife was conquered when I realized we had similar desires to be socially distal.
After the Higgins Bald Split, we found a mountain stream, a watery flow, over and under some large rocks. We stopped. Click Click Clock and Lightning frolicked in a thin layer of fresh water sliding down the stones large flat surface.
Not long after we left them, I reminded everyone about perception. Those men made assumptions about us through men's eyes. They made subconscious decisions about our capabilities. I will not be defined by a man's perception of me. Blah, blah, blah, more positive smack talk.
Compass wasn't at the top, and we quickly learned that the restaurant we agreed to meet her at wasn't either.
18 July 2011
It must have been 24 years ago now, maybe 25, my first summer of real adventure. My brother Jim was stationed in Texas, and his girlfriend Kristin and I were going to visit. He came home to Pittsburgh for a few weeks, and we rode back with him in his 1968 red International Scout. We drove 1400 miles with no air conditioner, but we had a tape deck, and Bruce Springsteen blaring above the open windows and the loud engine, Pittsburgh to Ohio, Missouri to Oklahoma, (I vaguely recall those arches) and our destination: Kileen, Texas average July temperature 95.
It was there that I met him. Trip, we called him, Charles Robert Reincke, the third. We became instant friends, hangout partners. He taught me how to laugh. He said kind things to me and made me feel pretty. He told me I was perky. He represented a freedom, until Texas, unknown to me. And I loved him. He was smart, witty, and very laid back. He was learning how to windsurf, so we went to a lake near Austin for his training test. I remember him not knowing the answers very well, but coercing another adventurer, a pretty young girl to help him on this test. We spent most of our time in Texas laughing.
Leaving was difficult, both emotionally and physically. We booked the cheapest flight we could find out of Texas, and it left from Houston. The only problem was we were 250 miles away, in Kileen, much closer to Dallas. Our adventure ended with a 4 and ½ hour early morning car ride, in Trip’s Toyota Celica (9 hours for them including the return drive). Trip drove very fast, making record time, until we were pulled over by the police. Then the cost of the speeding ticket solidified that we should have paid the extra money to fly out of Dallas.
That ride in the Toyota Celica was my first time in a sports car, maybe my first time in a car with an air conditioner. That flight out of Texas was my first time flying. I remember exactly what I said as I heard that whirring sound of progressive energy building and the plane lifting off the ground into the air, “oh, shit.” Not so profound, I know, but I was inexperienced, uncultured and ending the first amazing adventure I would ever take. I was 16, and these were all new things: being unsupervised, being 1500 miles from home, staying in a hotel, flying in an airplane, and being with a young man that made me feel worthwhile, that made me feel alive, that made me smile in a summer, more than I had in my lifetime.
We kept in touch, Trip and me. He sent me cheesy one-liners on the back of envelopes filled with letters that made me laugh and feel valued. He said, “if girls were cars you’d be a jaguar.” And “if girls were rocks, you’d be a sapphire.” He was so close to right; I’m really an Escape with a roof rack and a skipping stone.
One year he came to Pittsburgh. We were still kids. I didn’t have a Toyota Celica to show him around North Huntington in, but my sister did sport an old brown Plymouth Fury police car with missing back door handles on the inside. The three of us raced up Route 30, only long enough to again get pulled over. In our fear and panic, we listened as he concocted the plan. He did all the talking and convinced the policeman that he had actually been driving the car and while traveling at unsafe speeds, with the blue lights behind us, he switched seats. He declared he knew he was wrong and it was foolish, but he couldn’t let my sister take the fall for his recklessness. Recollection of the exact way this event unfolded escapes me, but I remember this: in a moment that ordinarily would cause a complete panic attack, his absurdity handled it, and once again, we laughed.
I could write about the sporadic and unpredictable other times we crossed paths, but none matter as much as the summer of 1986 when my world opened up to sunshine, laughter, independence, and joy. When I think of the web of events that shape the independent Missy, the girl who couldn’t get out of the box quickly enough, they really begin here.
Two weeks ago, through a friend, Trip contacted me. He wanted to talk. I called. He was happy, though weak. I listened. He talked about souls, connections, experiences, living, loving and dying. There is an overwhelming sadness in this: 24 years later, when my friend was letting go of his earthly existence, he contacted me.
Grieving is not something that I get better with the more I do it. Quite the opposite actually, it's harder every time. Is this my selfishness? Is it my desire to no longer know the things I once thought I might want to understand?
Today, I grieve the loss of my first real sweetheart, a friend, a smile, a time of innocence and loss of innocence and a life that changed me for the better. In 24 years I may have only seen Trip Reincke a dozen times, but I felt his presence in every one liner, in every slapstick comedy, in every silly adventure. I’m simply not sure if anything was ever funny before I met him.
07 July 2011
27 June 2011
23 June 2011
22 June 2011
11 June 2011
i've lived all this life
like an ocean in disguise
i don't live forever
you can't keep me here...
i wanna race with the sundown
i want a last breath that i don't let out
forgive every being
the bad feelings, it's just me
i won't wait for answers
you can't keep me here...
i wanna rise and say a-goodnight
i wanna take a look on the other side
i've lived all these lives
it's been wonderful at night
i will live forever
24 May 2011
Strategically, the first thing I moved was recycled wrapping paper, three thin totes of it to my bedroom closet. Next I moved a plant, a big one. I left it on my kitchen counter, hopefully doing some kind of carbon dioxide, oxygen exchange thing to the air in the place. Of course I cleaned thoroughly first. Not a nice organic clean, but a chemical spill instead. The idea of living in someone else’s stale germs caused shallow breathing, racy blood swelling in my brain, and a dull ache in my left breast.
I usually have a cleaning person handle this, but my wallet suggested I do it this time. After a few hours on my first mission, with plastic gloves and facemask forgotten in the bag on the kitchen counter, entrenched in the depths of my stand up shower, I mixed the concoction, and then I remembered when I was younger on The Today Show or maybe Dateline, a report about people who died from mixing cleaning chemicals in improperly ventilated places. This new anxiety compounded with the bleach, mildew spray, Comet cleanser, and steam drove me from the house in a full blown sweaty palm, call 911, panic attack. After a series of meditative breathing exercises and a healthy self talk, “I don’t want to die today, I don’t want to die today…”, combined with curling up in a ball on my bed, I felt better.
I returned every day for 3 weeks, carrying one thing or another. A Pier One shelf made the cut. Amazon shipped me a front door mat. I bought new seagrass area rugs from Celadon. I mopped the floors and placed a bucket of Murphy’s Oil Soap and an open box of baking soda in the middle of the room.
In keeping with the staying high on household chemicals theme, I spent a few days reviving my wicker porch furniture. Six cans of white spray paint, indented and stained white pointer fingers, and some new cushions, this will be worthy of my new space. I thought a lot about my mother. She made chicken salad out of chicken s@*t every day. I start with organic chickens, no wonder I make gourmet meals. My teacher was a master.
I repainted and carried over a toy bench George made for Jake.
John started moving the garage: kayaks, bikes, tool boxes. All very neatly organized in a wall mount system.
A box or two moved, and a bike ride on the beach. Another box, and I sat on my deck watching the sunset.
Jake and Abbey helped at first. Using his toolbox, Jake removed all the old toilet seats, Abbey installed the new ones.
Abbey wasn't so invested on moving day. Instead, she played paintball for 6 hours with her friends. The next day, while everyone worked...
Vegetable container garden, beach toys, and winter clothes, all moved in one day.
Alex and John spent the weekend moving my heaviest pieces of furniture, a pine roll top desk, matching armoire, dresser, a cedar chest and two, extra-cumbersome beds. They moved boxes of miscellany and the dining room table too. Alex’s superhuman strength and John’s spidery superpowers made it look… actually it appeared extraordinarily difficult.
My move in date is tomorrow. My new furniture was delivered today.
12 May 2011
When I was a child 40 seemed old.
Monumental birthdays have never had much power over me. Sweet 16 was bitter, 21 was dark, 30 was like 60, so I didn't expect much from 40.
Forty means I look like a teacher on a college campus instead of a student, but this time I like the way I look.
I have more medical screenings now.
I make choices like bangs or Botox.
I think seriously about retirement and my children moving out. Both make me cry.
I forget things on purpose now.
And I don't need a large social circle at all. No more Pampered Chef parties running rampant in my circle, and first weddings and babies and all the parties that go with them are gone. I like 40. I'm not trying to be twenty something.
I'm half way to 80. I wonder how many people get there.
I don't ride my bike without a helmet any more.
And I don't need to prove my self physically, mentally, financially, or any other way.
I eat healthier because I know people battling disease instead of hangovers. Although my closest friends still battle hangovers.
Exercise is for health now, not weight.
I know the difference between what I want and what I need, and at 40 there's not much difference.
All the years that led up to now have taught me that not much matters beyond experience and the lessons woven into them.
At 20, I was in the dark, jumping off tall buildings without a safety net, running, and hiding, seeking someone to fix me. Dangerous.
At 30, I was in the future, hijacking my own dreams, manipulating, and failing, a lot. I needed everything. Insatiable.
At 37 death glared at me, laughing at all my misunderstandings.
I gave up on fixing me and started being me.
At 40, I'm in the present, moving through moment by moment, accepting everything as it is, expecting nothing, having faith, and choosing happiness. Skipping stones across a river. Contentment.
04 May 2011
She was born in Summerville, and we had to bring her home to West Ashley.
George drove in the slow lane and never accelerated over 15 mph.
I remember feeling so safe, glad he understood the significance of this car ride.
I remember counting her toes, studying every inch of her skin, learning the expressions, sounds, and smells of this gift.
I remember her father and I arguing over whose turn it was to hold her, whose turn it was to rock her to sleep.
I remember asking, many times, what did we used to do? How did we spend our time? What possibly could have mattered before this fairy, this pixie, this sprite started casting her spells on us.
I remember when Abbey was 4 years old. I told her I wanted to freeze her. She would always be my little 4 year old girl. She promised she would stay.