A Perfect Sphere

 

 

 

 

Sphere by C.K. Without instructions.

 

Being a parent is like
making a perfect sphere;

out of a pile of broken legos.
Sure.

They tell you you can do it.
They tell you there are instructions,
but those are long ago lost;
one page floating in the toilet
another page under the forks in the drawer
another in the basement of your bag
stuck to the bottom with melted chocolate
and to the side with bubble gum
that was tried, but named ‘not my favorite.’

What happens is, the pieces you need aren’t there,                                                   but that’s when you know how to use them;

or the pieces are there,                                                                                                                   but that’s when you can’t make them fit.

In the pictures, the ones they all seem to have,                                                          they tell you:
blue 3×2
grey 1×6
red 4×4

Press here,
click there,

perfect.

So, you try the same,                                                                                                                       but all you have is:
green 2×2
black 8×8
white 1×1

You pound here,
you smack there,                                                                                                                                but not.

And there is it…

A crumbling pyramid.

Not a perfect sphere.

Some people can do it.

They dive their hands in,

and without any hesitation or sweat

or swear words or crying or whiskey,

they do it.

Round. Smooth. Perfect.

You can’t do that.

But you have to do something,

make something.

Try something.

So you do.
With whatever bags of edges and
sides and cracked bumps you have left.
You can’t just leave these blocks
scattered and pointless and deserted.

Maybe if you stack it,
just keep pushing to the center,
every one mounded on the next
as many as you can.

But they still separate and they fall.

You can’t make a perfect sphere.
You’ll never.

But maybe,
maybe,

you can give them,                                                                                                                            the one on the floor next to you,                                                                                           who doesn’t mind the plastic in their knees,
give them the blocks  and a hug and                                                                                                    whatever ideas you have and some courage

and you might
make them
a better builder
than you.

It won’t be a perfect sphere.

Because maybe a perfect crumbling pyramid                                                                     is what they wanted all along.

Resilient

 

4634 pieces.
4 missing.

We say kids are resilient.

Maybe that’s what we just hope. It’s surely what I hope. As my own kid bounces between two houses, multiple grandparents and step-family, resiliency is what I hope for and will be thrilled if we miss that and land at only mildly screwed up.

This kid is my hero. The young man started building his firehouse with his favorite grown-up friend. I was mean and made him go to sleep, so he had to return to the construction days later. I know. Mothers are the worst.

Fabrication started calmly. Until he asked for help. He never asks for help. Legos are not for the feeble minded nor for mothers. But there was a problem. Giant problem. They had come up missing. Four blocks. We needed twos and greens. There were none. Absolutely nothing in site.  Butts were lifted off floors, boxes were moved, instruction manuals shifted. Not a thing.

I would have lost my shit.

I would have screamed and stomped and yelled all the curse words. The big ones. The one made with  several nouns and messy adjectives to keep them company.

Not him.

He said, ” Hmmm.”

I’m sorry? Hmmm? Is that a new swear word? Is that what the kids says when things are really lit? Hmmm?

No. That is what stable, reasonable, resilient kids say when they are solving a problem.

Solve the problem.

That course had never even occurred to me.

Yet,  there he was. Snooping through the bin of extra blocks to find a substitute. Ready to simply carry on.

I’m not saying the boy is a genius. But he passed me years ago in the brain department.

Something so simple. Dealing with a problem. Finding an acceptable solution, that might not be the ideal configuration, but one that lets you just get one with it.

Why is this so hard for grown ups? Or at least for this grown up. Ok, for this petulant adolescent brain in an adult body with the grey hairs, the crow’s feet and the bum knee? But it’s so hard for me. I can be weak and wavering and floppy. I am not built resilient.

Right now, I have some adult-type problems. We all do. Money. Security. Health. Wishes. It’s all hard. Why does it not occur to me to just address my troubles as they arise and  as well as I can with what’s available to me and get to it? No. My first thought is that I should whine and bitch to my fantastic boy, send out cryptic, depressive tweets and eat a bunch of chips. None of these things will get the Lego Firehouse built any faster. And isn’t that what it’s all about?

I tried tonight. I quit bitching and sat down at my computer and did some work. Using what I had available to come up with possible solutions for problems. It was sticky and ungainly. But, it was something.

It wasn’t quite resilient.

It wasn’t the green blocks that I needed.

But it was a step to keep building.

 

 

Separate Sugar

Melania Trump looked beautiful at the inauguration. 

Michelle Obama looked beautiful at the inauguration. 

These things can exist as the same time, in the same sphere. Time continuum intact. Streams not crossed. 

Two people can both do good work. They can both be good people, striving for individual and collective greatness as they variously stumble and succeed on their way there. One does not negate or lessen the effect of the other. In fact, one might have no impact on the other at all. 

I couch my petty insecurities in the cozy cushions of the real problems we face today. My only trouble this Monday was that because my son has two homes, there were two birthdays. 

Specifically, there were two cakes. 

Now, know this, ( because I need to hang my esteem on whatever tiny peg of righteousness I can find) we are all together for his birthday. There is one party. Friends and family. Home team. Always. 

But, there was also a cake at one house, the day before. And there was a second on the actual day. 

I was thrilled with mine. There was planning. There was searching and inspiration. There was online custom ordering where was not just Luigi, but “Luigi-from-Luigi’s-Mansion” Luigi. 

It was rad, as the kids say. (Okay, they probably don’t say that. I say that.)

I also say, look at the bad ass cake I willed into existence. 


(Serious note, much respect to Cassie’s Cake Toppers for the really fun and fantastic artistry. )

I did that. By did, I mean I peeled sugar art off of a piece of film and I laid it on a cake someone else made. 

But I totally piped that green and white icing from the metal can on by myself. 

The point goes to team mom. Uncontested. 

I was soothed. 

And then I saw a picture of the cake he had at his dad’s house yesterday. 

It was beautiful. It was absolutely stunning. It was as good as a flawless Ralph Lauren couture.   In every sense. 

It was fondant and custom figure and 3D and it probably had its own WiFi. 

Of that cake, I have no picture. Pictures are for closers. 

The game, ladies and gentlemen and those fluidly named and unnamed, goes to team dad. And step-mom. 

And that’s ok. 

A third grader got two pretty fantastic birthday cakes. Because he has two people who love him. We had snacks together tonight. Kid. Mom. Dad. Just the three of us. To quietly enjoy the moment and remember it’s actually about more than cake. To do this, the ability to share that time together, is precious.  I recognize that this gives him a giant, resounding privilege that many children don’t have. I see that and I am grateful beyond words. I’m doing my best work to be sure he sees and knows and appreciates that, too. 

On that front, he also got to see women marching in Pittsburgh this weekend, and I made him listen. Because I want him to see and know and appreciate no just what  goes into making a great cake, but what goes into making well a good mom and step-mom and dad and ally and decent human. All kinds of women and men. All kinds of cakes. 

Yes. His mom “made” him a beautiful cake. 

And yes, his dad and step-mom also made him a beautiful cake. 

We should all want to make and do better. 

This kid made us who we are and we struggle to be worthy. At home and beyond. 

I forget. Every day. But I’ve been reminded lately, in both shouts and whispers, marches and tiptoes, that there are things that are worth that struggle. 

I want to keep struggling.

And I also want some cake. 

Getting Back Up


It was a hard day.

For so many it was even harder.

One of the most painful things to do as a parent is to let your kids lose. To let them crash and burn. To let them trip spectacularly, and then without a second to right themselves,   tumble and roll into the mud. Instinct wants to send you running toward them, to stop and fix and save. But that isn’t always possible. And it doesn’t always help.

I want to let my kid miss homework questions. I want him to have a friend tell him off or ignore him if he’s acting like a selfish asshole. I want him to fail. But bigger, than that, I want him to try and still fail.

I really don’t want that. But I have to try.

It’s an excruciating lesson. One I will truthfully say I haven’t learned yet. Too often, at the expense of my physical safety, emotional health as well as my relationships, I make a mistake and I don’t get back up to fix it. I wallow in defeat and wait for someone to come pull me out of my muck. Because, you know, I’m a nice person and I deserve that. That flaw has cost me some lovely things in my life. As very well it should.

I don’t want that for my young man.

He was a part of this election with me. We talked about the candidates, what they wanted to accomplish and how that matched or differed from our own ideals.

You find things out that way. I learned that, to my surprise/chagrin he is more religious than I would expect for someone who hasn’t yet hit puberty. But, then again, puberty does change things, doesn’t it? If he is my church kid, then so be it.

He learned that his mother is pro-choice. He seemed genuinely surprised and maybe even upset. We talked at length about that one. I’m not the church mom, and I hope he’s okay with that.

Mostly, we talked about what was at stake during this political cycle. We thought about how it would affect us and the people we love.

With me, he has voted for our nation’s first African-American president, and then for the first woman to run on the Democratic ticket. Two pretty great memories.

Then, he saw me sad on Wednesday morning because the person we voted for together did not win. And I was worried about what might happen. And I have to state plainly here, I’m a straight (ish) , cis, middle-class white girl. I am raising a white boy. I am fully aware and exceedingly grateful, that I am going to be okay. We are going to be okay. I recognize that privilege and cherish it. So many do not and will not have that luxury.

I didn’t get something I wanted. Welcome to grown-up land. Now, what to do about it?

I want us to not just talk about that, but act as well. If we are worried about our LGBT friends and family, we find a way to support.  That’s where we are. Learning how to be and then becoming the best allies possible. I want us, together, to  start to learn at least something about the mountains of things that we don’t know. There is so much we don’t experience daily, tucked here in a small red town in a newly red state. We are researching agencies for donations and volunteering. We are looking and seeing and being open.

He may grow to be the polar opposite of me regarding politics or religion, philosophy or ambition. I want him to see me fail. And I need to finally learn to rise up like I haven’t done before. So he can see that, and learn the same.

I’m not winning. We all may not be winning. But we have to keep trying.

What If I Don’t?

From the set of ‘Silenced’ by James Barris

In the past few months, I got  to see Coney Island for the first time. I got to sit in a hospital room through the night with my mother. I got to see my son build his own game controller. I got to talk and share and feel for hours with a fantastic boy.
In the past few months, I’ve also had to give up at least six acting jobs. A combination of:

-getting cast and then turning now the part (surefire way to never get to work with that company again; and that was an incredible part. This is one that still stings.)

-scheduling several auditions and then cancelling

-being outright offered roles and refusing them

I look back with at least a little regret and anger at all those. Pointless but there’s truth and lies. Them is the truths.

Now, as I started many paragraphs and bulleted lists ago, I was able to do some important and very worthy things. I got to spend a weekend in the city of my heart, NYC and see my favorite band.  I got to see my son run in waves at the beach. And then I got to rescue him from the airport when his return trip from his father’s wedding when ridiculously awry.

I couldn’t have done any of those things if I had been in rehearsals for a play or on set.

I look back on those choices and I’m fine with what I picked. No regret or anger. Them is also the truths.

I wonder if I’m just justifying. Rationalizing. Piling on the horseshit high and wide.

That’s not impossible.

Maybe because I’m not getting cast or because life and it’s collars forced me back out of parts I could do, that I feel a compunction to tell a story. A story where I’d rather feel ineffectual and irrelevant as an artist than feel guilty for being an absent and selfish parent.

Maybe I just want to feel good about myself. So I spin a story about stepping away intentionally from my world of self, when it could be they pushed me off stage for being a cheap hack. I’m not the best actor.

Poor guy isn’t the best masker either.

Cause look at this kid.

I make this exact face every day. He often hates doing things out in the world with people. Just like I do. And I love him for it.


He made me a birthday cake. Something I could not have seen if I hadn’t turned down a recent acting offer.

I’m a mom. This is what I do. You give up the last slice of cake and you turn down leading roles in classic plays.

What worries me, if I let myself go to the dark and scary places, is what I don’t?

What if I don’t act again?

Conversely, what if I get an incredible professional chance, and grab it with both hands? To metaphorically keep the last piece of cake for myself sounds lucious sometimes in its indulgence.

What if to chase that, I run away from my kid and let him fend for himself with whatever family member takes over for me? I’m afraid because if I had the money and assistance I might. (Luckily or unluckily, that’s not my family’s lot. Not a healthy bunch. See above night in hospital. )

What if, as I’ve always feared and suspected but kinda knew, I’m not that strong an actor and that’s why the drive and journey and success eluded me?

Or  what if I just shut the hell up for a second? What if I accept with humble gratitude all my immense privileges and the freedoms, experiences and opportunities for profound happiness that comes with that shining gift? The ability to have a job and a home and a healthy kid is the holy grail and only a fool keeps searching once they’ve found at least one scroll.

Also, obvious and crystal, sparkling clear, I think the women who work and parent and pursue their art are goddesses and I bow to their glory. Being any of those three things should not lessen the worth or might of the others. I know personally several brilliant actor mamas and they have my daily awe and jealousy. Just because I can’t make it happen for myself doesn’t mean I judge what they do. Of course, I cringe and melt into a pile of self-pity and why esteem vacates when I see their pictures from set on Instagram. But I don’t judge them. Nor do I the moms who left our little acting and art world to play in the realm of motherhood forever and always. I applaud them all. At least I try.

And I’m so, so grateful for what I’ve been able to do. I have gorgeous memories and friends to take with me as I continue through my script. Other pulls abated for a bit, now I have time and space to focus on the people fate has brought into my life and home. Much more guitar and laughter and hugging than I ever thought my sphere would hold. Lucky girl.

So, tonight, fine at home with no pending outlets, I’m not sad. I’m listening. I’m trying to turn out and not in. I’m staying open.

Maybe that part will be back. I have some ideas for when it’s time.

For now, there’s my novel that is on a second draft and won’t find and editor on its own. There is a lovely boy who is coming to Nashville with me.

And there is a small-ish Chewbacca that needs a Rey to take him to the Halloween dance.

Don’t mind if I do.

What If I Don’t?

From the set of ‘Silenced’ by James Barris

In the past few months, I got  to see Coney Island for the first time. I got to sit in a hospital room through the night with my mother. I got to see my son build his own game controller. I got to talk and share and feel for hours with a fantastic boy. 
In the past few months, I’ve also had to give up at least six acting jobs. A combination of: 

-getting cast and then turning now the part (surefire way to never get to work with that company again; and that was an incredible part. This is one that still stings.)

-scheduling several auditions and then cancelling

-being outright offered roles and refusing them

I look back with at least a little regret and anger at all those. Pointless but there’s truth and lies. Them is the truths. 

Now, as I started many paragraphs and bulleted lists ago, I was able to do some important and very worthy things. I got to spend a weekend in the city of my heart, NYC and see my favorite band.  I got to see my son run in waves at the beach. And then I got to rescue him from the airport when his return trip from his father’s wedding when ridiculously awry. 

I couldn’t have done any of those things if I had been in rehearsals for a play or on set. 

I look back on those choices and I’m fine with what I picked. No regret or anger. Them is also the truths. 

I wonder if I’m just justifying. Rationalizing. Piling on the horseshit high and wide. 

That’s not impossible. 

Maybe because I’m not getting cast or because life and it’s collars forced me back out of parts I could do, that I feel a compunction to tell a story. A story where I’d rather feel ineffectual and irrelevant as an artist than feel guilty for being an absent and selfish parent. 

Maybe I just want to feel good about myself. So I spin a story about stepping away intentionally from my world of self, when it could be they pushed me off stage for being a cheap hack. I’m not the best actor. 

Poor guy isn’t the best masker either. 

Cause look at this kid. 

I make this exact face every day. He often hates doing things out in the world with people. Just like I do. And I love him for it. 


He made me a birthday cake. Something I could not have seen if I hadn’t turned down a recent acting offer. 

I’m a mom. This is what I do. You give up the last slice of cake and you turn down leading roles in classic plays. 

What worries me, if I let myself go to the dark and scary places, is what I don’t?

What if I don’t act again? 

Conversely, what if I get an incredible professional chance, and grab it with both hands? To metaphorically keep the last piece of cake for myself sounds lucious sometimes in its indulgence. 

What if to chase that, I run away from my kid and let him fend for himself with whatever family member takes over for me? I’m afraid because if I had the money and assistance I might. (Luckily or unluckily, that’s not my family’s lot. Not a healthy bunch. See above night in hospital. )

What if, as I’ve always feared and suspected but kinda knew, I’m not that strong an actor and that’s why the drive and journey and success eluded me? 

Or  what if I just shut the hell up for a second? What if I accept with humble gratitude all my immense privileges and the freedoms, experiences and opportunities for profound happiness that comes with that shining gift? The ability to have a job and a home and a healthy kid is the holy grail and only a fool keeps searching once they’ve found at least one scroll. 

Also, obvious and crystal, sparkling clear, I think the women who work and parent and pursue their art are goddesses and I bow to their glory. Being any of those three things should not lessen the worth or might of the others. I know personally several brilliant actor mamas and they have my daily awe and jealousy. Just because I can’t make it happen for myself doesn’t mean I judge what they do. Of course, I cringe and melt into a pile of self-pity and why esteem vacates when I see their pictures from set on Instagram. But I don’t judge them. Nor do I the moms who left our little acting and art world to play in the realm of motherhood forever and always. I applaud them all. At least I try. 

And I’m so, so grateful for what I’ve been able to do. I have gorgeous memories and friends to take with me as I continue through my script. Other pulls abated for a bit, now I have time and space to focus on the people fate has brought into my life and home. Much more guitar and laughter and hugging than I ever thought my sphere would hold. Lucky girl. 

So, tonight, fine at home with no pending outlets, I’m not sad. I’m listening. I’m trying to turn out and not in. I’m staying open. 

Maybe that part will be back. I have some ideas for when it’s time. 

For now, there’s my novel that is on a second draft and won’t find and editor on its own. There is a lovely boy who is coming to Nashville with me. 

And there is a small-ish Chewbacca that needs a Rey to take him to the Halloween dance. 

Don’t mind if I do. 

Away and Across

 

It’s been a week of some melancholy and clouds. Days of changes not to be believed. But ones that had been seen coming, like a swelling storm,  twirling down a midwest road for miles. Time that brought broken things, but with those chances for new creations.

Unexpected. Somehow, in the middle of the dark, powdered dust of disappointment that settled, filling lungs and covering heads, there was light. That’s how I could see the particles of hurt and hard, dance and settle to where they were meant to spend their days. And I could see a way to wipe them clear.

My family changed this week. Changed in ways that are large, and I say with earnest acceptance and hope, permanent. Changed in ways I will only begin to understand when they all fly back across the plains.

Leonard Cohen echoed through my mind all these days. My mirror twin, my next of kin. Waiting for my young master to be back with me. I’ve missed this boy. At times a painful, empty ache.  But, he had adventures to take.

I’ve also had moments in these days. Moments of music and learning, of laughs and  ridiculous fatigue. Moments of more wine than is wise, but is somehow just the right amount, because the moments that followed were pure lovely.

Insights occurred. What my young half needs, what I need, how I can be more things for him and for myself. How we can all be better than we are and more together.

I have intentionally stepped away from the art that sometimes inhabits my world. Insecurity, sadness, failure. These things do not, for me, breed creation. But, there were shimmers this week  that made me want to find new ways to step back in and  find new ways. Looking back to look ahead and do better. I thought of  where something started.

 

Hank Williams Drove NorthIMG_6517

It was every Hank Williams song,
slow and repeated and so full of heart break
you’re thankful it happened under the sun.
Because at night, moonlight and black air carrying
the signal full strength, the radio would shut itself down
needing the static and silence to cover the grieving pain.

I drove south, scanning between
the scrawled directions in my hand
and the exit signs, skewered pikes
along the West Virginia highway.

I was too early.
So I sat in the truck stop parking lot
An out of place Volkswagen
in a sea of thick treaded rubber tires and rusty truck beds
The men in orange and green and mud brown
walked in and out of the diner
and the gas station clinging to it hopefully.

They pulled in. Him driving, his/my/our smaller self
asleep in the back of the truck, the shiny one without rust.
He looked like his father, tiny, innocent version of the man in the driver’s seat
Nose and eyelashes copies but unforgettable

We tried.
The lateral napping-child vehicle transfer.
We failed.
He woke up.
Crying.

Not whining, or moping.
No pouting hyperbolic and vengeful tears of
childhood jealousy and ego
powered by the short energy of perceived injustice

He woke up screaming.
Screaming, clinging,
reaching, grabbing,
pushing, pulling,
Screaming.

I held my son as he wanted absolutely
not me.

Screaming.

“I want to stay with daddy!”

From the diner, the music played as our son raged.
Hank Williams witnessed as we handed off
our child in a truck stop.

And we all cried as we drove off in different directions.

And I hated
This and me and him
and the one in charge
I wanted to yell over
the tears and the radio.

“I didn’t want this!
This wasn’t my idea!
I can’t do this!”

In the back of my car, watching
sleepy but unwilling to surrender,
now hot and sweating in his car seat,
he still cried.
We crossed the state line and drove north.
The radio played.

I wondered what Hank Williams would have done,
if someone had made him feel this way.
Punch them?
Kept swinging until his fist hit the wall
and they hit the floor?
I bet he would.
I bet he did.
That’s what I wanted.
To unload the hurt I felt.
The hurt that I was sure would never leave,
the hurt was sure would kill me.
But I couldn’t. It was mine.

At home that night, after the sweat had cooled
and the tears had stopped,
he was asleep.
Train blanket kicked off as always.

I went into his room.

Because I couldn’t sleep.

Climbed into his bed.

Because I was afraid.

I pushed my thumb into his open palm
and curled his small hand into a fist.
Because he likes to hold thumbs.
Because they’re squishy.

What was I doing to him?
Would he hate me? Tomorrow?
Forever?
For not settling? For not fixing?
For not being good enough?
For not being fine with fine?
For two different bedrooms in two different houses
in two different towns?
For the favorite book left overnight in the wrong one, there,
and Ross the giraffe left here with me, when he’s not?
When he needs it?
When of course, I need it more.

I hope he knows. That he sees and hears
the things and confessions and the absolution I beg for
from him when I whisper across our pillows
where he sleeps
and I watch.

Finally, I let go of his hand, and let dreams have me for a few hours.
I gave the guilt and sad a moment to themselves
to play and sing.
And do they ever. Loud and straight-ahead properly mourning, Irish wake raucous
that would make Joyce smirk with pleasure.
and only then building to honky tonk, jukebox kicking, gut spilling
sun will never come up and get us tease
that would make Hank pick up his guitar just so he could play along
and show them how it was done, son.

As I surrendered back in my own bed, beneath my eyelids I remembered to be thankful,
that he and I are here asleep together.
My heart resting beside me.
Singing. Waiting. Hurting.
Won’t be here forever.
But at least for this fleeting, moment, Here.

Because, south a few miles, his dad is missing
his heart. Singing. Waiting. Hurting.
There.

And away from all of it
somewhere on a cold, dark highway,
Singing. Waiting. Hurting
Hank Williams drove north.

 

When I wrote this, his father and I were starting our divergent travels. I thought and dreamed the worse. But it’s not. We’ve been open and honest about this journey from the start. When I’m open and honest, sorrowful and angry and scary words sometimes appear on pages. And I give access to this. When my little love read this piece, he cried, telling me it was the saddest thing ever. He’s come around on it, and so have I.  Good is still happening and more is possible. The paths are more entangled, we have more passengers. Miles from where we started and more to go. All of us.

This week was a changing one. Brought some sad, but so much more happy. So, maybe it deserves some dedications as it becomes a fond memory.

To my son: Love you, my darling boy.

To his father and step-mother: True wishes for every happiness.

To the one who held me through this week: You are truly fantastic.

More miles and music to come.