Friday, June 29, 2007

Sleepwalking into summer

June is just about over -- our apple trees are bearing fruit (the Anna's is already too mealy for me, but I'm picky about my apples being crisp), Steve is reveling in his tomatoes (he and the kids made $6 the other day selling origami paper cups that Maddie made full of pear, cherry and early girl tomatoes to the neighbors) and the weather is heating up.

I'm in this curious place of being intensely antsy to have the house sold and not believing it will ever happen, that we will never really leave here. Summer here, with its intense heat, makes me a bit dazed anyway, and that, combined with the utter unknowability of what life in Colorado might be like for us, makes any thought of moving seem like just a dream.

I'm trying not to waste this time waiting for the future, as I so often do even when I'm not busy planning major life changes.

I woke up the other morning and noticed how dread seeped into my consciousness as my first thoughts were about what I had to get done today -- "got four clients to get through, I need to get the kids to my folks house, this house needs to be picked up."

And I looked at Harry, sleeping next to me (I started the night in his bed, since Steve and the kids had fallen asleep in the big bed listening to a book on tape, then Harry wandered in at daybreak to sleep a few final hours with me) and thought about how he and Maddie wake up and start their days -- he padding quietly downstairs, she bounding out of bed loudly enough to make me jump when I'm in the kitchen downstairs, but both of them always curious and open and ready to engage with the day, and I wondered how I have gotten so off-track.

Looking at Harry, I vowed to be more aware of how I'm framing my life with my thoughts (I don't *have* to get through four clients, I *love* working on people and making them feel better, though maybe I need to pare my day back to three clients, to keep it from turning into work) and to find ways to inject a sense of freedom and fun into my days. All the work of the past few months on the house has me in a chore mentality, and I need to remember to relax and play again.

Summertime, too, is bittersweet for me, because I remember how it seemed like a time of such freedom, so relaxing (even boring!) when I was young, before 40-hour-a-week, 50-week -a-year jobs, before babies and kids who never stop needing help, food, drink, an ear, comfort, diversion. I wonder will I ever get back to that experience of summer that I had as a child and teenager?

I don't know, but I can create some space for myself to relax in right now. It's funny, now, with the house as clean and the yards as tidy as they've ever been, I still find myself jumping up to water a plant or pick up a toy or wipe down a counter. Truly, it never stops, neither the list of things that could be done to fight entropy nor the voice that insists I must do them now.

One thing that I have done that I'm very excited about, is touch my toes. It's been several years that stiffness and pain has been creeping into my back, burning down my hamstrings and making my achilles tendon ache. This started before I began doing massage, but I'm acutely conscious of it now that I am so focused on muscle and fascia. I've been internally berating myself for not doing yoga regularly, but frankly, on many days I'm tired out by massage, child rearing and housekeeping (or the internal resistance to any or all of the above) and I rarely have the energy at the end of the day, when I'm loosest. As far as morning yoga goes, it undermines what little determination I have when I'm so tight that the poses are painful to hold.

I've found a book, Pain Free, (recommended first by a client months ago, then by another massage therapist last week) by Pete Egoscue that has just what I've been looking for -- slow, deep, static stretches that release the fascia without being difficult to hold, a lazy woman's path to properly aligned joints, pain relief and greater flexibility. I've been doing the exercises a week and already my back feels 80 percent better and I can touch the floor, after several years of being 3 inches away from it. Now that the back is loosened up, I'm going to go through the stretches for neck pain, which is among the most intractible of the pain conditions I see in my practice and will hopefully be able to recommend the book enthusiastically to my clients.

So, this evening I was laying on my yoga mat on the back patio with my legs propped up on an ice chest, enjoying being able to lay down and claim to be doing physical fitness at the same time, listening to Mossflower on CD with Maddie, as she picked handfuls of rosemary and mint leaves and carefully shredded them and piled them on my arms and legs to ward off mosquitos (I am apparently ambrosia to mosquitos. Steve can stand next to me and get one or often not a single bite, and I will get half a dozen), until a couple of bites on my unprotected wrist made me flee into the house, and I didn't in the least bit register how wonderful a moment it all was, until I was finally laying in bed at midnight, unable to sleep, remembering how my daughter had carefully anointed me with fragrant herbs.

I don't know whether to despair that I can have such a charming experience and practically sleepwalk through it, or applaud myself for at least seeing the magic of it before I fell to sleep...

I know that moving somewhere with new people, new routines, new climate, will make me feel awake and present for a time, and that's a big part of the allure for me. But I also know that the new becomes familiar and routine, and if I don't figure out how to maintain mindfulness, I'll sleepwalk through life in Colorado in a few years as much as I do it here. Steve was suggested I return to sitting meditation (which I abandoned in Maddie's early months). I'm sure it's a good idea. I just wonder if I'll have any better luck with it than I did with my aspirations for a daily yoga practice. Hmmm, perhaps there's a lazy woman's path to mindfullness as well...

Monday, June 18, 2007

Now we wait...

We returned from Colorado early this morning, after flying from Denver to Vegas and driving home the car we had dropped off at the Las Vegas airport on the drive out to Colorado (we left our Jeep with Steve's college friend, Lincoln, who lives in Boulder, figuring that we'll need a 4WD vehicle in Colorado and we might as well start moving cars out now -- I know, it's byzantine. But it saved us money and saved driving time as well).
We had a wonderful time playing with the cousins. The weather was gorgeous, if a bit hot, and we loved the afternoon thunderstorms that cooled things off. (Harry just helped me by typing in the last two sentences. And Maddie finished the last two words off. She just exclaimed "hey!" when I tried to give Harry all the credit.)
We met with the unschoolers in Fort Collins again -- I so enjoy spending time with these families. We wandered around Bellvue, the idyllic hamlet outside of Fort Collins that Steve says looks like Hobbiton. Pam and her wonderful family live there, in a hundred-year-old house that was once a Seventh Day Adventist Church, and now is home to four chickens, a rabbit, three dogs, at least one cat and two triops. Maddie was in heaven.
We saw a couple of houses that we really liked, including one with a fabulous view of a small community lake and the mountains beyond. I *really* wanted to put a bid in on it, but without our house under contract, our broker assured us no one would take our offer until we had a buyer of our own.

We actually had a Realtor walk in the house today to show it to his clients without advance notice, so I scrambled to grab the kids and scoot out the back door, leaving dirty dishes in the sink and an suitcase waiting to be unpacked on the bed upstairs. Oh well. At least we hadn't had time to make a bigger mess of the house.
Maddie wants me to go downstairs and listen to a book on CD, Mossflower, with her. We just discovered this series at the library and listened to Mariel of Redwall on the drive out (picking it because one of my best friends is named Mariel!) It's a bit like a milder version of Lord of the Rings with mice, rabbits, rats, stoats and other woodland creatures. (I keep meaning to look up what the heck a stoat is. I think I looked it up once after reading Watership Down and still couldn't figure out what it was, but that was pre-Internet. I'll have to google a picture of it tonight....

Monday, June 11, 2007

45 Years

We're just back from a long weekend at the beach celebrating my folks' 45th anniversary. Cindi and Nic and Owen came from Colorado, and my folks rented a couple of cottages and a campsite on the beach at Camp Pendleton and we had a wonderful time. We had originally tossed around the idea of having a big party, but a surprising number of my parents' friends are battling serious health issues, and it wasn't coming together, so we switched gears and made it a family affair. The cousins, as always, ran around in a happy pack.

Here they're taking a break from beach time and party preparations to watch Nic play a video game..

And here's Grandma getting some snuggles from Harry and Nic..

At the party, Steve gave my folks a musical card that played the Star Wars theme (A long, long time ago... you were married), and Harry was so enamored with it that he stood up and recited the scrolling narration, as best he could recall, to which Owen and Maddie apparently had strong reactions... (click on the photo to see it up close)

And here's Harry, reprising his soliloquy yet again...

All in all, it was a great party and a great weekend, but terribly bittersweet, at least for me. Steve tells a story of how he decided, without thinking about it too much, to follow his college girlfriend (and later wife), Elisa, to California after they graduated. Jazzed by his exciting new adventure, he called his mother and gushed about his plans to leave Iowa for the West Coast with this young woman she was less than thrilled by. Judith listened politely until he ran out of steam and then said, "Oh, I thought you were calling to wish me a happy birthday." (Steve says he was pretty much speechless and feeling horrible at that moment.)

I feel a bit that way with all these preparations to move bookending this anniversary party. I want to be excited about moving to Colorado and bringing new experiences and new people into our lives, but I hate that I'll be losing the almost daily presence of my parents in my life and in Maddie and Harry's. (Okay, and Steve's too. He's going to miss them, and not just for the frequent babysitting.)

I hesitate to write this because I know the other grandparents haven't had this chance, and I regret that tremendously as well, (it's so hard to knit an extended family together tightly when there's much or all of a continent between us all) but I'm so glad that the kids have had such deep relationships with my folks. (I'm really, really hoping that they'll find a way to tolerate Colorado for at least part of the year and live there part-time).

We will, in Fort Collins, be a day's drive from Grandma Judith and her wonderful farm, and Grandpa Jack may come through Colorado more often than California, so we're hopeful to deepen our connections on the Sedam/Wachter side of the family, even as I try to ignore the impending stretch and thinning of connection with my folks.

So, a bittersweet toast to 45 years and an enduring marriage. I only wish I could pack them up and take them with me.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Almost 6 years ago,

A girl up the street from us posted a flyer on the mailibox advertising her fledgling babysitting business. She was not quite 13 and Maddie was 2 1/2. They hit it off from the start, mostly because Sam was wonderful with her, both leading in play and following, always staying engaged and being a playmate.

At first, Sam would come over so that I could nap when I was pregnant with Harry, then when he was born she came to play with Maddie when I nursed Harry down for his naps.

We were crushed a year or so later when she told us her folks were moving to Temecula. We tried another sitter or three, but no one could replace Sam. So we started driving the 20 minutes to pick her up and bring her back home. And the kids continued to grow with her as a surrogate big sister.

She was tremendously patient and good natured, letting them take charge of play and roughhousing endlessly with them (in her initial sales pitch, she emphasized that she had two younger brothers that had trained her well for babysitting, and it was true.) I kept up with developments in Sam's life on those drives back and forth to her house, as she and her family vacillated between homeschooling and Christian schooling and public schooling and homeschooling again for her and her twin sister Hana. Then to our delight, they moved back to Murrieta to a neighborhood on the other side of town, and it became easier to have Sam over to play. She was for years my only break from stay-at-home parenting and then, after Steve took the buyout at the Times, our biggest source of date time.

When she turned 17 she got her driver's license, which suddenly made it even easier to have Sam over to sit, now that I didn't have to provide transportation as well. But I lost the chance to catch up with her and her life on those drives, and I had gotten busy too, with my massage practice, and didn't take the time to chat on the way out the door or back in. (It was Sam who helped me realize that I wanted to be a massage therapist. She was talking about not knowing what she wanted to be when she grew up and I half-jokingly said something like "I don't know either. I think I want to be a massage therapist when I grow up," and I stopped and thought, "Okay Sue, time to listen to yourself.")

So, I've known that Sam's gotten busier and busier over the last year or two, but wasn't paying too much attention and chalked it up to a social life and growing independence. When she told us a couple of months ago that her folks are thinking of moving to Denver and that she is planning on moving to Chicago, I saw it mostly as confirmation that it's time for us to leave. I did wonder what she was going to do in Chicago and whether it was brave or foolhardy of her to just take off, but I still didn't realize who Sam had become. I knew that she sang and played guitar for her church and that she was good enough to be asked to lead youth music worship each week. I knew she was giving guitar lessons to students and thought vaguely that I should see if the kids wanted to learn from her someday. I knew she was singing at some coffee shops around town and asked her to let us know when she had a gig, but I don't think she was quite ready to have us in the audience.

Last week, I asked her again if she was playing anywhere anytime soon and that we'd love to hear her. I was mostly thinking that I wanted the kids to see someone they knew making music, to connect with it in that way. She called us late in the week and said she'd be playing a set outside the mall Sat. evening. So we went last night.

I couldn't believe what I was hearing as I walked up, and when I saw Steve walking towards us a few minutes later after parking the car, he was mouthing "wow" at me. I sat in the folding chairs of the courtyard and watched her standing on stage, barefooted, unassuming, conversational and at ease in a self-deprecating way. She played guitar and sang in a powerful, rich folksy voice, very distinctive. I wish I knew more about music to describe it better, but here's a link to her myspace page if you want to hear for yourself. Her songwriting is amazingly sophisticated as well, at least to my untrained ear.

So many thoughts went through my head during that set of music -- amazement at her raw talent, dismay that I hadn't been somehow paying more attention to her life and worry that one day I'd turn around and realize that my own kids had blossomed into beautiful, talented adult beings without my paying enough attention to their transformation. I saw her decision to move to Chicago in a totally different light now -- of course she was going to Chicago! She needed to immerse in a larger music scene, to expand herself, to experience more of life and transmute it into music.

Steve sat next to me and marveled at what she was giving to us all, struck, he said, by the realization that this is why you pursue art, to offer it up to the world, to share your gifts.

And somehow, I also felt embarassed that I had been asking this amazingly talented young woman to come play with my kids for ten bucks an hour for all these years, what a waste of her time! (But I realize that's not true. In fact, Sam sweetly dedicated a song to Maddie and Harry, "the kids I babysit in the back row there.") I thought, "Good lord, my kids have been climbing all over the future Alana Morissette." I better get an autograph before she goes. No, what I really want is some pictures. Pictures of the young woman who helped me raise my kids, before she heads off on her own life's adventures...