reverse


Somehow over, “Mom I need to tell you something” which my daughter says no less than 347 times a day and the radio…I heard a sickening crunch. The one that sounds like money and insurance claims and fiberglass bending in ways it shouldn't.

Even though I couldn’t see a thing, I was pretty sure that I had just backed into something.

Again.

And yes, my car does have one of those little back up mirrors. Apparently I need one that beeps as well.

I pulled forward and got out to inspect the damage.

It was dark and late and all I want to do on a Friday night is crawl into bed, so I never noticed that some little car slipped into a space perpendicular to my own. So close in fact that I couldn’t back out at all and eventually would have to move cones out of the way to escape through the front.

Immediately I saw a volleyball size dent in the side of the parked car.

I looked around and the parking lot was empty. Everyone was still inside the stands intently waiting for the second half of the game. I was the only one dreaming of an early bedtime. Instead of doing what I really wanted…which was to get back in my car and drive the hell out of there before anyone saw me, I dug in my purse for some paper. I wrote down my insurance information, name and phone number and tucked it securely on the dashboard.

One minor detail I am leaving out.  I placed it on the dashboard of what looked like a nice shiny new perfect Porsche convertible.

 I dialed my insurance provider to give them the details before pulling out of the parking lot and heading home already in a downward spiral.

My husband was incredibly patient and kind, telling me that is what insurance was for.
I took a Tylonal PM. Turned off my phone because I was not ready to face a very angry dented Porsche owner and climbed into bed. I didn’t hardly sleep all night. My stomach was in knots. Anxiety ran over me. I tossed. I turned. I played out a million different scenarios in my head. I wondered why I couldn’t have just backed into an old minivan, or even another telephone pole like the last time. I worried about the voicemails I was going to have to reply to in the morning. I even imagined the police coming to knock on my door. I considered never driving again. I tried to talk sense into myself. That it was an accident. That I have insurance. That I did the responsible thing and owned up to my mistake. But, there is very little talking sense into anyone’s self in the middle of the night. Shame and fear and anxiety always seem to win out in the early a.m.

 At 6 am I gave up and crawled out of bed to make some coffee and face whatever was on my cell phone. I couldn’t keep the coffee down and my voicemail was totally empty.

Saturdays at my house usually involve donuts, a good long run and cheering on my favorite teams.  I skipped the run, didn’t dare trying to eat a donut and watched my kids from the sidelines despite giant bags under my eyes and a knot in my stomach that was at least getting lighter as the day went on.

Still no voicemails cursing me. No police coming to take me away. I screwed up and I kept waiting for someone to yell at me. To punish me. To make me feel like less, even though I was doing a pretty damn good job of that myself.  Eventually the claims adjustor called, told me I had all the details they needed that they need from both parties and that was the end of that.

The knot got even smaller and I took a quick nap and woke up to watch my undefeated alma mater try to keep their winning streak alive.  They lost. Their perfect record smeared. But the game was exciting and they fought it out until the end and I imagine that they still got on the bus with their heads held high.

My car, by the way, had absolutely no damage. Because, like most acts of carelessness we usually damage the ones around us more than we harm ourselves.

However, my car still has a large crack that snakes up most of my windshield. A stray rock hit the window on a road trip this summer and left it’s mark. I haven’t bothered to get it fixed because I just haven’t wanted to deal with the hassle of taking it in. For months, I have been driving around a car with a giant crack in it. Today, someone else was driving around town in their dream car with an Outlander-sized dent in the driver’s side.

The knot in my stomach is mostly gone. I slept for 10 straight hours last night. I am still embarrassed and double and triple checked my mirrors every time I put my car in reverse today. And my town isn't that big...and it was at a school event. I am sure the owner will have a face soon enough.

But.
Windows break.
Cars get dented.
Records get broken

We are all out their with our own cracks and dents and defeats.  Doing our best to hide them or repair them.
But what if, for a change we just acknowledged them.
Stopped making, ourselves and everyone else, feel shitty for mistakes or failures.
Picked each other up. Were a little more careful with the broken pieces. Our own and everyone else's.
Held our heads high anyways.
That, and always check our mirrors before putting it in reverse.

 

“There is a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in.”
Leonard Cohen


pablo and maria



I love summer. I love the smell of chlorine on my kids skin and sunscreen and an excuse to eat ice cream every single day. Not setting the alarm and no nagging papers that I should be grading. Time to actually eat breakfast. To stay up late. Time to put away the laundry and be completely caught up on my TiVo daily. Going out on a weeknight. I even like all the sweating.
Summer is my season.

The summer before last was pretty epic (and I know I am too old to use that word and be taken seriously). But, really it was uh-mazing. I spent a week in the mountains, a week in Vancouver and pretty much the rest of the time at the pool and the lake. It left a lot to live up to. I pushed through a long Spring and an exhausting school year just trying to make it. To summer. I had high hopes for cleaning out my house. Room by room. All the lessons I would plan. All the friends I would see and all the adventures my family would have.

And it was a big fat let down.

June couldn't have sucked more.
Tess had pneumonia twice.
Owen had a weird but serious infection (in the middle of our vacation) that put us in the ER twice.
Someone I loved was murdered.
And my dog died.
Mumford canceled their show and I had tickets.
Many of my friends were going through there own trials which completely dwarfed my own. And even though this is usually my specialty, I was struggling to show up. To know how to help.
I had a bible study fail.
We canceled the cleaning lady.
I waited too long and some of the camps my kids wanted to go to were full. Which is just as good because my bank account was the opposite.
Some new opportunities fell through.
And my kids did not get the memo that during the summer you were supposed to sleep at least until 8 am.

The medical bills added up. Loss surrounded me. And I struggled to figure out how to show up.

The days were long. I did loads of laundry and dishes and swept and took out the trash.
My kids watched hours of cartoons. I watched hours of TNT. And went to dozens of doctors appointments. I read a book a day. It was the summer of my discontent.

Fast forward 3 or so months. Yesterday morning I needed a hoodie for the first time, and not just because my classroom could double as a meat locker.
The first day of fall came and went without me noticing, although I did see a million pictures of pumpkin spice lattes on Instagram. This is pretty much how I knew to go buy my kids a Halloween costume. September was gone before I got used to writing 9s in the date line.  Before I realized it, while I was writing lesson plans, summer completely slipped away. Flip flops have been traded in for really cute boots.
I'm not that into the lattes but I do love long sleeves, soup and not having to shave my legs more than once a week.

Tonight I went for a run. I was enjoying the fact that it was not 100 degrees outside and the first song that came on my ipod was the song that was sang at my friend's funeral. In June.
The tears came before I could stop them, before I even made it off my street and suddenly June felt like a million years ago.

I missed my friend. And his loss has not entirely left me.
And it shouldn't.
But something about that sadness and ache felt foreign. Like it was from a different season.
Because it was.

My summer didn't stay hard.
We went to the beach in July. And the weather reports warned of tropical storms. It predicted rain for days. I packed a pair of blue jeans and checked movie releases.
Instead, the sun shone. We all grew more freckles, got salt in our eyes and sand in between our toes.
I've heard that there are few things in life that salt water can't cure: sweat, tears or the ocean.
My summer was heavy in all three.

I kept running, and missing my friend.
But appreciating how things have changed.
How the hardness of that month has eased. How seasons aren't always marked on the calendar or with flavored syrups at coffee shops. Sometimes they are marked in our hearts.
And sometimes it takes longer than others.
But they change.
Hard days sometimes turn into hard weeks and occasionally into hard months.
Occasionally those months stick together.

But they are seasons.
And seasons are temporary.

The weather changes.
The stores redecorate.
The coffee shops sell you pumpkin spice or peppermint mochas.

It. Gets. Better.
Or maybe it gets worse.
But then it gets better again.

Either way, I am getting coffee.
 

(this song makes me cry every. single. time. Zane sang it live, and I just remember his slumped shoulders in the pew in front of me.)

Are zombies nice?

For months now my daughter has been playing an annoying little game, asking me if everything is nice or not.
From the back seat I hear, " mom, are cats nice?"
"Most are, but you should always ask the owner or approach a pet carefully."
"So some cats are bad?"
"Not necessarily, some just don't want to be petted."

I turn up my music back up.

But again, she pipes up from the backseat, "princesses are nice right?"
"Well, I've never met one but I'd guess most of them are nice."

And it goes on like this for weeks.
"Are grasshoppers nice? Are frogs nice? Is the neighbor's dog nice? Are zombies nice? My American girl doll? Chickens?"

"Yes. Yes. Yes. No. The price isn't. They make nice nuggets."

"What about a tiger?"
"Well, a tiger might try to eat you."
"So it is mean?"
"Not necessarily, it just might be hungry."

Owen growing even more annoyed than I am, looks up from playing plants vs zombies and tries to explain that not everything is mean or nice.
That a tiger is not mean or nice. It is a predator.

She is quiet momentarily.
Owen goes back to his game. I go back to singing to the radio,

"Mom, are predators nice?"
"Tess, do you even know what a predator is?"
"No. Are they nice??"

A long sigh.

Let's save the biology lesson for another day, sometimes tigers are just tigers. Chickens are just chickens. They aren't mean or nice. They just are.

"Ok, so. But Ariel IS nice right? She is my favorite princess."
Yes. I bet she is the nicest Disney princess that ever had a bra made out of sea shells.

She still asks this question. Daily. Once I even gave her a long complicated answer about why cannibals aren't nice, but turns out she said "camel". On the bright side she now has a clear anti-people eating stand. Although she did ask if they ate the brains or if that was just zombies.
This conversation wears me out.
But I see what she is doing.
She needs to be able to classify things. Group them. Label them. Decide what team they are on.

And if she is like the rest of us, it is a skill she will use her entire life.
On everyone she comes in contact with and worst of all, on herself.
In. Out.
Popular. Nerdy.
Democrat. Republican.
Hot. Not.

But, it is a system I am trying to cloud and complicate and confuse. Even if it makes me occasionally want to pound my head against the steering wheel.
I tell her that these labels she has made don't always work. That they are handy and occasionally necessary, but there is usually more to the story than if something is nice or bad.
That some cats are nice, some are mean, sometimes they just have a bad day.
That a tiger might try to eat you, but that doesn't make it nice or mean. It is just being a tiger.
And of course, that maybe zombies aren't really mean that they are just misunderstood.

Tess, just turned five. She was thrilled with the gifts, the cupcakes, the attention and the party.
But she was reluctant about actually being five.
From the backseat again she tells me that she still wants to be Little Tess.
That she wants all her dresses to fit. That she does not want to be Big Tess. That she wants to play with her Barbies. She wants to be Silly Tess and wear pants on her head not Mommy Tess who has to have babies and get a job.

Whooo. Hold your really nice horses. You turned 5 not 35.  First, I'd suggest getting a job, a husband and then having babies but for now...
Don't worry about being Big Tess or Little Tess. Young and Carefree Tess or Tired and exhausted what am I going to make for dinner and when am I going to grade papers mom...I mean Tess.
Try being Just Tess.
Be who you are right now.
I love that girl, mean or nice. Four or five.
Tiered and cranky or sweet and kind.
That I'm sure her dresses will still fit, and thankfully they make dresses in all kinds of sizes.
Lose the adjectives and just be you.

Mom, can Just Tess have a snowcone?
"Sure, I hear snowcones taste even better when you are five."

"Mom, are snowcones nice?"