Saturday, February 19, 2011

Are We There Yet?

A friend told me the other day that I should not worry so much about my destination, but rather enjoy the journey.

Good advice. But I was perplexed. I thought I was a journey kind of person. Didn't I come across as a journey kind of person? And even if I was a destination kind of person, I'm directionally challenged. I rarely get to where I planned to go in the manner that I planned to get there. I actually got lost in my own neighborhood once. And I was walking! So I don't have a choice. I have to enjoy the journey because if I didn't laugh at the constant road blocks, obstacles, detours, and wrong turns that make up my journey, I'd be perpetually stalled at some sketchy roadside rest stop, sobbing my eyes out.

But the comment got me thinking. People really do fall into those two camps, for the most part. Journey people and destination people. Then I wondered if that is one of the causes of miscommunication between kids and parents. There are 10 gazillion books on how to talk to your kids.There are books that preach Love Languages, Love and Logic, Parenting IQ's and Parenting Smart Zones. If I checked, I could probably find one on how to spk txt 2 ur kids. But I don't think there is one on Journeys and Destinations. (And you type C personalities out there, if you find one, I don't want to know about it!)

But think about it, if we are constantly using Journey Speak to a Destination Person, we might as well be speaking Swahili! And as you all know, I speak fluent Swahili.

So which category do my children belong to? Kate is definitely a Destination Person, to a fault. ANYTHING at all that happens along the way that doesn't directly deliver her to her desired destination is a complete waste of time and frankly a bunch of bleeping bull-bleep! Maybe that's why every time I tried to get her to just relax and enjoy life, she claimed that I had no idea what I was talking about. The Journey Speak simply didn't resonate.

Sophie is a Journey Girl. She MUST smell every flower, feel every speed bump, splash in every mud puddle...You get the picture.  I get this way of living. Even so, I have to remind her every so often to focus on where she's wanting to be and think about if these appealing detours are going to get her there. But she usually doesn't hear me because she's half-way out the door to the next tourist spot.

Frank is also a Destination Person. He agrees with the bleeping bull-bleep idea, but expresses his discontent more mildly. He's nice enough to be willing to enjoy the ride if he's with a Journey Person, but jumps for joy when he's in the company of the Destination People. He patiently listens to the Journey Speak, but I don't think he buys a word of it.

Then there's the Quiet yet Calculating One. She takes the Destination Idea to a new place entirely. Her destination is not Hollywood or the Olympics or the Moon, as some kids dream. Oh no. Her destination is winning. Life is not a journey. No map or GPS system required. Life, my friends, is a game and the challenge is to win.

A while back when Captain Phil of The Deadliest Catch passed away at such a young age, I asked my daughter if she had the choice, would she choose a short life packed full of adventures like Captain Phil or if she would rather live a long, less chaotic life. Her answer: "It depends. Do I get to live to be the oldest person alive? Because if not, what's the point." Now, what version of Swahili do I use to answer that?

Are you a Destination Person or a Journey Person? What about your kids? It might be interesting to ask them if they think life is all about the place they are going or how they are going to get there. And if you can decipher, let me know what they say. You can catch me stopped by the side of the road searching for my map. Or perhaps walking in circles, taking in the beautiful scenery on my way to where I'm trying to go.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

My First Best Friend

My first best friend died last week. Our lives had drifted apart years ago. So, I was surprised at the inundating wave of emotions that overtook me on hearing the news. A hundred visions of two innocent girls, giggling and singing and dreaming flooded my heart. Memories of honest, young friendship before the interference of peer pressure and cliques and gossip and boys washed over me. I let the idea of the scarcity of it all, the inevitable fading of it sink in. And suddenly I didn't want it to fade. I wanted a way to hold onto that part of myself, that part of my friend.

I searched old photo albums for visual reminders of that beautiful time. There they were-- a handful of birthday party pictures, a First Communion photograph, a school portrait with her handwritten note on the back. I studied every detail of these treasures and began to understand the importance of a First Best Friend.

A First Best Friendship may be one of the most important places where our formation of spirit begins and grows. Without the pressure of societal expectations, we learn acceptance and sharing and forgiveness and compassion in a way that imprints our souls.

At her funeral, I saw dozens of images of the woman My First Best Friend had become. I stared at the collages of family events, sorority sisters, and high school activities. At the ceremony, I listened to the amazing life she'd lived after college. I learned how she had created an exciting career that lead her to fun places where she impacted the lives of who knows how many people.

And I began to feel cheated.

My First Best Friend, who had been by my side at every single birthday party until I turned 12 and my family moved away, who had pretended to be Charlie's Angels with me, who had worn matching First Communion gowns with me, who had shared an early girlhood dream of becoming famous singers with me had blessed my life for such a very short time. Most everyone else in attendance there had experienced her joy for a lifetime.

Sitting at the back of that same church the where the two of us had learned the Hail Mary and Our Father and tasted our first Eucharist, I looked at all the sad faces. I recognized a few other childhood friends whose families had stayed in our small hometown. These were the girls who shared with my First Best Friend the experiences that take us from girl to woman. They cheered for the same football team and maybe even dated the same quarterback. They shared a first Prom and possibly a first After-Prom Kegger. They experienced boy-craziness and basketball tournaments. They walked across the same graduation stage.

I saw the grief of her family who had shared a lifetime of Christmases and family vacations. I recognized her older sister whom My First Best Friend has admired even as a young girl. I saw her brother whom she'd held a ferocious protecting love for, even when we were kids.

And I began to feel selfish.

Who was I to grieve? I couldn't really say I missed having her in my life. I hadn't seen her for decades. These people shared a lifetime with her. I was intruding on their celebration of her life and mourning of her death. It was not my place to cry at her absence. It was not my place to comfort her parents. And yet my heart still ached. Later, at the cemetery, this most unexpected mix of emotions still tumbled around inside me while I approached her parents. Her father hugged me like a long lost daughter and her mother thanked me over and over again for coming.

And I began to feel blessed.

God places  a few exceptional people in this world. One of them was My First Best Friend. She imprinted her life on mine at a time and an age when our unadulterated souls are most open to the lessons of the love of friendship. I distinctly remember, even at so young an age, wanting to be a better person when I was in her presence. Now, knowing the woman she became and the friend she was to so many, I want to be a better person, still. When God places exceptional people like Sharla Kae in my life, no matter how short the time, how can I not feel blessed?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Opera Lunch

The following should be read in a very high, vibrating, operatic voice:

"Please come and eat your lunch!
I've made a meal you'll love a bunch.
Hot Dogs and Mac and Cheese!
Wash your hands, first please!"

Ok, so I'm no Andrew Lloyd Weber. Heck, I'm not even a Dr. Seuss! But, apparently, I am the original (and possibly the one and only) Opera Lunch Mom.

Opera Lunch was invented when my youngest 2 were still in diapers. It was born out of a moment of sheer desperation. Here's what happened:

You know how they whine because they are hungry and you, being the Roaring Mom you are, won't allow them to have a snack because you actually have lunch planned that day and you are determined to stick to the schedule because some Super-Anal Mom made you feel guilty last week about the fact the her entire life is condensed neatly into a day timer, even down to when Little Susie sits on the pot? You know those times? Well, this was one of those times. So I bear the bickering and complaining, and I stick to the schedule. As planned, I fix the lunch that's on the menu exactly at the time that I am supposed to. I set the table and distribute the portions precisely. Then, I walk calmly to the play room and invite the precious, darlings to head to the bathroom to wash hands because lunch is served. But, once again, I must be speaking Swahili, because no one moves. No one even acknowledges my presence.

So, I try the deep breathing, the counting to ten, the Love and Logic questions. "Would you like to eat your lunch or would you like to go hungry?" Only I know that I could never let them go hungry, because...because...well, because that wasn't part of the plan. I was actually on time and organized and prepared today and, dang it, they are going to sit at the table I prepared and eat the lunch I cooked for them.

I feel the frustration waxing and my patience waning and I wonder if Little Susie's mom ever speaks Swahili and then I remember that's a big NO, because the entire family (even the newborn) takes French lessons Wednesdays at 10:00! I want to yell. I want to throw something. I want to take away every toy that is sucking their attention from the bountiful feast I so lovingly heated in the microwave!

Then, like an epiphany from on high, Opera Lunch is created. I sing, with all the volume and vibrato I can muster, that lunch awaits them in the kitchen. They giggle. I belt Verse 2! They belly laugh and follow me to the kitchen. Then, to my amazement, one of them belts out, "Can I have some ketchup pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease?" And so goes the entire meal! And several more for the rest of the summer.

Opera Lunch mutated many times that summer. Sometimes it was the Getting Ready for Bed Opera. Sometimes it was the Wash the Dishes Opera. We even had a Get Your Hiney Out of Bed Opera.

Someone asked me the other day why 2 of my 4 kids enjoyed performing so much. I told them it was because they had such a dork for a mom. Then I explained Opera Lunch. The guy rolled his eyes and said, "That's weird." And it probably is. But it's also much better than a summer of memories of a frustrated, guilt-ridden  Yelling Mom trying desperately to succeed as Super-Anal Mom when she just isn't. She's Opera Lunch Mom. And, even though her kids are teens, she still speaks Swahili. And she didn't even have to go to class to learn it.

Take that, Super-Anal Mom!