042113zoeycowboyboots

042113momfinches

what's making me happy this week 04.21.13: cowboy boots, love revolution and label makers

photos
1) my daughter studying in her cowboy boots
2) a never ending stream of colorful finches at my mother’s birdfeeder
3) my niece discovered her mother’s new label maker

What a week. Every day contained deep sorrow at the news from both here in the U.S. and around the world, and joy for time with my dear sister from Seattle who came for a too short visit.

My sister left yesterday and the world spins madly on. Thank goodness the sun is finally out or I may not have made it out of bed today.

While some of the items below may not have actually made me happy, they did make laugh, and that’s a good step.

1. Cowboy boots and my daughter make me happy. (Definitely not in that order.)

2. My mother lives in the country and has a constant stream of birds at her many feeders. I spend a night at her house a couple of times a month and it is so relaxing to sit a her kitchen table in the morning, drinking coffee and watching the birds, and to be in her company.

3. Family I visited with this week– my sweet sisters, my hilarious niece and my dear mom.

4. The only way to deal with heckling from opposing fans – balls.ie

5. Have you seen this? The girls who burns her hair off with her curling iron “how to” video? 12 million hits in 5 days. I don’t know if I would have thought it was funny if I hadn’t also watched her appearance on Ellen. So watch both. Girl wins in the end because she is just adorable.
Watch this one first:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdVuSvZOqXM

Watch this one second:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVzbds5tOOw

6. My son and I volunteered at the Ark last night for Brother Jocephus and the Love Revolution Orchestra. Just what the doctor ordered this week. So much energy! I have never seen our little music club so full of dancing people. They play a mix of New Orleans type gospel/rock, and some interesting covers— like ELO’s Mr. Blue Sky and Queen’s Somebody to Love. The lead female singer, Samia Michelle Mounts, is amazing:
See her here singing Somebody to Love: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0eL_FGjyCuA
Another video of the band here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPZCnwdlTVc

7. ELO’s Mr. Blue Sky. Old School. So appropriate for those of us living in Michigan. Finally a sunny day!

“And today is the day we’ve been waiting for.”

8. My son and I have a “night time” photography assignment due for our photography class. So, last night after volunteering at the Ark, we drove around Ann Arbor until midnight taking night time shots. It was a lot of fun. We ended up in places I wasn’t so comfortable being at 11pm, but my son reminded me he was big and buff. Haha. Tall and lanky, yes. Big and buff, not so much. It was fun being out and about taking photos in the dark.

I think 8 is more than acceptable for this crazy week. I so hope you have found something that has at least made you smile this week.

eggsredtub

eggbook

photo 111: i am the eggman

photos
1) this is the one I matted and turned in: eggs in a tubtrugs bucket with old green onions peeled from the bottom of the vegetable drawer, winter, sunday morning light
2) outtake: egg on “radioactive: marie & pierre curie: a tale of love and fallout” by lauren redniss. redniss is a “graphic biolgrapher” and if you have not seen her books, you should. gorgeous.
3) outtake: eggs in bowl my sister-in-law made. do you think our windows need a little work…ugh.

In January I signed up for an introductory photography class at our local community college. Blogging was a motivator, but also, I was looking for something that would interest my teenage son, something that would get him off of his computer. He was interested, so we signed up together. Since he is only 15, and dyslexic, I wanted to take the class with him to make sure he wasn’t in over his head. Turns out he helps me more than I help him. (Turns out we also have to keep one empty seat between us in class so we don’t argue.)

We have an assignment every week that we edit, print and mount on matte board in class on Monday night. On Wednesday nights in addition to a technical lecture on our camera, or Lightroom, we have a critique. Our work is displayed anonymously and we have to vote on which photos we like the best—with the idea that clusters of votes will help illuminate key elements to a good photograph.

The matted photos are pinned to a bulletinboard/wall and the instructor puts a push pins above each photo that gets votes, one push pin per vote. Then we go in order, from the most push pins to the least talking about our process and getting critiqued.

I have had many weeks with no pins (votes), but two weeks ago my son and I tied for most votes. He gets votes almost every week and frequently gets the most votes. Once I told him it is even more exciting for me, as a mom, when he gets votes, than if I do. His response was, “No! You don’t get to claim credit for my work! No!”

For our egg assignment, we had to take a photo of an egg with the goal of getting a well-exposed, sharp image. I liked my image and technically it was good. But it received no votes from my classmates. My son put his egg on our pool table and had it in the foreground sharply focused and all of the colored pool balls in the background out of focus. He received many votes. One girl broke an egg in the snow and had a small LED flashlight illuminate it from underneath. There was a layer of snow between the egg and the light. The whole critique was really eye opening to me. Think creatively, or, take the egg out of the kitchen.

We only have 3 more weeks left and both my son and I are sad it’s coming to an end. As much as missing the photography class, I will miss the time with my son. He will get his driver’s license at the end of the summer, and it’s clear to me he can handle the classwork on his own. He is planning to take another photography class in the fall, without his mom. Of course, as a mom, I am proud of his growth toward independence, and I will let him know this, at the risk of him accusing me of claiming credit.

this bond girl

April 4, 2013

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040413bondsuit

Bond girl?

photos:
1. judi dench as “m”
2. bond’s casino royale swim suit
3. max and his smart girl, agent 99

I watched my first James Bond movie last week, Casino Royale with Daniel Craig. Yes, I said my first. Ever. No, I’m not Amish.

I don’t like violence and I don’t like movies in which the female characters are nothing more than eye candy. But I am a mother of a teenager whom I adore and who will soon be off and running…fast and far away from me. So when invited by this boy to watch Casino Royale and Skyfall, I was willing to give it a try.

I was pleasantly surprised by these movies, in fact I look forward to seeing more. There was violence, yes, and I was born with a dominant sensitivity gene, so I didn’t love that part. But it wasn’t quite as violent as I had imagined.

As far as females, well Judi Dench was the most powerful character in these films and she kind of rocked in her toughness. There were definitely creepy parts– please James, sex with two different “owned” women in the same day and no hint of protection? Shall I teach you about STDs and exponents? Yikes.

I have to admit I almost blew my chances at watching Skyfall due to my obnoxious questions and comments during Casino Royale. I could not help but say things like, “Oh, he kissed her, she’s going to die.” “That one is going to turn out to be a bad guy.” My son accused me of seeing the movie before. He just needs another decade of movie watching to see the patterns. And besides, how can you have a new Bond girl if the old one is still alive? No Bond girl survives for a second movie, does she? And if you have a crazy, demented, bad guy, constrained and locked in a “display” cell with all 4 walls exposed, and he’s chill…he is going to escape. Saw that movie. It was called Silence of the Lambs.

When I was anxious someone was going to get hurt I couldn’t help it, “Is he going to die?” “Does he catch him?” “Where are they going?” and the worst…”What did he say?!”

I KNEW I was being obnoxious but I couldn’t help myself. I saw the words shoot out of my mouth and float in the air in front of my face before my brain could tell my mouth, “Shut it!” Guess who I sounded like—My OWN mom. (You are NOT obnoxious mom. You are awesome, ALWAYS. But you do ask questions during movies.)

Even more obnoxious, was when my son laughed at James Bond’s swimsuit, “Look how short his swimsuit is!” and I replied without a laugh, “Yes…just look.”

I’m the worst.

Luckily my dear son forgave my movie watching indiscretions, or maybe he is so used to tuning me out they didn’t even register. He allowed me to watch Skyfall with him a couple of days later. I was much better behaved.

Clearly I’m not the target audience for Bond films, I’m more of a Get Smart gal. But I’m going to keep my mouth shut and fake it, so I that I may be able to spend 20 more movies? 30 more hours? sharing time with this boy I love.

what now son?!

March 29, 2013

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what now snotty son?!

photos:
1. my boy at 4, he looks just like my sister
2. my boy at 6
3. my boy 15, who will now not let me take and/or publish photos of h
im

When my kids were little I remember commiserating with a friend about parenting a toddler.

You may be familiar with the frustrations of toddler logic:
If is see it, it’s mine.
If it touched it, it’s mine.
It I want it, it’s mine.
If its yours, it’s mine.

Her advice was, “Just make sure that when someone walks in on you dealing with your toddler, it’s clear which one of you is the toddler.”

Oh how these words have been echoing in my head as I parent my teenage son. He frustrates me so much sometimes…I’m not sure it would be clear to someone walking in on us arguing, who is the teenager and who is the parent.

We are taking a photography class together two nights every week at the community college. We now keep at least one seat between us so we don’t get into any more arguments during class.

I am sure just my presence- that I exist- often drives my son up the wall. It’s the way I felt about my own parents at his age. I remember blaring the Elton John song “The Bitch is Back” when I was mad at my mom. I’m sure it was prompted by her telling me to clean up my bedroom. What a brat I was. (Sorry mom! You know I adore you!)

My friend Suzanne’s daughter is a junior in college and her daughter, with whom Suzanne has a great relationship, recently said to her, “I don’t know why I couldn’t stand you when I was in high school. I really don’t understand what my problem was.”

I do get it, this need for independence. I think it’s tricky for my son because I know he actually likes his parents. He has told me that he likes taking the photography class with me…though I never would have guessed that by his snarky behavior toward me during class. But I get that too.

Last night I was trying to help him format a paper for school and he was frustrated and stressed with how much more work he had to do. He has some crappy word processor on his computer and I was trying to help him figure it out.

I told him there was likely a formatting window, like there is in MS Word, where he could just put in his parameters, and he wouldn’t have to “eye” it. He told me in a mean and snotty way that I didn’t know what I was talking about, that he WASN’T using MS Word! There IS no formatting window!!! His subtext: You’re an IDIOT and I hate you.

Guess what I found a few minutes later. The formatting window.

OH! What now son?!!
(I didn’t actually SAY that, but I THOUGHT it. And he knew it. See, what I mean about not being able to tell who is the teenager? )

This negative interaction went on until I finally said, “Forget it. You’re going to treat me like this while I’m trying to help YOU? Nope. I’m going to bed.” A few minutes later I heard him meekly call down the hallway, “How do I make a citation?” My reply, “Google it.” And I went to bed.

I felt badly lying in bed not helping him when I know he needed help. I knew he was stressed and frustrated, and none of us are at our best when we are stressed and frustrated. But trying to help seemed to only fuel his frustration, and mine.

He and I both need to figure out how to better handle these situations. Sigh. Is it possible to teach your teenager who both loves and hates you how to treat people civilly even when they are completely stressed out? And when I say people, I mean me.

Luckily his ever-patient father arrived home and helped him with the rest of the paper.

My son is a really good guy. He is funny and loving. He apologizes when he should. He marches to the beat of his own drummer, which I admire. He is dyslexic and dysgraphic, so school can be challenging—but he works hard and does very well. He loves learning. He is comfortable with himself. He is comfortable with people of all ages, races, and backgrounds. He still gives his grandmother and aunts and uncles full-on, sincere hugs when he sees them—often towering over them while doing so. I do adore this man-child.

It is tricky business parenting a teenager, and I imagine it is trickier business being one. I supposed if my biggest challenge with this kid is to get him to treat me better when he is tired and frustrated and needs my help…I have it pretty easy.

But I’m not sure that is my biggest challenge with this kid.

My biggest challenge is how I react to his behavior…Ugh. More wine please.

lockdown

February 23, 2013

lockdown

Yesterday we learned via robo call that our daughter’s college had an emergency and it was on lockdown. I don’t even have to describe the images that came into my head. You know the images.

I texted her, “Please call me when you can.”

She replied, “I can’t. I’m so scared.”

With no additional information, we, and she, and her fellow students and professor, had no idea what was going on. They only knew it involved a gun.

The incident turned out to be less threatening than we were all imagining. Someone just a block off campus, not a college student, had threatened to shoot another and was locked in his apartment. The police were trying to get him to come out, which he eventually did.

While I think I did pretty well in crisis mode, I felt like wailing and gnashing afterward. How do I protect my daughter, and my son, in this crazy world? How can I care and comfort her in such a situation from so far away? I wanted her home. I wanted her here where I could protect her. I wanted to impose my own lockdown.

But even at home, I can’t protect her from these situations. When she was a freshman in high school we had another robo call about her school being in lockdown. This was not at some college in another state, but at her sweet little high school in downtown Ann Arbor, just a 10 minute walk from my office, in a relatively safe and comfortable community.

A robber who was holding up a jewelry store downtown had run from police toward the area of the school. That time we received good information throughout the crisis via more robo calls. We knew what the situation was. We knew the police were immediately inside the school with tracking dogs (the police station is about 3 blocks from the school) and we knew when the lockdown was lifted when they found no robber.

We also learned after the lockdown was lifted, first via text from our daughter, that someone in a dance class noticed a man’s feet sticking out from behind the curtain of a storage area. As the teacher tried to get the students out of the room, the robber realized he had been discovered and yelled, “I don’t want to hurt anyone, I just want to get out of here.” The students stood aside as he bolted from the classroom and the building. (He was found shortly after hiding, wrapped in insulation, under the porch of a home.)

I can’t protect her from everything. If she is going to live in the world, if she is going to do meaningful work in the world, if she is going to change the world for the better, then she will have to live, LIVE! in this sometimes-dangerous world. Keeping her under my wing safe from all that is scary and hard would just make for a miserable person who is unable to cope as an adult. So, no home lockdowns.

My comfort in these lockdown situations is that in both cases she was not alone; she was with friends and with kind strangers. Some of the strangers are now her friends. Yesterday she and her classmates were in it together. They shared information; she shared her jolly ranchers. They tried to make each other laugh. They took care of and comforted each other.

Our children are not alone and it’s best for them, and for us, to learn that they can find strength, comfort and compassion in the people around them, and in themselves. All of the love and safety we have provided them when they were young, they can find and cultivate in others as they get older.

I will always drop everything to try to comfort and to be with my children when they are facing a crisis, now and 40 years from now. But I am learning that I will be part of a bigger support team, with members who will be right by my children’s side much more quickly than I can be.

transitions

February 17, 2013

Transitions

This is the note we found on the refrigerator when we returned from dropping our daughter off at college last August. If you can’t read it, it says:

Dear family,
I love you incredibly.
I will miss your faces, voices, hugs and selves terribly.
and I think that is all there is to be said.
thank you for being wonderful.

It does pretty much tell our story. It was hard on all of us to separate. And with my 15 year old son being understandably less interested in spending time with his mom, my life where I put most of my energy into being a mom is changing. Thinking about those days when my kids were younger and would prefer my or my husbands lap over any other sitting option available makes my heart ache knowing they have passed.

I loved being a mom to my kids, and have always been acutely aware that our days were numbered. Every birthday I made a calculation of just how few birthdays we had left with them; when they would still be ours. I remember when my daughter was a day old, being awash with hormones and intense love as I watched her sleep in her car seat. I sobbed to my husband, “You know, she’s just going to grow up and leave us!” And here we are.

No, no one has died…I know, I know. But give me a chance to adjust. I will and I am. I talk to my daughter daily. My son still mostly enjoys my company. I laugh with both of my kids almost every day. They are both doing great work becoming loving, kind, smart, beautiful adults. I am so proud of them. And I am exploring new ways to fill my time. I’m taking a photography class at the local community college, and love it. I’m volunteering at the Ark, an amazing small music venue in downtown Ann Arbor, I’m exercising more, I am still enjoying my day/paid  job and here I am , starting a blog. Hooray for me!

But still…