Monthly Archives: May 2012

Self-Assessment

Truthbooth

Here we are again. The last day of the school year. Wait. What?

I know it’s trite. I know that it has been said a thousand times in a thousand ways but where did this year go? Next year, I will be the proud parent of a first and fourth grader. It is the parenting of the eldest that is always the most precarious. Uncharted territory. With the second, you get to try and patch the pitfalls that you made with the first. You know when to push back, when to let up, when to shut up and when to leave the house before it all blows up.

Every year, we ask our children to reflect on the school year. Usually this conversation takes place over the slurping of a spaghetti dinner or trampolining at sunset on the first night of summer without a set bedtime. Reflecting is an important word in this family. It, much like breathing, is something that we must do but sometimes forget to do on this busy journey. It is such an easy step to skip…like forgetting the gas tank cap, toothpaste top, or to close the underwear drawer before the babysitter comes over. A little step. An important step nonetheless. 

What I have realized slowly but surely (all of the epiphanies seem to come to me in this deliberate, foglifting kind of way) is that I, Matriarch, must reflect on each year too. I hear what these kids are saying. Multiplication was hard…it felt GOOD to master those times tables. It felt good to stand up for the friend on the playground when the bully gave them a wedgie. It felt good to be honest when I lied. I hear them loud and clear. I throw the most profound reflections on post-it notes, date them, wad them up and toss them into a Mason jar, also known affectionately as the Memory Jar. It it like a popcorn bag of shuffled chronology in there. Everything from first poo in the toilet to first stage-dive at pre-school graduation. They are in there in their crinkled up glory to be unfolded one day.

So back to practice-what-you-preach. Mothers of schoolers frequently keep at least one of their calendar years in this fashion. Start month? August. End month?…Last day of school. My turn to reflect on the year. We survived it. This is the least that I can do. 

What I have learned this year:

  • If you are standing in the hallway after your child has presented his/her project and another parent comes up to you and says “you guys did a really great job”, then you are DOING IT ALL WRONG. This is not your project. Not in the 3rd grade and sure as hell not in the 4th. If a project requires more of your time then your child’s, you are on track to be a horrendous enabler. Let it GO. The lettering does not have to be stenciled in a straight line. The Mayans will not descend a few months early to end the world if your child’s work is the actual work that is turned in. It is called teaching responsibility. And the best way that you can do it is to keep your perfect little penmanship off of their work. Whose assignment is this again?
  • The other parents are crazy. And they think that you are too. There will be parents that you do not like in your child’s classroom. Plain and simple. But instead of coming home and sharing with your spouse that you think Jonah’s mom is a borderline psychotic and a really shitty driver, stay the course. And zip it. Their ears hear everything. Even from behind closed doors. And truthfully, this is your opportunity to show them that we can all get along with people even if we are all different to put it mildly and nicely.That includes not going ballistic over the parent who cuts in line every day at pick-up time. That includes not eyerolling over the child who is allergic to deoderant, all nuts, latex balloons and poinsettias. Be sympathetic to the child who has to live with the crazy mom. Who knows? Maybe someone, somewhere will be sympathetic to yours for the very same reason.
  • Do not tell your child that the teacher is wrong. There is a time to teach the kids when and how to usurp authority. It is not in kindergarten or third grade. I am not sure when it is. I will let you know when I figure it out. In the meantime, if you go on a rant about your kid’s teacher, guess what happens? Yep. Monkey see, monkey do. My child went straight to school and the first thing out of that taut little mouth was something like, “My mom says that you are WRONG.” I don’t know what comes after that line. I choose not to stick around long enough to find out. Basically, I have been on the other side a few times. Did a few 24 hours as a teacher myself. They have a hard job. You can disagree in a tactful way. Choose your battles wisely and acknowledge all of the things they are doing right during the onslaught. But leave the kid out of it. You may be Maverick, Top Gun. But your child ain’t Goose…nor should they be.
  • Last but not least. You cannot drink until you blackout but you can stage a BLACKOUT every now and then. My kids love Blackout night. Sounds raucous, I know. We stumbled upon this ritual by accident. The electricity was knocked out by a spring storm a few months ago. Electronics weren’t working. The house was dark. The TVs were dormant. Heaven. We sat in the dark with flashlights and talked. Told stories. Invented chain stories. Made up wacky songs about athlete’s foot and country ham n’ biscuits. You know what happened? The lights came on and we weren’t finished having our fun. Blackout is now a regular ritual around here. And by far one of my favorites. Just don’t agree to stage it during a Stanley Cup final without consulting your spouse first.

 

And so it goes into the history book. My reflection on School Year 2011-2012. Wonder what the next one will hold. Bet it involves a takeback on part of this one. That’s ok. Isn’t that the point? Life’s but one big, fat draft, revise, reflect and edit … and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Teej

Photo: TJ reportedly in reflection mode, 2012

Wake Bard

Wicked_wake

bard/bärd/noun

A poetish- type person who gets long-winded

Wake Bard. Not to be confused with Wakeboard. On second thought, GO AHEAD and confuse them. Here’s why. It really is exhausting to think in metaphors all the time. I would blame the constant daydreaming and jumpy thoughts of late on the heat. We southerners just dipped our big toe into May. Already, a walk to the mailbox renders the coiffure a bucket-sized humidity victim. We are working with temps near the 90’s down here already. And it’s not just here. The Boston Marathoners of mid-April received a dire warning from race officials the week of the big day that essentially said “Heat Kills”. It is going to be a hot one, folks. Almost everywhere. Why did I leave Colorado again?

This kind of impending heat on the Tennessee summer horizon drives a girl who prefers snowcapped, dry mountain air to daydream. To stare out the window at those trippy diffraction waves emanating from the asphalt and daydream

 …of water.

Lots of water…lake-sized water. I am an Aquarian, after all. And if you give a girl a lake, she’ll dream of a wakeboard. And if you give a girl a wakeboard, she’ll twist it right into some metaphor for life. Just typical. 

I remember the first time my friend towed me behind her family’s boat. I was maybe 13 years old. End of 7th grade. At the age where you giggle over the word condiment at the Wendy’s for twenty minutes straight…and shoot hamburger out of your nose all because condiment sounds like a condom derivative? Teenagers.

This friend had the patience of Job as my lake chaperone. She properly buckled me into the life jacket. I hadn’t planned to buckle it. I tried to refuse. Kinda like kids don’t tie shoelaces these days. I stood there like a five-year-old getting screaming OWww to noone in particular with every yank n’ cinch on that harness/vest.

I remember being slightly frightened by the aluminum pole signage posted prominently on the lake bank. The one that announced how many people had drowned in the lake that year. I remember wishing they would reset that sign to zero each month. I don’t remember how many people had died the year I stepped off the dock onto that boat for the first time but it was awfully close to double digits for so early in the season. What is life without a bit of legitimate fear pumping through the veins though? It was pumping.

We started my inaugural wakeboard experience with a demo of how to strap yourself onto the board . Where the heck were we in life before velcro? This childhood  friend was of the go-big-or-go-home variety. And there I was…a likely victim of any and all triple dog dares between the ages of 12-16. Birds of a feather flock together. 

I am sure that the rest of this story will fall into the anti-climactic category. I did not go to the hospital. I did not lose a bikini bottom to the dredges of the lake floor. That was another year. Mostly, I remember having no use of my arms for the entire week following. I also vividly remember how tricky it was to get and stay above water behind that boat.

The boat driver slowly engages the throttle and a boiling white wake churns up a few yards in front of you. It buries the rope that is your only tether to the boat before the line goes taut too fast and tests the integrity of a couple of your shoulder sockets. Well, you only have a couple. You get the idea. 

A rider can not lean too far forward without ingesting a gallon of non-potable lake water. You can not lean too far back without more of the same. You have to hold on. Tight. The whiter the knuckles, the better. You must ignore the spray spitting daggers into your corneas and nostrils with a force of a firehose. You must be ok with NOT seeing more than one foot in front of your face until you have cleared the surface and hit the plateau above. That’s a lot to ask for a control freak like me. I like to see more than a foot in front of me. At all times. Truth be told, I like to see a whole year out whenever possible.

But once you’re up on the board, you’re up. Talk about riveting. It’s a nice way to see the world from back there slicing through some glassy water. There are some unexpected jolts and the occasional round of bumps from other boat wake. You just tighten your grip, try to make those bumps fun, maybe even grow the guts to toss a thumbs-up to the boat driver. The one that signals go faster… No faster. The only time cocky is kinda cute. 

And how about riding in a straight line? It becomes difficult to hold it on the linear road for an eternity. Eventually, you will wanna branch out. Tour some new territory. Change up the scenery. Eventually, you will want to test some turns out there because you are adventurous that way. Right? I hope so. It starts when you throw your weight a little bit left. Then a little bit right. See how a little leaning feels. And you’ll bite it a few times. Hard. And then there’s that boat wake. Scary as hell looking the first time you decide to cross it. From up close, it is the last big kahuna that Bodhi caught at the end of Point Break. But here’s the thing about that wake. If you creep up to it, it will eat you alive.

You can’t tiptoe up to the wake. It will not reciprocate the kindness. You have to take it straight on. Try to tackle the wake sideways and let us know how that goes. The wake will laugh at you. And then leave you like a bad habit, a sorry buoy rubbing your bruised hip, head and ego. Straight on. That’s how you take the wake. Point and go.

The first time I finally ditched the fear of the wake, I started having a little fun. 24 years later, I still remember this as the very first time that I realized hesitation is sometimes no good. Hesitation is the foe. Sounds familiar, huh. Seriously, metaphor. Go away!

Years later, these types of little childhood vignettes keep circling around like that boat to collect me and to shove the reminder in my face. Speaking of boat spray, who wants to go to the lake? Most of all, who wants to go catch some ….. air? 

Sunset

Toes

SB


 

Her.

For my mother on Mother’s Day 2012….

Nonnandlu

above: My mother and grandmother.

Where I’m From

by George Ella Lyon

 

I am from clothespins,
from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.
I am from the dirt under the back porch.
(Black, glistening,
it tasted like beets.)
I am from the forsythia bush
the Dutch elm
whose long-gone limbs I remember
as if they were my own.

 

I’m from fudge and eyeglasses,
from Imogene and Alafair.
I’m from the know-it-alls
and the pass-it-ons,
from Perk up! and Pipe down!
I’m from He restoreth my soul
with a cottonball lamb
and ten verses I can say myself.

 

I’m from Artemus and Billie’s Branch,
fried corn and strong coffee.
From the finger my grandfather lost
to the auger,
the eye my father shut to keep his sight.

 

Under my bed was a dress box
spilling old pictures,
a sift of lost faces
to drift beneath my dreams.
I am from those moments–
snapped before I budded —

 

leaf-fall from the family tree.

 

Where I’m From

by Shannon S. Bevins

(Derived from George Ella Lyon)

I am from glass bottles, 

from grosgrain and mud-stained smocking.
I ate the dirt under the back porch.

I am from the honeysuckle bush

and the weeping willow

whose tireless tresses guarded my shade
to drink in the creek.

I’m from beans and cornbread,
from Mabel and Mamie.
I’m from the bring-it-ons
and the do-unto-others,
from the ballfield and the ballet shoe.
I’m from He restoreth my soul
with a psalm and a long walk
and ten songs I sing to myself.

I’m from Donna’s Branch,
Tabasco and percolating coffee.
From how to season springtime

and a cast iron skillet, 

and too much squinting at the sun.

Under my bed STILL is the dress box
spilling old pictures,
a sift of lost faces
to drift beneath my dreams.
I am from those moments–
snapped before I budded —

 

still clinging to the family tree.

 

Treat yourself to hearing this poem read by George Ella herself.

http://www.georgeellalyon.com/audio/where.mp3

A peek into growing up. And we still are…Thanks, Mom.

Cak

Callie in the garden.

Shan

Shannon in the igloo made by Pa Everette. No small feat with TN snowfall.

G. Is For Gumption

Gump

 

It cannot possibly be an accident that Forrest’s last name is Gump. As in gumption. Rewatch the movie if you need some convincing. Or just go watch a foot race like the Music City Marathon or put Spectate The Boston on your Bucket List like I just did after this weekend. You will need no further convincing that people who run long distances around the perimeter of a humid, dry, hilly or flat metropolis are, next to our armed forces, some of the most legitimate badasses on the planet.

When I assemble to watch people run long distances as part of scores of groupies and family members on the sidelines, I become more and more convinced….

Out of every sport known to mankind, running is the purest meritocracy in the athletic world.

You simply cannot halfass it. You get out what you put in. As my runner husband says- ‘the training does not lie.’ 

A Running Race: The place where your physics professor might very well have the NFL’s winningest football coach for lunch. And when you spectate these races like I have been over the past few years, you will start to notice things. Different rituals. Different gear. Different strides. Natural strides. Painful looking strides. Wobbly gaits. Skinny runners. Thick runners. Smooth and awkward runners with petrified torsos that barely budge. Teeny little shuffles that keep on trucking for 26.2 miles come hell, high water, charley horse or bowels with a mind of their own.

Last weekend, my husband set out to run his third half-marathon. 13.1 miles to be exact and, believe me, runners are exact. During last weekend’s race in Nashville, the humidity invited minimal clothing by 6am- a full hour before the gun signaled the start and before the sunrise even signaled morning. This was the first year that I thought both kids may be old enough to appreciate and participate in a race. I set them both up in their camping chairs to cheer on their dad at a grassy turn near the halfway point.

We brought our posters. Runners like posters. Almost as much as they like a breeze at the back or a mid-race carbloaded beer. They will pretend their name is Matt or Matilda for a day if it convinces them that you are their personal cheering committee. And you are. You cannot watch what they do and not go hoarse from yelling.

My favorite running trend is when the runners use a thick black Sharpie to temporarily tattoo their name on their arms so that you can cheer for them by name as they come by your turn. Doesn’t matter that you have never met. Yell their name and watch them go. Watching them go just does something for your psyche. I cannot quite put my finger on what that is yet. But it is a good thing…a motivating and inspiring thing to watch someone manhandle (womanhandle) pain and pin it down on the other side of a finish line.

My absolute favorite part? The runner faces. Like snowflakes, no two alike. But every single one resolute even when winded to the point of gasping or grasping a toothpaste like gel to push in a few extra electrolytes for that last stretch. Oh, those runner faces that launched a thousands ships or shits in some cases. The human body responds in ways that you cannot strongarm or hold at bay when you are running double-digit mileage on a single day. At least they have a fine excuse. Too many White Castles the night before is not. But running for two to four hours straight? You will never see a human being so willingly slinging open the door to a port-a-potty as you will on the sidelines of a distance race.

Some runner faces look like what I would imagine Achilles did when his heel was pierced. Or what Bronco star, Eddie McCaffrey, looked like when his knee was T-boned from the side with the force of a mack truck at Mile High Stadium on September 10, 2001…I only remember that insane injury and date because it was so atrocious… until the day after trumped it and changed our collective definition of injurious.

Some runners are juggling tennis balls or hacky sacks. Literally. Presumably not to entertain the sideliners but to get their mind off of the hell those relentless hills are wreaking on their knees. Some are glaring as if they have just walked in on a husband in the midst of transgression. Some are making an Oh Face to rival The Agony of Saint Theresa’s. Go on and google if you have forgotten her. I only remember that one because it was the first time a teacher used the word orgasm during class in high school. I want to have that running face one day if I must have one at all.

Last summer, a Denver pal recommended a book to me called Born To Run by Christopher McDougall. I laughed. Born To Run? I am barely born to walk without tripping. I am born to make posters for people who run. I am born to forget about my germophobia when I high five 800 sweaty palms from the sidelines. That one turned out to be one of the top five books I have read in this lifetime. It is about a hidden tribe of superathletes who run up to 100 miles, um, without stopping. In sandals. I understand if the premise sounds crazy but I would truly recommend this book to any sport aficionado. Any and all.

I cannot run a mile right now. I could offer you a million reasons why- none of which are legit. I am working on that with intermittent speedwalks followed by short jogs between one set of streetlamps at a time.

For now, maybe G is just for Groupie. Congrats to the runners out there. I follow you with a fervor reserved only for tracking my kid’s reading habits. You have my attention and my wholehearted respect. You don’t ask for luck. You don’t ask for agents or signing bonuses. You don’t even ask for nice toilets.

You just run. And run. Then run some more. And eventually you inspire a few of us to walk an extra mile or two.

Meritocracy (noun): A system in which advancement is based on individual ability or achievement.

Arrowdown

And isn’t that pretty much the way the world should work?

That’s all I have to say about that, Gumpsters. 

I like the word ‘gumption’ because it’s so homely and so forlorn and so out of style it looks as if it needs a friend and isn’t likely to reject anyone who comes along. I like it also because it describes exactly what happens to someone who connects with Quality. He gets filled with gumption. 

Robert M. Pirsig

Fanhands
Feethurting

Your Groupie, Shannon