Dark Side of Neverland

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Never send me to Neverland. It’s filled with souls who refuse to grow up. And boy are we experiencing some growing pains. It hasn’t been our shining week. The principal to whom one of my kids was sent assures me that “it’s all a process.” By that does she mean a process though which I might lose my mind? Then my other kiddo had an altercation which required words with the teacher. Now I know for certain where I have been sent: Never-Lord-of-the-Flies-Land.

In this magical place I am trying to govern with limited success. Here, where mermaids are adored and loin clothes are sported, good spars with evil, yielding an uncertain outcome each and every time. Daily I am left to wonder if civilization and righteousness are taught or inherited?

I look at my son who admittedly makes a darling Peter Pan. Note, I did not choose to share the photo in which he depicts Peter Pan’s death scene, with foam dagger situated across throat and arrow positioned in a rather unfortunate, not to mention sensitive, area. Lord of the Flies indeed.  I wonder about innocence and promise; can they be maintained, and moreover, if they are lost can they be reclaimed?

It’s impossible not to think of my father on this day, which marks three years since his passing. I remember him at his finest– an individual of grace and integrity. He was larger than life, but at some point, as proved by fantastic black-and-white photos he, too, had been young and impressionable, testing personas from cowboy to boy scout. I see my son in those photos, and I see my father in my son. Should he be so lucky to turn his own measure of promise into a life so fulfilled .

I’d love to know if my father had any mischievous moments or perhaps a meeting with the principal? Let’s pretend it was possible, because then I’d have hope that we might eventually depart Never-Lord-of-the-Flies-Land with innocence intact and promise to nurture. Whether we decide to grow up or we wait for rescue we will emerge having conquered the process.

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Run Away with Me, Lance Armstrong

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Run away with me, Lance!

Ewww– gross. This isn’t a romantic gesture (I’m committed to a guy with bona fide moral integrity). I offer as a friend, because I am guessing you’re short on those right now. Come run with me, and escape who you’ve become. Come run with me and rediscover the athlete you once were– the one who ran, swam and cycled because you had drive, talent and above all passion.

We’ll put on some tunes, perhaps Fun. Some Nights:

Well, some nights I wish that this all would end                                                              Cause I could use some friends for a change                                                                    And some nights, I’m scared you’ll forget me again
Some nights, I always win, I always win…                                                                             What do I stand for?  What do I stand for?  What do I stand for?                                           Most nights I don’t know….

Indeed you won. You cheated death. Then you cheated life. You took that “win at all costs” attitude and you lost everything. But you certainly won’t be forgotten. So, now what do you stand for?

Let’s go for a run and find out. We’ll take in the salty breeze, welcoming the crisp air into our lungs– yours of course once ravaged by disease and yet still stronger than most. We’ll feel the pounding of hearts, yours of course once pushing tainted blood through your veins. We’ll feel the lactic acid releasing into our legs, yours of course having stood several times on a podium of lies.

We’ll run so that you can sweat away all that you once were– a liar, a cheat, a self-proclaimed jerk. But remember, you were also a hero, an idol, a self-proclaimed humanitarian. I believed in you as so many did. Are there any of us left now?

Run from your past and toward your future– the one in which you can be a better competitor, leader, survivor, father, friend, human.

You thrive on defending yourself and proving others wrong. Do it again–rise above and be better. In the words of your former sponsor:

Just Do It.

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Game of Love

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Ping. Pop. Bounce. Spin. Satisfaction.

Smash. Slam. Whiff. Shank. Frustration.

That’s right– it’s the sport of tennis I describe. If you’re looking for schmaltzy romance, you’re on the wrong page. In this game, love means nothing. Literally: Nada. Zilch. Zero. What is to love about that?

Supposedly the scoring system reflects the notion that one plays for the love of it, and nothing else. Not points, not victory. As I chip away at the (many) layers of rust, I might have a tiny understanding of that–finally.

I grew up a tennis player, and put a lot of time, sweat and tears into my game. I loved it as much as I hated it– and after my last high school match the latter feelings forced me to take a 17-year hiatus.

Much has changed since my final days on the court. My knees are creakier, my eyesight is poorer. I have grown into my large feet… and also into my sports bra. I might– just might– have developed some maturity and perspective, too. I’m appreciative for all that my parents gave to me: lessons, encouragement and a lot of court time with my dad. He and I even won a mini-tournament, a highlight (I think) of his parenting years.

In my return from retirement, my stroke actually hasn’t changed much. Timing is another story. What a fine line there is between miss and a winner! If I can keep enjoying the sport, I know that I can only improve.

As my game is coming back to me, my expectations increase. I have to check my irritations at the gate, accepting that less fit women with much less finesse will lob and “push” their way through the points. It gets me every time. I will not bend to that kind of game– never have, never will. I vow to work only on my stragety and also to silence the profanities that are eager to fly from my mouth. Remember– the maturity is still very much in development. I have to actively remind myself that it’s all about the love.

Tennis anyone?

 

 

Tattoos and Piercing

This past weekend was bliss for my family: thirty-one uninterrupted nag-free hours. That’s right, while mom’s away the dad and kids play.  Though they sent adorable and quirky photos of their antics and adventures, while claiming to miss me, I think secretly they cast not one thought in my direction. They love the rare occasions when I take myself out of the equation probably even more than I do.

Those hours, meanwhile, are precious few for me. I hopped the train to LA, a beautiful journey along the coast. However, I didn’t take in much of the scenery as I was engrossed in my latest book The Shoemaker’s Wife— a recommended read for anyone lucky enough to take a long plane trip, sit quietly on a beach or have a few spare moments in the evening. So, probably not applicable to many of you in this busy and hectic life!

I was retrieved at the station by one of my dearest friends from summer camp days (yes, a witness to the haircut). I’ll never forget the day we met– she already a veteran of this eight-week sleep-away camp and I a complete newbie to this east coast tradition.  Confident, sprightly  and engaging, she captivated me immediately and took me under her wing. Fortunately she was able to look beyond the haircut to establish a  friendship that even today slides right back into that comfort of our 8-year-old selves.

The wonderful afternoon rolled into a pleasant evening in Santa Monica with my mother, brother and some special dinner guests. Even more special was the guy at the bar, who apparently forgot to put on jeans that would actually cover his extremely unattractive and completely exposed rear. I did try to capture a photo, but alas, my phone-photo skills failed me at this critical juncture. I invite you to conjure up your own visual.

Early Sunday morning my electric blue shoes took me along the beach to the canals of Venice.  I did contemplate stopping here to revamp my image, but I neither had the money nor the time to wait until it opened:

I sauntered slogged back along the “colorful” Venice Beach as a birthday brunch awaited in downtown LA. There my brother took us to a swanky eatery, and then introduced us to his surrounding neighborhoods. I definitely don’t miss city life, but it’s always nice to be able to picture your friends and families in their habitats once you see how and where they live.

My respite from reality was not complete without a Chinese foot reflexology session. These poorly paid, highly competent people are geniuses at their craft! It’s a good thing I don’t have access to such venues as I would escape much more often, justifying that I’m helping their personal economy.

Back to the Amtrak I went, this time accompanied by my mother. A short two hours later I returned myself to my family, trained to welcome me with enormous enthusiasm. It was brief of course, but lovely while the love lasted.

How quickly we settle back into the routine tasks as chores themselves never go on vacation. As I thought about that phenomenon, I was grateful for having had one night when no one peed in the bed– or if someone did, I wasn’t there to find it.

Oh, and that tattoo? Perhaps next time.

Birthdays and Deathdays

Birthdays are everywhere. We all have one and we love to acknowledge it, be it with hugs and gifts or cupcakes and cards. It’s easy to celebrate our beginnings, but how do we honor the day a life became no longer? Yesterday marked the second anniversary of my father’s passing, but really it’s been years since was lost to us. The last few of which  proved a lengthy good-bye to the wonderful man he had been, and his death gave us the permission to celebrate his very rich existence. Yet the grief lingered, and still creeps in from time to time, some days without warning.

Leading up to this day I wondered what I would feel, and I questioned what I could do to  make it significant. When a political, cultural or religious icon meets his or her end, the day might be sanctioned as one that’s recognized locally or globally. For the rest of us, the scale of appreciation for our legacy is much, much smaller. Perhaps only a handful of us turned our thoughts to my father, each in our own way.

I enjoyed a sunrise swim (I will always remember that I ran on my dad’s deathday with a dear friend who ironically lost her dad on that day years ago), and then tended to the usual morning routine. When finished, I made a small contribution to the Alzheimer’s Association, figuring that, hey, every little bit counts:  http://www.alz.org

Finally, I did what was most important in toasting my father: I bought a big, juicy chocolate chip cookie. Enjoying the serenity of the beautiful ocean view in Torrey Pines Preserve, I ate that cookie while honoring a truly exceptional person. After all, the greatest of men may have the humblest of pleasures!

Sunrise Contemplations: Genetics

Have you ever been stopped dead in your tracks by the rising sun? A couple of days ago it happened to me. I was on autopilot, going through the (stiff) motions of a typical morning jog. Then as I turned one corner that reveals the canyons and hills beyond the neighborhood, I was jolted out of my haze by the most stunning splendor of pinkish-orange sky that I have yet to witness. And I have seen a lot of sunrises in my lifetime.

I’ve always preferred early mornings to late nights. My bunk-mates at sleep away camp loathed the fact that as soon as reveille sounded, I flew out of bed to start the day. Sometimes I even preempted the bugle. Not much has changed; I am often up before my alarm buzzes. This I surely inherited from my father, who used to walk to work so that he could enjoy the city that never sleeps when it was, in fact, sleeping. He visited his patients and caught up on administrative tasks before colleagues arrived. And he even enjoyed a quiet bagel with jam. All within the wee hours of the morning.

Morning hours inspire some of my most productive thinking as well. As such, this week I have been considering the power of genetics– particularly how a child is like a parent in certain habits. From morning activity to homework trends, the patterns are striking! And a little frightening as well.  Let’s discuss that nagging issue of homework.

My second grader was slammed with a shocking homework expectation. OK, perhaps that’s some projection. She tackled it like a champ, but I am still reeling. Perhaps it’s a difference in school curricula or maybe it’s just growing a year older, but times they are a changing! This week one assignment addressed concepts such as several significant amendments in US voting history, the discrepancy between the millions of people who could or did vote from one election year to the next, and the right to choose to vote or not. It was more than a little sophisticated. The final question asked whether she would vote this year if she were 18 years old. Her simple answer: No. It was actually more of a hummpppfff. But I told her that her answer was fine, just that she had to give an explanation as to why not. This is what she wrote in haste:  It would take to (sic) long.

There you have it. My child says it like it is, without flowering BS and with some very questionable penmanship. But she unabashedly makes her opinions known.  I tried to make sense of this– the genetics behind her resistance to homework and, moreover, conformity. Then it struck me– on a run this week– that I know the exact origins of this particular characteristic. Without naming names, I’ll just say that one parent in this household doesn’t register to vote. It’s not a particularly political statement or even a strong dislike of presidential choices. Rather, this parent abstains from voter registration in order to avoid jury duty! Right now you’re either horrified or envious…

Back to a less polarizing subject matter than homework, politics and civic duty. Who knows what combination of timing and temperature and marine layer contributes to the phenomenal scene of the other morning, but I won’t be the one who calculates it.  I will, however, chase that sunrise so that when I see it again I will have my camera/phone ready to document it for you. In the meantime, the photo above and below will have to suffice– just another dawn from beginning to end of my run. And one last contemplation:  My dad would have loved that sunrise.