Swimming at Sunset

Not every night, but often enough, after dinner, we head to the beach. Some days the waves are big, and Seth is happy. He lives for riding the big ones. Some days the waves are gentle and Riley is happy. She likes to leisurely bob and float. I never knew how varied the ocean was day to day, before living so close to it.

It is less work for me to go to the beach here, than it was to go to the public pool in Cleveland. I bring nothing but towels, and quarters for the parking meter. When we are done we hose off our feet at the outdoor shower, go home wet, sitting on our towels in the car. No worries. We change into pajamas when we get home. Easy.

What gets me every time is the evening sky. We are on the east side of FL so we don’t get the sunset directly over the ocean, but it colors the sky in glorious ways. The cloud formations are vast and just before the sun disappears, there are pinks so neon, it feels otherworldly.

Yesterday evening, Riley, Seth and I were bobbing on the gentle waves, kneeling so just our heads were out of the water. They both faced me, and behind them was a sky of such beauty, pink and white and blue and grey. I didn’t have my camera but the photo above was from another recent night, similar.

I had to shake cobwebs out of my head, is this real? The three of us turned slowly, 360 degrees, taking in the view. The clouds, the waves, the sand, palm tree silohettes, back around, and the sky, the blazing pink!

Their faces, so bright and happy, as beautiful and shiny as the masterpiece sky behind them.

The pink only lasts about ten minutes. Their childhoods whiz by.

Let me remember this time. Let me remember their faces, who they are, Seth at 10, Riley at 13.

Figure Eight

Despite my tongue in cheek piece in The Imperfect Parent a few years back, I’d never cursed in front of my children for the first ten years of parenting, and even now it is a rare occurence. With Riley’s low frustration tolerance when she was little, I thought it would be a very bad idea for her to have those juicy words in her tool belt.  That was my main motivation not to. I enjoy swearing. I do. It rolls off the tongue naturally for me, like an accent. The more relaxed I am around you, the more you’ll hear it. Guard down. Swearing up.

Riley does not swear and doesn’t feel she ever will. Seth is undecided. They still think “hell” and “damn” are potent words.

So anyway, the first day we had to be at Seth’s school I got lost. I was using my GPS, and had no physical map. The GPS hit a glitch, and kept taking me in circles, back and forth through a toll road, four times. A figure eight, with me forking over money each time. Lost and late. And hot, because the AC in our car was on its way to conking out completely.

Then, a car barreled down on me (aggressive drivers here are a topic for another day) and didn’t let me over to get off the exit I needed, and I screamed the F word. Twice.

This week whenever we get to that stretch of  highway, the one where I need to get over and get off that tricky exit, Seth has been saying, “Stay left Mom! Stay left!” And I’ve been beating myself up over it because I feel like I traumatized him when I swore that day. Like, he’s terrified I’ll miss the exit again.

Oh I’m good at beating myself up. The best.

But yesterday, on my way to get the kids, 1.5 weeks in, I know the route. I wasn’t stressing. I’ve got this. And then I came upon the exit, and the guilt washed over me again, and then…. I remembered.

When I swore, when I said the F word twice, Riley, in the back seat, sucked in her breath, and in the next instant she took Seth’s hand and said, “Let’s pray for Mom.”

She didn’t say, “What a loser Mom is for cursing.”

She didn’t say, “I’m terrified of Mom.”

She did what I taught her. When you see someone lost and hurting and out of their mind, you hold space for them. You pray.

I taught her that. And if I taught her that, I must not be a loser.

I taught her that, but I also learned it from her. She was such a good and beautiful and sweet little girl, and then sometimes she was overwhelmed and out of her mind. Pushing back never helped. Being punitive never helped. Loving her did.

I loved her.

She loved me.

I love her.

She loves me.

Back and forth we go.

Figure eight, figure eight.

You’re doing just fine…

Borderline panic has been my baseline as of late. I barely know where I am. I am lost all the time, literally. I have not had to be in rush hour traffic on a major interstate in over a dozen years. BTW…My GPS is not God. My GPS is capable of really screwing me up sometimes. Just figuring out the traffic pattern in the pick-up line at school has my adrenals on DEFCON 5. My body can no longer determine what is truly a crises and what isn’t. It’s high alert, all the time. I know from previous experience this is typical moving stress and it will all calm down soon, when I get my bearings.

Yesterday driving Seth home from his terrific first day of school there was an accident on the Interstate. It took us 75 minutes to crawl home. I thought ahead to bring Seth a snack to eat and some water, thank goodness. The AC in my car conked out (as it is prone to do on only the hottest days) so it was bumper to bumper, super hot, and he’d had a long tiring first day. He started to feel carsick. I put Harry Potter on (book on CD) and told him to hold the ice pack I’d put in with his water against his skin. He did. He made it home. He bounced back quickly. I was a rock in the car, and felt wobbly when I got home.

Last week big issues came up with Riley’s orthodontia. We have to make some decisions that will affect her forever. Since being here I’ve had to deal with several blundering medical professionals who honestly don’t know any better. They know not what they do with their offhand remarks. They don’t think before speaking and scaring/scarring a child (or her mother).

My body is on high alert. High alert!

Where I am? What am I doing? How do I protect my kids? What if we do the wrong thing? What if moving was the wrong thing? My brain careens.

I spent four hours in the car yesterday, parenting duties, picking up forms and what not, and the traffic jam. In my mid-day travels I was listening to a book on my iPod when all of a sudden it switched to music I didn’t recognize, didn’t even know I had on there. It was nuns, singing. I know I must have bought it at some point, but don’t remember ever having played it. Which one of you recommended it? It isn’t something I would generally pick. And there it came on, right in the middle of my book, without even being asked.

The voices of the nuns instantly calmed me, and rather than trying to switch it and get back to the book, (I’m not good at fumbling around with electronics while driving) I let it go. And then after a few minutes, there was another Voice coming from within me and it said,

“You are doing just fine.”

It gave me a lump in my throat.

You are doing just fine. 

You are doing just fine. 

You are doing just fine. 

The negative self-talk and worry can be relentless. But “things have a way of working out,” my grandmother winks in my mind. My spiritual mentor Barbara’s voice goes through my head, saying, “Darling, how is it you can’t see how good you are?”

How can we help each other remember this about ourselves?

The nuns sang me home and as I pulled into our driveway, in perfect timing, the chant/song ended with a beautiful, drawn out,

“Ahhhhhhhhh-men.”

Breathing, breathing,

All is well. It’s all okay.

I’m doing just fine.

Florida

We are in Florida.

Putting our house on the market, keeping it spotless for months, selling it, and moving has kicked our butts. I feel like I’ve aged ten years in the last six months. I am feeling very off center. Our stuff isn’t here yet but will arrive this week and then we unload/unpack. I’m feeling very much like we’re too tired to do this “ourselves” again. We packed it all and loaded the container and will unload/unpack when it gets here. We’ve been sleeping on air mattresses too long, and eating on the floor, picnic style.

Anyway, we’re here. We’re safe. Todd starts his new job tomorrow. I’ve got a bazillion details to contend with around the rental house and schools and new doctors and orthodontists, etc. My head spins. Clothes piled everywhere because we have no dressers here yet. The disorder is unsettling. School will start later this month. All in all, all is well, but Mommy needs a break. I feel weepy for no reason. A lot. Today I went to a movie by myself, and that helped. Just to change the freaking subject.

The ocean is close and I can go there as quick as I could get to the grocery store in Cleveland. The other night I was heading to Target, but found myself going in the opposite direction. Found myself on the shore. I sat on the sand and watched the colors change until it became night. And it was like someone was breathing life into me.

As often as I can, I’ll keep doing that.

Problems seem so much smaller while looking at the ocean.

Some things about Florida: They have newts. Luckily the girl is charmed by them and not freaked out. Also…they allow smoking in public places. We’ve been spoiled in Ohio and also our home state of NY where it is outlawed. Nothing like breathing in that filthy poison from the next table while at a public pool or enjoying dinner out. And another thing, the driving is more aggressive. This ain’t the friendly mid-west. No, you go. No, you go. I’ll wait.  None of that here. Let’s just say we’ve been honked at a few times.

We are renting a tiny house with a tiny pool, and the other night while trying out the pool, we noticed two parrots had landed on the telephone wire above us. We’d never seen any not in a cage. That was cool. Palm trees are everywhere. The days are brutally hot but the mornings and evenings are beautiful.

Did I mention the ocean? I always thought living near it was a dream out of reach, but here we are.