Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Westbound and Down, Rollin' Up and Truckin'

"we gonna do what they say can't be done. We've got a long way to go, and a short time to get there, oh westbound just watch ol' Bandit run!"

Yeeeee hawwwww!

Tomorrow morning at the wee hour of 4 a.m. I'll be zooming out of here to the airport for another year of AWP, this year, all the way in Seattle. I am so happy that I am not in the state of mental breakdown that I was in at this time last year. I have not been dreaming about flies hatching out from underneath my fingernails, and no one in my immediate family has suffered from a kidney stone this week. Given those two things, I'm in paradise.

I am reading my work TWICE at this year's conference - first as part of the River Teeth 15th Anniversary Reading (I'll be excerpting "Country Boys, City Boys") and then later that night as part of the WordFarm/Rock&Sling/and someone else poetry extravaganza (planning to read "Making the Bed" from PBB). It's going to be a busy conference, with two dinners/parties for River Teeth and the MFA Program, plus readings and signings and meetings galore. PLUS I am staying with two of my favorite writer friends! We will be... Sleepless... in Seattle.

This is the first time in recent history that my children have been sad that I am leaving. I feel a little bad because... well... I'm not sad that I am leaving. ha ha ha. I AM sad that they were sad at bedtime - Lydia even cried. I held her for a long time until she got sleepy. Henry told me, "Don't go to work, Mom," which darn near broke my heart. Why don't they do this when Brandon leaves? He's gone ALL THE TIME. (Well, not all the time. But, he certainly travels more frequently than I do.) Of course I'll miss them. Of course. But MAYBE, it's time for mama to get out of Ashland and see her writerly friends.

At any rate, three little love letters are waiting on the counter for them when they wake up. And there will be Skype sessions ahead for the three little people, too. I will get my fill of writer egos, black clothes, books, and bars, and happily return ready for hugs and kisses from the sweet ones.

My husband, on the other hand, I will miss terribly, miss him already because he's working tonight in Cleveland. Sigh. Excuse me for one second, but how good is it to be loved and to love? It's a good kind of missing happening. I already can't wait to see him on Sunday.

And now I am off to sleep as much as I can before 4 a.m. Egads.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Love Means Buying All the Things

It's the morning of V-Day, Henry woke up at his usual 6 a.m., and as I rolled out of bed, I began my usual scroll through last night's Facebook posts. Lots of posts about people's kids being their Valentines. And then I remembered. Nope. I did nothing for this holiday.

I've decided that maybe I'm the worst at Valentine's Day. I dread Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day, and to a lesser extent Halloween and Easter, not because of what they stand for but because I know that somehow these holidays are going to make me feel inadequate as a parent.

I love to buy gifts for my kids. For Christmas. And birthdays. But some of the holidays in between have been injected with steroids and made to look just as big. Candy everywhere. Stuffed animals with little hearts. Pink and red and sweet sweet sweet.

Do you buy your kids Valentine's Day gifts? I've run out of time this year; I had it in my mind for two weeks that maybe I could find something special for my little ones, even though we just finished a marathon of gift giving and receiving just six weeks ago, and yet I am still compelled inside to buy buy buy buy buy, buy more things to accumulate on top of the other things just so that they get some things on yet another holiday!  Things!

Who doesn't like to receive a present? Really? I LOVE presents. Of course my kids love presents, for that thirty seconds it takes them to open each gift and then the five minutes it takes for them to play with it until it becomes like all of the other collected remnants of previous presents.

Gifts is one of the many ways we can show our children love. In my case, though, I suspect the greatest gift I can give my children is more of my time and attention. Maybe instead of feeling so much pressure to go out without them to buy them stuff to show them I love them, maybe instead, I ought to shut off my phone and my laptop and turn my attention on them, play with them, snuggle with them, read with them, give them my undivided attention, which is what I yearned for as a child, too.

The day, every day, lots of days, can be made special in any number of ways. We tend to overemphasize the gift component of showing our love to people in our culture, mostly because we're a capitalist society driven by the success or failure of the economy, and all day long the television and the Internets tell us we better buy this car or that candy or this jewelry because that's how she'll know, that's how she'll remember you love her.

And that's true. But it's only partly true. The things they might need most from you today, and all of the days, are your presence, your encouragement, your help, your body snuggling against theirs on the couch. Expressions of love are meant to make us know that we are not alone. We are loved.

I'll admit I'm also trying to make myself feel better about not having time to buy all the things for my kids for Valentine's Day. So in basic self-justification mode, I'm ripping the giving of gifts for every occasion, and that's not fair. It's also focused on what I need to receive love, which is not usually gifts but more often time and attention, a body snuggling against mine. What are my kids' needs? Love in all the ways. But it doesn't need to come all at once, either.

I don't need to buy in to the marketing schemes to spend more money that I don't have in order to express love. But I do need to do something. I will love on my kids. I will love on my spouse. And it will be okay that they don't have a huge spread of stuffed animals and candy and chocolate to accompany it.