Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Lessons (What I Learned From Peeing)

Dear Chuck,

Last night I checked in on a favorite blog of mine. The author is an open-soul sort, the kind who realizes some of the things she does on a daily basis are a little embarrassing and posts them on her blog anyway because that's how she is. That's not all she writes about, but those are the posts I find most entertaining.

Today her post was about being out of her house for the first time since she had her baby two weeks ago, and how she laughed so hard she peed her pants, and she was pretty sure people noticed, because she was on a stage singing for a large group of people at the time it happened. Some of her commenters suggested she was either an idiot or had no shame for this post, and they wished she would post about nicer things than peeing on herself.

Your mother, in true-to-herself fashion, could only laugh. In fact, I chuckled so loudly I startled the dog out of a solid sleep, and he glared at me as only dogs can do. What tickles me so much about these posts and this author is how honest she is with her readers. There's a life lesson in that, and I wanted to share it with you.

When you write a blog, or keep a journal, or attempt to record any part of life, what you get are snapshots; moments that can be removed from an entire experience and reflect whatever side you want. Human nature tends to seek out the shiny, happy moments; ones we can enjoy as light pleasantness without getting broader, more complicated emotions involved. It doesn't just happen in blogs, though. It happens when we answer the question, "How are you?" with "Fine," even if everything is not. It happens when we avoid making eye contact with the homeless person sitting on the sidewalk, or refuse to see a doctor regularly "because what if he finds something?". Feigning ignorance of all things unpleasant is a way many of us go through life, and I think that only serves to alienate us from each other further. When all you can see around you is shiny, happy perfection (whether it's real or not), you can start to feel like the less-perfect stuff you're going through means you don't measure up; like the something that is wrong is never, ever going to be right again and your life is a miserable failure.

Repeat after me, Charlotte; perfection is plastic; those snapshots aren't real. You are never alone in the world. When your life seems dark and scary, and you've peed your pants onstage in front of a bunch of people, the best thing to do is share your imperfections and laugh, because that's what life really looks like, and who knows? You might help someone who is going through the same thing realize they aren't alone either.

I love you, my ornery marker-wielding darling.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

An Apology, and a New Start

Dear Charlotte,

It's literally been years (just over 2, in fact) since I've written to you, and for that I'm sorry. So much about you has changed since I last posted a message, and part of me wishes I'd taken more time to write some of those moments down for you. I say "part of me" because the rest of me was busy living those moments with you, and I'll take participation over observation any day.  Tonight though, I'm feeling nostalgic and a little emotional, so I'm writing to you in the hopes that this letter will provide some measure of comfort to you when you're in the same boat.

As I write this, you're singing along to Barney and Friends on Netflix, and finishing the better part of a peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwich. You're three and a half now, and while you're not quite riding the pro circuit of potty training, you're an enthusiastic amateur. That's a pretty bad metaphor, but it's all I've got, so cut your mom a break and go with it, okay?  You're a funny kid, and you are bursting at the seams with personality. You have an opinion about every. single. thing. you could possibly have an opinion about, and your laugh is as quick to bubble to the surface as your temper.  You're also smart as a whip, and you are just overall one hell of a kid. I'm so proud of you every day.

Today you asked me to knit you a pretty pink bracelet of I-cord, and I happily complied, because both Daddy and I wear I-cord bracelets too and I would knit you a Winnebego if you asked me. Then you asked me to make one for Aunt Christi (you LOVE her, by the way) and that later led to Aunt Kate (you LOVE her too) asking for a bracelet too. So tonight I'm knitting I-cord bracelets for people, and that's what led to this letter.

It's no secret that I knit, or that I love it. I post about it on Facebook occasionally, and every now and then I post a photo of a finished work.  I carry a bag of small knitting with me everywhere, and I've been known to knit at train crossings and whild waiting in line at the bank.  The thing about me is I'm a process knitter. I enjoy the actual act of knitting more than I care about enjoying a finished piece. The repetitive motion and busy work for my hands is a soothing meditation for me. When I'm at my most emotional or most off-balance, knitting is what soothes me and gets me back to rights. And every time I pick up my needles, I think about the person who taught me to knit.

My mother actually taught me to knit first, but my Mamaw taught me to purl, and she taught my mom to do both, so I say that my Mamaw taught me. She was a big influence on me for a large part of my life, and I feel like more of me is like my mom and Mamaw than anyone else. You should know that you come from a line of strong women, who tend to face adversity and downfall head on and use the bull-headed stubbornness they're born with to their advantage.  When I knit, I think of my Mamaw, and when I'm feeling bad, I remember that I'm like her, and I find a way to get through whatever's bothering me.

What's bothering me now is that my Mamaw is sick. She has pneumonia, and she's fallen a couple times, and now she's in the hospital and it looks more and more like she won't be going back to her apartment, but to an assisted living facility instead, if we're lucky. She's 86, and as long a life as that seems, I'm still not ready for the hard stuff that's going to happen. I also realize that if she lives to be a hundred (which she won't be happy about) she will not see you graduate high school.  Of course, neither will your beloved dog Tug and that's just the circle of life, blah blah blah, but I can't help feeling like you're going to miss out on a great lady.  You're a lot like her, because you're a lot like me; I'm a lot like my mom, and she's a lot like her mom. And everytime I pick up my knitting, I think about her, and how hard things are right now. And it occurs to me that I don't think she knows how much she impacted my life, how much of an influence she had on who I am, both directly and through the daughter she raised who raised me.  I'm going to tell her, and I'm going to spend the time I have left with her doing what I can to make sure she understands how much of me is because of her, and because of my mom. 

But it also occurs to me that maybe you don't know how much of an impact you had on my life, and how much your existence and who you are has changed who I am, for the better. So I'm going to try to make sure I tell you every day, and for the you that could be reading this some day, I'm going to try to tell you too.

I love you, Charlotte Ophelia Hurst. You bring sunshine to my life.


Friday, November 13, 2009

A Poopy Day

Dear Charlotte,

Tonight, you handed Daddy your poop. I realize I should probably back up and explain the entire story, so here goes:

To start with, I was having a pretty terrible day. I woke up with a sore throat that felt like I'd been swallowing large, sharp rocks. Then I realized it was Friday, but the glee was short-lived because I realized I would be going into work both Saturday and Sunday; meaning there was really no weekend escape from work after all.

Then I got home, and I discovered that not only was your doggie being a pain in your daddy's behind, you also had some pain in your behind, in the form of a nasty, festering diaper rash/yeast infection rash. Oh yes, your poor, blistery red tushy was miserable, and so were you.

So after some serious research and some advice from your beloved Mamaw, I sent you and Daddy to the store to pick up some anti-fungal cream, aka Lotrimin or Monistat. Except when you got back, poor Daddy had no anti-fungal anything, and thanks to a well-meaning pharmacist, was thoroughly confused as to what he should do to help you. We ended up fighting, and there was crying, and then I went to Kroger and picked out some cream for your injured butt.

When I got back, Daddy and I made up (poor Daddy; he's really under a ton of stress trying to be a superhero, and I feel bad that he doesn't think he is one), and then we proceeded to let you run around the house in your tunic top and no diaper. Cuz injured tushies need to breathe. When you're older, you'll understand.

So I'm in the kitchen, feeling sorry for myself because I don't feel good, and feeling sorry because you're injured, and Daddy's feelings were hurt. And I thought to myself, "You know, this has been a really poopy day." And that's when I turned to see your Daddy holding something in his hand, a horrified look on his face. And I said, "What's that?" And he said, turning slightly green, "Your daughter handed it to me. It's poop."

That's right. It's as if you heard me thinking, and in your own, cute little way, thought, "Poop? I have poop. Here you go."

And that's when I realized, standing right there in the kitchen with the poop, that there's nothing quite as bad as being handed poop. And if that's the worst thing you're dealing with, then maybe, just maybe, everything isn't that poopy after all.

Thanks for putting that in perspective for me, Chuck. I love you.



Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Looking for Help

om tāre tuttāre ture svāhā (Praise to Tara)

Dear Chuck,

Last night Daddy looked at me and said, "You haven't blogged for Charlotte in awhile." The excuses flew off my tongue: "I've been too busy. I have too many other things to do. I've run out of inspiration, and I'm afraid of writing things like, 'Dear Charlotte, today you took a wagon ride and played with your hair.' I don't want her to read stupid things like that."

The last thought stuck with me, and it's still nagging at me. It's true; for the last few months, I have been feeling like I have nothing to offer you, no pearls of wisdom or witty insights that you would possibly want to read as an adult. As a result, my letters to you have been few and far between, full of forced one-sided conversations that don't do my thoughts justice.

Ah, my thoughts. My thoughts are like raindrops. In the quiet, they splash down in random patterns, slowly at first, and then they increase in number and speed until they pour down and my head is so full I can no longer distinguish one individual thought from another.

When I log into this blog to write you a letter, I find myself staring at the blank screen, picturing you as an adult. When I was a girl, I could only see my mother in one dimension; as a mother. I suppose that's how all children see their parents. In my view, there was no past for my mother; there was no future, no existence outside my own. She was, very simply, my mother. I understand more now. I see my mother as a complete person, and I find I am intrigued by the woman who wasn't my mother, but who was a person, struggling with the same paths and decisions that I struggle with. When I log into this blog, I imagine you as an adult, my age now, reading these letters. I wonder who you will be, what life you will be leading when you are 25. I wonder where I will be, and what I will be doing, and what will have happened to all of us. Most of all, I wonder how you will see me. Will you understand who I am as a person? Will the things I have done in my life intrigue you, or will you be ashamed of me? These questions circle in my head when I see the blank page in front of me, and the chicken in me emerges and closes the browser window, convinced I will never be able to show you the truth and wisdom you need to help you along your life's journey. I should have known the universe would show me the way.

As a joke a couple weeks ago, Dan and Warren brought me a treasure newly dug up from our latest OS&D shipment at work. It was a Buddhist magazine called Shambhala Sun. I put it in my purse, secretly delighted, and just today got around to reading it. The front of the magazine portrayed a beautiful golden statue, a woman ornately sculpted. The first thing that caught my eye when I turned the page was the editor's entry. The title at the top said simply, "Looking for Help".

The statue in the picture at the top of this blog is the female Buddha Tara. Tara is a symbol of wisdom, and Buddhists of all schools turn to her for guidance. The editor posits to us that, "...we have the wisdom, compassion, and intelligence to handle life. And not just handle it, but live joyously, lovingly, sacredly, wisely.....[Tara's] wisdom, compassion, and skill are always present in us, no matter how confused, angry....fearful, or stupid we may be at any moment."

The wisdom of Tara is right, Chuck. Right now, I am simply your mother. I hope to remain that for many years. But someday, in your eyes, I will also be more, and I want you to have the chance to experience that. It's true, I'm flawed, wonderfully so, but hopefully that makes me someone you can relate to better. And hopefully I can find a way to pass some of the wisdom I hope to acquire in this life to you. But it will never happen if I don't write.

So I write. And I hope the wisdom finds me. And maybe through me, you.

I love you forever, sweet baby.


Monday, June 29, 2009

You Come By It Naturally

Dearest Chuck,

Years from now, when you sit back and reflect on your life, I hope you know enough about your daddy and me to be able to see the parts of you that came from us.

On that note, there's something you should know about yourself. Something we've been able to see in you since the day you first tried to roll over.

You're kinda stubborn. Stubborn that's really more tenacity and an absolute refusal to fail at something. A lesson now, sweet Charlotte. When those traits are exhibited during a solo attempt at something, society calls it "an iron will". When they're exhibited during an event involving two or more people, it's called, "competitiveness".

Girlfriend, whatever it's called, you've got it in spades. Which brings me to the point of my post.

When you read this blog for the first time, I want you to mark this one, and bring it up to your father as soon as you see him next. Tonight, Charlotte, I destroyed your daddy in a game of Wii Virtua Tennis. That's right; your mother is the all-time video game tennis champion. Daddy wasn't very happy about losing. In fact, he's probably not going to be thrilled that I'm recording my victory for the next generation.

But hey, at least you come by it honestly.

I love you. Fighting spirit and all.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Way, WAY back there

Dear Charlotte,

I got behind again. It's been 3 very long months since I posted. A whole quarter of your life has gone by that I haven't written you, and I'm sorry for it. You are now a whole year old, growing more independent and charismatic by the week, the day, the hour. There is so much that has changed in your life; encompassing all of that in a single post would be impossible, even for your Mama.

That's right, you say "Mama" now. It started out as "Na-na", but then you learned to put your lips together and make the "M" sound. It was really kind of the best day ever for me, because you've been delighting everyone with your perfect pronouncement of "Dada" for a few months now, and my tiny Mommy ego was feeling crushed as only a mommy ego can. Don't get me wrong - as a normal person I delight in the fact that you and your daddy are so close and inseperable. I didn't have that with my dad, so to see how amazing your daddy is with you is the single best thing I could ask for and get.

Notice I said, "normal person."

Mommies are not normal people. We're a rather exotic breed, with amazing ability to conjure any number of fantastic scenarios that spin normal situations into dilemmas the best team of fiction writers couldn't come up with. For example, letting you nap in a t-shirt instantly injects the fear that you will somehow wrap that shirt around your head and suffocate. Same goes for the idea that you will choke on the no-longer-existing tufts of fake fur on your crib-buddy Joe the Giraffe's little knobby horns. And I will unfortunately admit that my fantastic conjuring of scary scenarios includes one where you don't need me or want me. When those thoughts happen, I'm less likely to be thrilled that you get mad at me and reach for your beloved Daddy. Or Mamaw. Or really whoever happens to be in your reach that you find interesting. I'm happy to report that Mommy's insecurities about being a good enough mommy have receded towards the "normal" category, but don't let that admission fool you; I'll never be fully rational when it comes to you. Someday, you might understand.

You don't walk yet. That's okay, because I'm content to keep you adorable and tiny and baby-like forever. The days I can see you growing up by the minute are the days I understand why Michelle Duggar has 18 children (and counting). I can't get enough of you as a baby. I know that as you grow up, you'll most likely turn into the moody, dramatic, independence-seeking, parents-are-the-new-enemy teenager that I was, with a nice dash of your Daddy's charm and stubbornness thrown in for extra oomph. I can't wait to see what kind of adult you'll make, but I don't want to lose the honest, exuberant, scrambling mass of almost-toddler that you are. Life is an adventure for you, and you lack the ability to hold anything back. When you're sad, you cry. When you're happy, your whole body radiates that emotion, and life is simple. You're content with some Cheerios, a little Elmo, and your beloved Tuggie near you. Music makes you dance. Twirling stars above your crib make you smile. Bathtime makes you fairly explode with laughter. Bliss is the window rolled down on a bright, warm Saturday and Miri Ben-Ari on the mp3 player as we cruise down the highway, a noisy toy clutched in your hands.

Can I tell you a secret? You make all of those things the same way for me. You are my bliss. You and Daddy and Tuggie and Livvie have the incredible ability to put my life into perspective, and show me what's really important. Not work; that has its place, but it's okay to let go when the day's over. Not worrying about the stupid little details that don't matter, like if the dishes are done or what your neighbors think about your car or if you picked out the right present for someone. Life, Charlotte. That's what is important. It's a symphony. One you only get to hear once. Don't be focused on getting to the next part. Enjoy where you are now.

I love you, sweet girl.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Fleeting Time

Dear Charlotte,

Today you are a year old.

Happy Birthday, my sweet baby.

Love, Mommy