Reading List 2017: A surprise choice (Forward – Abby Wambach)

img_20170103_100353 I looked at my blank kitchen wall yesterday morning and realized that we were calendar-less which, of course, meant that it was time for a post-holidays trip to the book store. I rarely buy books at a retail book store – I’m far too cheap to pay full retail prices – but my shopping-averse wife left me to browse on my own for as long as I liked, so when I finally made my way to the checkout line, I had a half-dozen calendars and Abby Wambach’s recently released memoir in my hands.

This was a odd book selection for me; when it comes to memoirs, I drift towards journals and letters and I am the least athletic person that I know of. Yes, I have married into the world of soccer, but all who know me will attest that I quickly get soccer-weary. In fact, this is the first memoir of an athlete that I have ever picked up, much less read. I was familiar with Abby Wambach – she’s a contemporary women’s soccer icon, a lesbian, recently retired, and when she kissed her wife after winning the most recent Women’s World Cup (haha! I know what the World Cup is now AND I know that they have one for men and one for women!) they garnered significant media coverage and attention. Wambach’s memoir offers up a raw self-examination from an injured, complicated, seeking soul.

“In that moment, buried beneath a pile of euphoric teammates, it’s so easy to trust that my voice will never fail me.” 

In under five hours, I plowed through this book; the prose is conversational and forthright. Kudos to Wambach if she wrote this herself rather than depending upon a ghost writer as it rolls along at a comfortable clip. Manda asked me what I thought about the book as I was reading, all I could say was: it is raw. I lifted my head up several times during the reading to get my wife’s thoughts and perspective about her experience as a soccer player and her love for the game. Touted as a naturally-gifted and talented soccer player, Wambach unabashedly owns her athletic prowess while confessing that her love of soccer is not necessarily a pure love of the game. Now, I’ve spent the last six years surrounded by women who LOVE the game of soccer – genuinely and deeply LOVE the game. I found myself taken aback and resistant to the idea that such a talented and accomplished professional soccer player respected the game, appreciated the game, was intensely competitive in the game, but her love for the game was complicated and layered with ego and ambition, a desperate need for validation and recognition and a wounded soul that seemed to fall easily into dependence on external sources of comfort and identity.

I appreciated Wambach’s candor as she walked her reader through her own recognition and ownership of her lesbian identity. At a time when it seems that we need to be even fiercer in safeguarding our civil rights, I celebrate every voice that is willing to share their story as part of the LGBTQ+ community. I applaud Wambach for writing (and her wife {ex-wife?} for allowing Wambach to share in her memoir) the crude and tender truths of marriage and relationships, humbly demonstrating that heterosexual relationships don’t hold the monopoly on the work and heartache that goes into trying to blend two lives to create a family that can successfully endure the challenges of everyday life.

Wambach may not have intended the book to be a confessional, but it reads as if she is seeking atonement for pain inflicted by past choices, all the while, her telling of her tales seems brashly raw. There were times that I wondered if she shared her manuscript with her people before it was published? And I wondered  – if I were her people, would I be comfortable with the telling of these tales in this way?  I want her words to be genuine. I want her revelations and recognition to be sincere. I want her to  be the dueling-personalities that she presents in this book because her flaws and shortcomings serve only to enhance her charismatic intensity.

When I finally closed the book, I turned to Manda and told her, “I don’t know how I feel about Abby Wambach.” I’m a fairly decisive and opinionated reader. When I finish with a book, I have a firm grasp on why I like or dislike a book, what I appreciated about the author and their writing craft, and whether or not I’d recommend it as a read to someone else. Here’s what I know – yes, I’d recommend this as a read to people because it is a book that, I think, is meant to leave us recognizing that flawed humanity is reality and the value that others place on our talents may not be as important as we are led to believe. I know that I plan to keep this book in my classroom library because I want it to be available to my students who will connect with Wambach’s truth as an athlete, a lesbian, a seeking soul, an intense competitor and a healing individual. I know that I have a deeper appreciation for my wife’s love of the game and a keener understanding of the loss she has felt in having to abandon it.

Forward – Wambach’s chosen title – is likely the most resonant take-away for me. We all need to move forward, but moving forward does not mean that you leave behind past experiences. It is through these lessons from a life lived that we can figure out where the hell we’re going. Maybe this book choice wasn’t so odd – at a time when I have been feeling so apprehensive about what comes next, the title of this book called to me. I have to move forward – into 2017, into a new career, into a new era of my life as mama and wife, into whomever I am to become, but I won’t do so without carrying with me all that has come before.

Wounded & Worn & Words

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I’ve been depressed. I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of fear, anger and resentment. My wounds have been so deep that my wife told me this morning that she had been looking for words or quotes to steady me (sidenote: it is GOOD to be loved and deeply known by someone who understands that words soothe my soul).

I found words this morning that settled me a bit; words to hold to; words to guide my thoughts and energy during this time when I want nothing more than to hunker down in a cave with my own people and wait out the next four years, survivalist-style.

Megan, from whynottedit.com, sent out her regular e-newsletter that I browsed through this morning as I was finishing off my coffee and watching our students trickle in. She addressed fast drafting and my grumpy self-critic appeared on my shoulder to mutter about all of the non-writing that I have been doing despite my promise to write something – anything – during NaNoWriMo. It was the end of her newsletter that had tears falling off my chin as our 8th graders settled into their seats and were picking up their copies of Ayn Rand’s Anthem for today’s discussion (approppos, don’t you think?).

My dream is to help underrepresented voices in publishing, the ones who are the most scared about the direction this country is headed at this moment in time, tell their stories. Because we need them now more than ever. We need to hear from people of color, women, members of the LGBTQ community, and immigrants. We need to be reminded of what’s at stake, so we keep fighting for the America we believe in. (Megan at whynottedit.com)

I quickly emailed Megan – thanking her for her willingness to put herself and her thoughts out there despite the contentious atmosphere, but even more importantly, I thanked her for sparking an idea deep in my soul; maybe there is a global urgency and civic duty for me to finish writing and getting my novel published. Maybe – just maybe – I need to write to add another strong voice to the critical mass of lgbtq+ authors, stories and perspectives. I’ve put my writing on the back burner for years because, well, life. And complacency. And laziness. And fear. But now – now, my fear is real and deeper and much, much more terrifying that being vulnerable to readers and critics or not being well-received, or my work landing on an dusty shelf, in the long-forgotten rows of books that are never read. Now, my fear is for the well-being and safety of my family and of myself. My fear is now that the different communities that I call my own are going to be threatened and torn apart and all of the civil rights and social justice strides that have been made will be lost and eroded, if not demolished outright.

I won’t be marching or rallying or gathering right now. I thought that I could be ready and participate this past weekend but, no, I’m not there. I am not ready to play nice or build bridges or be understanding or compassionate or proactive or whatever else that may be perceived to be constructive advocacy right now. I need to be home. I need to be alone with my loves. I need to not listen to or see the news. I need to insulate and protect myself and mine. I need to sleep. I need to write – in my voice – with my dreams – sharing my stories and those that come from inside of me because that is all that I have the energy and strength for right now.

But I am seeking ways to settle. I am seeking life-saving buoys to surround myself with so that when I am ready, I can grab on to and take action beyond my home. A friend introduced me to Danielle LaPorte a few weeks ago. I browsed through a few of her posts and in this one, Ms. LaPorte reframes the idea of emptiness. She calls emptiness “space”Space. Space allows for growth, creation, movement – it allows for possibility. Since Tuesday, November 8th, I’ve been empty. I have felt as if my guts were carved out and all that remained was echoing emptiness. But, for the past few hours, I have been sitting in the possibility of space rather than emptiness; I have considered that possibility exists instead of hopelessness.

I don’t know what happens next. I know that I pity the person who tells me to “get over it” or suggests that my mourning and fear are sour grapes over a political race. Do what you need to in order to keep yourself and your loves well.

We are now accountable

14937257_10154672280576672_398843154361674079_n… for the choice the US electorate has made as to who will assume the presidency after President Obama departs from office.

I’m truly scared. As a woman. As a member of the lgbtq community. As a mother. As a parent raising a son. As an educator. As a student. As an advocate. As an ethnic minority. As an American. As a human. I am scared of what is to come in the next 4 years.

We tucked our boy into bed tonight – his anxiety high as the results came in and it appeared that the next president would be an individual who has brazenly demonstrated his disregard for anyone he has chosen to dislike or marginalize; someone who is just a big, mean bully. After a bit, he called me back to his bedside, asked if we could cuddle for a bit and, as I settled down next to him he asked a question that was whirlpooling in my own head – “Mama, if trump is president, does this mean we won’t be married anymore?” He says “we” because in his mind – marriage meant officially recognizing and protecting our family.

I am horrified. And shocked. And now, we – the ones who voted and who are active citizens of this country – are now accountable for what happens. The choice has been made.

 

She’s imperfect but she tries
She is good but she lies
She is hard on herself
She is broken and won’t ask for help
She is messy but she’s kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up
And baked in a beautiful pie
She is gone but she used to be mine

(Sara Bareilles)

It’s a single-mama household for the next couple of days. All the balls are up in the air. we just are taking the days as they come and seek out the even rhythm of a completed tasks and small victories in the busy-ness of our week. Every year, I tell myself and my people, “it’ll be a quiet year – things will slow down and we’ll be able to just enjoy life.” I know … I shouldn’t be so naive. I swear, next year I will not claim it as a quiet year, I’ll go into it with my eyes open, knowing that the easy quiet life that I continue to think I want is not likely to happen.

I signed up for too much this semester. I took on a lot that, in all honesty, I don’t think I could have refused or declined, but I should have been more prepared for the wear and tear. My brain is tired. I’m stretched thin and I’m not giving my family the time or effort that I have had the luxury to invest these past couple of year. The sum of these pieces is me feeling insufficient and floundering through my days and our weeks. One morning last week as I walked out the door, knowing that I wasn’t going to get to campus as early as I had hoped, I snapped at our boy to put his breakfast bowl away as “I am not your maid!” I hate that those words came out of my mouth. As I drove over the Pali, I took some mindful breathing time (and a few big swigs of my coffee) and got to the point where I knew that what I said was rude and unnecessary, but the place where it came from needed to be recognized.

Accepting help is hard for me. Asking for help is near impossible. Especially from the people closest to me. Stupid, isn’t it? It should be easy-peasy for me to say to my wife, “babe – I’m bitchy. Can you help with dinner? Make the rice or figure out what the hell we’re going to eat.” But, NOOOOO. Not me, I just shoo her out of the kitchen and try to figure it all myself. and in the meantime, my tummy knots up and the stuff that I have to do, but don’t want to do swirls in the back of my mind. By the time dinner is actually on the table, resentment is seeping out of my pores. But I see those ridiculous walls and illusions of help-aversions eroding. My wife is persistent and as stubborn as I am. She has no problem telling me to go away. When she notices that I’m getting worked up, she steps in and moves me out of my, “I got it handled, thank you very much” mood. I’m getting better at asking. I celebrate those manini steps – getting out of the way when she cleans up the kitchen after dinner, asking her to make rice and get stuff for me from the fridge.

I don’t give myself much room or opportunity for continued evolution. I expect that I am the way I am and my shortcomings will forever be my flaws. Horseshit! Being 41 doesn’t freeze me in time. Manini steps are still steps. That’s worth a chee-hooo and my do-you wiggle dance (embarrassing as it is for my loves). I’m not perfect, but I’m trying. Maybe one day I’ll get there … but if not, I’m sure as hell going to get close.

11 years & a lifetime ago

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All week I’ve been starting sentences with, “11 years ago …” followed by some random memory about how physically uncomfortable or in-every-way unprepared I was to have a baby. I can’t even write “… to become a mama” because I that just wasn’t a concept that I could wrap my mind around. Truth be told, it wasn’t a concept that I could verbalize because I was scared shitless.

Today, my first sentence is, “THANK YOU, angels, for trusting me to get my shit together and figure out that loving this little dude is the greatest adventure and privilege of my life!” Oh, there will be more “11 years ago” sentences … when I get to retell the stories of the moments that managed to stick in my mind – deciding that I wanted pancakes in the middle of labor because I was too scared to actually deliver a human out of my body, of calling – and YELLING – at my family because I was about to give birth and they were walking around Ala Moana, of hearing my baby’s cry out in the hospital hallway and pushing my way out of bed because I KNEW it was my boy, of coming home and having to go get diapers since denial trumped preparedness before my boy’s arrival, of watching him sleep for hours that first week because I was in awe of the boy that eased his way into my world and definitively conquered my heart.

So, sweet boy of ours … happy birthday! You have the hearts of both of your mamas snuggeld in your hands. Not a day goes by that we don’t comment on how beautiful your spirit is and how lucky we are to be your guardians and cheerleaders in this life. Our wishes for you are so big that it is hard to put it all in words because I just don’t think that words are big or great enough to do justice to what we want for you in the life. Just know this  -our love for you is so miraculous that you have changed the lives of two people, you have made us better people with bigger hearts than we knew we possessed. Your presence in this world makes other people’s lives beautiful because your love and spirit brightens their days and worlds. You teach others to be kind and giving, to share aloha and enjoy simple moments in life.

11 years ago I had no idea how lucky I was going to be when you chose me to be your mama. Thank you, my love, for trusting me to be the mama you need in this life.  

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Yours Is Not Ours

A couple of days ago, the self-help, passionate living guru, Elizabeth Gilbert, posted a deeply personal piece on facebook. In it, she shared with the masses how she has realized that she’s in love with her best friend, who happens to be a woman, had recently been diagnosed with pancreatic and liver cancer (incurable), and that it was not coincidental that she announced her divorce from her husband this past summer as, upon closer inspection, it will be noticeable that the timing of divorce and her lover’s diagnosis were linked.

In her post, Ms. Gilbert asks her readers, and the facebook public to “receive [this news] with grace.” Oh, Ms. Gilbert, I receive your news with so much more than grace … I receive you news with indignation that you feel you must share this intensely private news with the world because you believe that you need to explain your life as you live within the public eye because you’re an author who’s “made it” big. I receive your news with exasperation that, in 2016, it is remarkable and newsworthy that a woman has fallen in love with another woman. I receive your news with hope that you and your love will savor the time and life blessings that you have without being affected or infected by the public glare of the lives that you lead. I receive your news with sadness for everyone involved in this shift in your life as heartache, heartbreak and change spare no one and, no matter how valiantly truthful we are, the emotional tremors of human relationships carry pain as well as love. I receive your news with excitement as the realization and recognition of the depth of feeling you have for your person is a beautiful, heart-fluttering journey. I receive your news with bafflement that it is now seemingly necessary, for public relations and marketing purposes, to share the most intimate details of one’s life with a mass of perfect strangers on social media. I receive your news with fury as, within the hour of your facebook posting, a deluge of news stories, opinion pieces, commentary, blog posts and comments sprung up across the internet critically commenting on your life and love.

This morning, after re-reading your post several times, holding my wife’s hand through a challenging week and remembering the start of the many love stories in my life, I receive your news with wishes and thoughts of divine synergy, as I light a candle for you and yours. For whatever reason, your life is being lived in the public eye, and you have have moved through your love and life stories with an uncommon grace and openness. You have, obviously, touched the thoughts and hearts of hundreds of thousands of people and many of those people feel connected to you enough as to feel that they we have the right to comment on the who’s and why’s and how’s of your life. This life, as determined by our momentary choices as by our divine purpose, is beautifully orchestrated and sublimely chaotic; may the life you continue to lead bring you rainbows and blessings and enough love to outweigh the pain.

 

Pass the Years

I hope that you’re one of the lucky ones who has that person in their world. You know the one – the one who’s seen you at your worst, who knows all your secrets – especially those from the deep, dark days of adolescent angst. Yep, I’m talking about the one who can tell you that you to go back in the house and change because the dress makes you look like a skank and then laugh with you 20 years later when you both realize that most of your fashion choices were just plain wrong. That’s the person who will call you chicken shit because she knows you hate to be challenged but who will also tell people to leave you alone because she’s the one who gets that you need your space to sulk before putting on your big-girl panties. I have that person. She’s been around for far too many years to count so, instead, we drink wine and make dinners, look at each other every once in a while and know, “yeah – I got your back.”

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Friendships are difficult for me. I suppose that sounds ridiculous considering how many people I am blessed to call, “friend.” It’s more accurate to say that deep friendships are difficult for me. For years I thought it was because I don’t like to be vulnerable, but I don’t buy that anymore. I’m vulnerable to anyone of the people I call “friend.” I think it has more to do with not knowing how to share all the pieces of me with a person in a way that they’ll “get” all the twists and turns, mazes and obstacle courses that make up the complicated chaos of who I am. But I have that person the one who I don’t need to explain myself to and she just gets it … and, could likely explain it to others in a way that I can’t. IMG_20150718_115636784

Today is that person’s birthday. We love to celebrate birthdays around here, and this one is uber special … for Shortstack, Aunty Reech has been the constant source of rationale and sanity in his life, the one who spoils him in the ways that only another beach baby knows how; she’s the one who he can depend on to sit in the back seat of the car with him, talk about whatever they want to talk about and then ignore mama when she asks’s what’s being talked about. In fact, she often tells mama to mind her own business. For my wife, Reech is the person who can explain all the ridiculousness and mysteries of me and my life; she’s the one who my wife can laugh with because they are the ones who most intimately know my craziness in all its glory. For me, Reech is … sister, friend, confidante, shoulder, therapist, co-chef, partner-in-crime, cheerleader, inspiration, pain-in-the-ass, most-infuriating-adversary, moral compass … the word to wrap it all up doesn’t exist to my knowledge. I keep searching for it. Long ago I stopped referring to her as my “best friend” because that just isn’t enough; it doesn’t hold all that she is.

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Another year has passed, my sister … and another birthday is here. The idea of a simple birthday wish does not convey that amount of love that we have for you (but that rocking birthday melody this morning was a pretty good start, don’t you think?). We want this day and this year to be bigger and greater and fuller (yes, I can and will make up my own grammatical rules!) than all the combined wishes of all the people who love and appreciate you could ever create.

Happy birthday, Reech – pass another year in the ways that pleases you most! And, while you’re at it, pass that bottle of wine as well … we have some celebrating to do!