Friday, July 29, 2011

The Last Day in Alpine

I'm away at this Writer's Retreat, where each day in class, "Novel Writing: The Basics," our instructor asks us to turn in a Writer's Diary. Today's writing prompt for the diary was, "The Last Day." Here's what I turned in as my homework.

The Last Day in Alpine

I had to rent a bicycle with a basket to finally fall in love with Alpine. I mean, I was already in admiration of its dusty hills and small town train whistling through, but I really got to know Alpine from that bicycle.

From that bicycle, I swooned.

I had looked into renting one before I came out here. I got up one morning while still in Austin and Googled “bike rental,” finding a place called Bikeman that wouldn’t be open until Tuesday. I would come to find out that nothing in Alpine is open until Tuesday. But once I got here and the class took over and going to restaurants became the big thing to do, I ended up driving and walking and forgetting about Bikeman. That is, until I passed it on the way home from class on Thursday, the Last Day’s Eve. ‘Oh, Bikeman!’ I thought when I saw the sign. ‘That’s the bike rental place I found last week.’ And then that rare-in-Alpine but exhilarating-to-a-hopeful-tourist “Open” sign called me over. I parked the car and went in to inquire.

The place was small and the aging hippies that worked there were friendly, as they all are in Alpine. They lifted their palms out toward a light blue, women’s Cruiser bike. They said it’s only $10 a day. They said it’s all pumped up and ready to go. I said, Let me go drop my car and some of my stuff at the hotel and I’ll be back. They said we’re here til 5. It was 4:30.

Paying for the bike ahead of time, I met John. He shook my hand and inquired about the class I’m taking as he had been intrigued earlier when I mentioned I could ride the bike to class the next day. I get the sense that Alpinians are curious about the new blood that blows into their wayward town. Every local I’ve met has sniffed around for more information and smiled broadly at the answers. I feel welcomed by their curiosity. They seem genuinely grateful to have new faces and lives to intersect with. I guess it can get boring around here if it’s your day in and day out.

After asking John to take a photo of me on the bike with my phone, I start pedaling east. There’s a reason they use “it’s like riding a bike” as the go-to metaphor of never forgetting how to do something. It’s so true. I don’t ride a bike much anymore. Partly because I have my own cruiser bike, but live in a neighborhood of rolling hills, and partly because I’m 40 and a 40-year-old woman with two small children and a business to run doesn’t have time for such playful things. But on the bike in Alpine, where I’ve taken my soul to recharge, I’m not 40 at all.

I feel like a kid again.

I swerve. I pedal. I lift my butt off the seat when I have a small hill to conquer, pumping my legs and feeling the burn. The speed whips my hair back and the breeze cools my scalp. I must be smiling. If my face isn’t smiling, my heart certainly is.

I ride everywhere my legs will take me, through neighborhoods, past shops, along the golf course, past the park. Other than a few jumpy dogs who bark as I pass, I don’t encounter a soul on my 2-hour journey. Where is everybody? People must work but what do people do for work in this town? I wonder if I could live here and while I think I could at the moment, and even see a few houses that I’d love to buy, I think I might go crazy swallowed by all this land, under this blanket of solitude.

Renting that bike gave me time to explore the way I never get to explore, and to see this gorgeous town of Alpine from a fresh perspective. And for some reason it gave me a fresh perspective on myself and my reasons for coming out here that I hadn’t previously realized. It made me glad that I had done this for myself. The fact that I did something for me made me begin to like me a bit more. And that this retreat hadn’t been the social, party-type writer’s conference that I’d been to in the past was a sudden relief. I’ve spent more time alone this week than I have in years. Which made me realize that’s exactly why I came so far out into the West Texas desert. Being surrounded by this solitude is exactly what I needed to reconnect with Me.

Turns out I’m an okay person to spend time with.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Back to Me

I started this blog in 2007 because I thought it would force me to write. And it did, for a while. I wrote about sleep deprivation, first toddler steps and milestones of cuteness.

Then one day, I stopped. I stopped because I didn't think there was anything extraordinary to write about anymore. My kids are still cute, and while parenting them still thrills me, writing about parenting them doesn't always.

And life gets in the way.

But writing was the original reason for starting this blog, and it's the reason I'm here again.

I will be a mother forever. I hope to be a writer forever, too.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

We triumph

It's been over a year since last I wrote. I'm baaaaaaaack.

Since my last entry was about how I wasn't going to force my daughter to do a gymnastics class that scared her, I owe you an update on that. Let's start there.

After much hand-wringing, discussing it with several of my respected Mom friends and my husband, praying and soul-searching, I decided that force was actually the way to go. I decided that allowing her to walk away from her fear was teaching her the wrong message. I want to teach her that meeting her fear head on, that saying "Hi Fear. Nice to meet you. Let's dance, and then I'm going to kick your ass" is the only way to slay the dragon.

So she went back, and slay she did.

She took gymnastics all Summer and all year. She learned how to do cartwheels, forward rolls, straddle jumps and pikes. She earned her first trophy. She slept with it tucked under her arm for a month afterward.

I couldn't be more proud of her. But more importantly, she couldn't be more proud of herself.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Mothering Daughters

I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to instill self esteem in my daughter. As if it's some kind of magic pill I can give her. As if I'd know self esteem if it ran me down with an adult-sized pink corvette emblazoned with the Barbie logo. But a mother's got a right to try, right?

A little over a year ago we tried dance classes. She was ecstatic during the first class, then acted like we were feeding her to wolves in subsequent classes until we finally quit torturing her with tutus. After much discussion, I came to accept that she would not follow in her mother's out-turned footsteps. At least, not now. Ever since, my mind has been racing with alternatives. She seems to be good at kicking balls. How about soccer? But I think she's still too young. She seems musical. How about piano? Too young. Then gymnastics occurred to me. And upon hearing a Dad at her school rushing his daughter to gymnastics class, I inquired about the place and looked into a class.

Last week, I took her out of school for half the day so she and her brother could do a trial tumbling class. Which she seemed to love. I was encouraged. I was happy for her. I made the mistake of looking forward to the class more than she did.

And, just like last time, it was going well at first. She went into the circle of girls and followed the coach's instructions and didn't look over at me and her brother once. But for some reason, the act of falling into line to get on a trampoline was too overwhelming, and things fell apart from there. I looked over and saw her biting her fingernails first. Then, slowly I saw her face turn red and begin to pucker. Then, she was walking toward me with tears pooling in her eyes and my heart just sank.

I spent ten more minutes trying to coax her into more activity but it was all too terrifying for her. Again, we had to cut our losses and go home.

I wish I could say I handled it like a champ. Instead, I have to admit I drove home trying not to let her see me crying.

I wasn't crying because I'm the kind of Mom who fantasizes about raising a superstar. I was crying for her lack of confidence. I was crying for my lack of control over protecting her from fear.

I was crying because I feel desperate sometimes with wanting to find a way out for her. A way out of the self-loathing that comes from life's disappointments. How do I make her stronger than I am? How do I keep her from making my mistakes?

I do know enough to know that forcing things on her isn't the answer. We won't be going back to that gymnastics class.

And I know the answer lies somewhere in the letting go. But you know, that's the hardest thing in the world to do when you're a mother.

I cried because she's only four and I've already figured that out.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Could the glass really be half full?

I'm feeling freakishly positive about life these days. I know. It's weird.

Who am I?

Part of me wants to cross my arms, tap my toe, and wait for the other shoe to drop. But the other part of me wants to ride this high I'm on, and revel in the thinking that maybe there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

And no, I did not wake up and smoke pot this morning.

I'm just, dare I say it...happy.

Monday, April 19, 2010

My hero

We expected panic. Mainly because I mentioned her 4-year-old doctor checkup in the middle of last week and she started to panic about the possibility of shots. So Chris and I discussed the plan. We braced ourselves for a meltdown. We had the bribe of cookies afterward at the ready. We talked about every possible scenario for the doctor's office visit, and wondered which would make it less painful for her. Is it easier if I take her alone, or if he takes her alone? Is it easier if we all go as a family? We threw it all out there and then stared at each other for minutes that stretched into what seemed like hours. We were both terrified of making the wrong decision and then having to live with the guilt of scarring her for life. But nothing could have prepared us for what actually happened.

What happened was we got there (just she and I, which we decided was best) and she nearly skipped up the stairs in glee. She stood on the scale without any mind manipulating necessary. She stood against the wall and got measured without any bribes or threats thrown her way. Then she practically strutted to the exam room.

She sat on the exam table and answered all the doctor's questions. She opened her mouth when asked. She let the doctor look in her eyes and ears. She followed the roaming light. She even told the doctor she'd had a unicorn on her birthday cake. Then she went by herself with the nurse to get her vision and hearing checked in the next room. Without me she went. With a spring in her step she went.

And then, she did something that I was not prepared to see. I'm still stunned, in absolute awe, almost six hours later. The nurse stuck not one, not two, not three, but FOUR LARGE NEEDLES INTO HER TINY LITTLE ARMS AND SHE DIDN'T CRY A SINLGE, SOLITARY TEAR. She didn't even frown.

I said, "No tears? Didn't that hurt?"

She said, "Just a little bit." And she smiled so big it almost made me cry with pride.

I said, "Well, since you didn't even cry you probably don't need those M&M cookies then huh?"

Yeah right Mom.


Later that day, she's in the tub with her little brother wearing her band-aids like a freshly inked army tattoo. The Lil' Man tries to touch them and she swats his curious little hand away.

"Don't touch my shots," she says.

To myself I say, "that's my girl."