Monday, August 24, 2009

Who Taught You How To Drive?

Bunny is bossy.

Bunny is opinionated.

Bunny is a back seat driver.

When she was little, I would narrate everything I did, especially while driving. "Mommy is stopping at the stop sign. We always stop at the stop sign."

As she got older and started to go on walks to the park and around the neighborhood, we explained the rules of the road. Stop signs mean stop. Red lights mean stop. When the light turns green the cars can go. And so on.

Bunny thought it was pretty cool. She loved to point out the stop signs in the neighborhood. She loved watching the lights turn colors, from green to yellow to red and back to green.

But then, as children are often wont to do, she flipped it all around on me. Now when we get in the car, I have to follow the rules of the road closely or she's on me like a hawk.

"Momma, you have to stop at the stop sign."

"Momma, the light is red, stop now."

"Momma, the light is green, why aren't you driving."

"Momma, you are going to fast."

"Momma, you are going to slow."

"Momma, are you sure this is the way to Ama's house. This doesn't look like the way. Are we lost?"

"Momma, are you sure you don't want me to drive? I think I can drive better than you."

Okay maybe she didn't say the last one, but it sure feels like it. And only 12 more years before I can nag her about the way she drives.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Swimming and Running

My hand slashes through the water. My feet kick behind me, propelling me forward. My head turns, rising up to take a breath.

I continue on until my hand touches the wall. I could grab the wall and hold on. Or I could turn, pushing off and moving forward. I choose to turn.

The wall approaches again. And again I choose to turn. Touching the safety of the wall, letting go, turning back to the water.

My body begins to tire. My resolve begins to falter. My mind starts to scream. "This is not normal. This is not safe. There is nothing holding you up. You are not a creature of the sea."

The water is not real. It is not solid. It cannot hold me. Panic sets in.

I try to fight my mind. I try to continue on. I thrash and kick out of control. My chest tightens. My pulse quickens. My heart thumps so loudly I can hear it in my ears. I lift my head trying to take a breath but there is not enough air. My hands frantically search for the wall but it lies just out of reach.

My foot hits the ground. The ground is solid. It is real. One foot, then the other, hitting the ground and pushing off, propelling me forward.

I look up and see the sky. I look down and see the ground. It is solid. It is real. One foot, then the other, moving forward.

Around me are signs of life. Grass, plants, dirt, the smell of the earth. Buildings, cars, concrete, the smells of civilization. A squirrel darts in front of me, looking frightened before it escapes to the safety of a tree. A dog spies the squirrel and strains on its leash, struggling to pull free to chase the squirrel. The hand at the end of the leash pulls back, straining to control, to regain their rhythm. We pass and smile, connecting with each other, connecting with the earth.

This is real. This is solid. One foot, then the other, moving forward.

My mind does not struggle here. The sound of my footfalls, the feeling of connecting with the earth brings a clarity. I breathe in the fresh air. Each breath bringing the peace I have longed for.

This is real. This is solid. One foot, then the other, moving forward.

I have been swimming lately. Some days all I do is swim, struggling to reach the shore. Swimming in my kitchen, swimming at the store, swimming in my sleep. Too much swimming. An endless pool, river, lake, ocean.

I choose not to swim anymore. I choose to run.

This is real. This is solid. One foot, then the other, moving forward.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


It started off simply enough, busy days led to tired nights. I should have blogged. I could have blogged. But I did not. Instead I did other things. I curled up with a book or watched reruns on TV. I did laundry or cleaned. Or I did nothing, the lying on your bed, stretching out, finding comfort kind of nothing.

As I lay there a sort of rebellious feeling welled in my chest. "This is where you belong" it whispered. "Stay here. Its cool here. So comfortable." I listened to the whispers. I tended to agree with them. So I stayed. I was comfortable. Then stealthily, almost conspiritorially, the cats would jump on the bed with me. They yawned and stretched, just as I had done, and laid down next to me. "Stay here. Pet me. Love me"

The signs were all telling me to stay. So I did.

And as they days flew by and the nights were spent in comfortable nothingness, it was easier not to blog. I didn't run to the computer in the morning and open up my browsers to the proper sites so I could sneak a few minutes here and there. I avoided the computer, stopping in only to check my e-mail.

The longer I stayed away from the computer, the less I thought like a writer. I didn't pick up my journal. I didn't jot down ideas on scrap pieces of paper. I didn't compose lengthy posts in my head. There was nothing in my head, in my heart that was trying to be heard. I did not have ideas fighting to get out. I was not looking for the right words. I my mind was silent, almost still. Almost.

At first I stayed away out of rebellion, out of laziness. I don't have to do this. Then I stayed away because of the silence. I can't do this. There is nothing to do, nothing to say.

The silence is still there, drowning out everything else. In a way it is peaceful. I don't have to worry. I could given in to the silence. I may still give in. I can listen to the silence to see what it has to teach me. There are always lessons to be learned.

I can just let it carry me along, to find out where it wants me to go. And it just might help me find my words, my story.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

I Am Hardcore Or Quite Possibly Insane

I have a nice little comfort zone, a Renee box, if you will. I know that if I stay within my comfort zone, things are going to be okay. Nothing bad will happen to me inside that box. Outside of the box lies the unknown. Two things could happen if I venture outside my nice, safe Renee box, failure or success. If I fail, I will retreat to the comfortable confines of the box to lick my wounds. I may think twice about trying something outside. Or maybe, just maybe I'll try again. Maybe.

But if I succeed, my comfort zone will expand. The edges of the box will be pushed out to make room for this newfound success. BlogHer taught me that I could make friends with strangers under strange circumstances. And now I feel more comfortable talking to people I don't know. Slowly but surely throughout my whole life, the Renee box has expanded. I've tried new things. I've met new people. I've had fun along the way.

Lately, the Renee box hasn't been that comfortable. I've been going through something, questioning the way I am and the way I do things. Maybe its the fact that 40 is rapidly approaching. Maybe its not. I don't know. But I've been making some changes, pushing myself a little harder to do things, to try things.

The triathalon was one of those changes, a big old rip open the walls of this box type of change. I've always wanted to do something like that, to push myself beyond my limits. To see if I could do something, complete something if I put my mind to it. But as always happens, when I lose that initial bit of enthusiasm, I get tired and cranky. I want to give up, to go back to the way things were. The old me would have quit, would have said well I tried the training and it was too hard.

But the new me, the one who wants to see what is beyond the edges of the box, didn't quit. In fact, I did the opposite. I pushed harder. I signed up for a 5K, a race where I would have to run with other people. I was excited about the race all week. I set an ambitious goal for myself to finish 3.2 miles in 30 minutes. I was ready, I was going to do this.

And then it rained. Well I should say that it poured, a thunder and lightning crashing all around, type of rain. This was before I even left the house. Bunny, snuggled on the couch under her favorite blanket, said to me "Momma you shouldn't run in the rain." I tended to agree with her.

It was dark and wet and yucky but I went. As I drove to the race, I thought for sure they'd cancel it. But they didn't. A few hundred people stood around in the rain waiting for it to start. And then it rained harder so they pushed the race back 20 minutes. I could have left, no one would have known. But I didn't. I stood in the bathroom with a bunch of strangers who apparently were completely nuts.

We waited and the sky opened up again. Thunder crashed and lightning ripped through the sky but I still didn't leave. I was already wet, I might as well stick it out. Finally the skies cleared. Well no they didn't actually clear, it just stopped thundering and lightning and the rain more of a normal rain. As I stood at the starting line, waiting for the horn, the woman next to me said this was nuts and we should just go home. I agreed with her, but I didn't go.

I stayed and I ran. I let go of the time goal, anything under 40 minutes would be a success in these conditions. I just ran. I ran because I needed to. I needed to push myself. I needed to know that I could finish something. I ran because I am getting stronger. I ran because I wanted to run.

I was not fast. In fact, before I got to the 1 mile mark, the leaders of the race passed me on their way to the finish line. But I was not slow. I just ran and I finished*. And I felt great, better than great. I felt amazing despite the fact that I was wet and cold. I finished something I set out to do. And I kicked ass.

*I finished in 35:15. 550th overall (out of 723), 20th in my age group (out of 37), and 209th (out of 316) for women.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Education is Messing With My Mind

When we adopted Bunny, I was a newbie, I was scared. I wanted a child but I was also terrified of children, they cry and you have to figure out why. You are responsible for everything when it comes to children and if you make a mistake you could mess it all up. That is scary.

Since I wasn't carrying Bunny inside of me, those maternal instincts never kicked it. The baby was always this hypothetical concept, it wasn't real. It was sort of real when we got her picture. I loved her but the picture could have been of anyone's child. The reality that I was going to be a parent, didn't truly kick in until they placed her in my arms. Oh my god, this is my baby.

For all those months we waited for her, my body was not telling my brain that there was a baby coming. There were no hormonal messages being sent saying you better get ready. I mean, objectively I knew a baby was coming but it didn't always feel like it. I knew I had to prepare in some way. But how?

Well I did what any self respecting, anal retentive law talking gal would do. I read books, lots and lots of books. I read books on parenting, on adoption, on anything remotely related to the subject. I thought the books would help. They did. I thought they would provide the answer, the magic bullet if you will. They did not.

I'm glad I read the books. I even referred to a few from time to time. But they didn't really help me become a parent. That I did on my own (with help from Bunny), through trial and error. Most of the time I was successful. Sometimes my efforts were a failure and I learned from them.

In between the time we adopted Bunny and the time we started Turtle's adoption, our state instituted an education requirement for all prospective adoptive parents. In order for the state to approve your homestudy and for your adoption to move forward, you are required to have 16 hours of educational training (10 if you are already a parent). I think this is a great idea. Heck, it should be required for all people before they become parents (but the state can't exactly regulate that).

So I went about fulfilling my educational requirements through on line training and reading books. I had no problem with it, I viewed it as something akin to the continuing education requirements I needed to maintain my law, financial and insurance licenses. In other words, I viewed it just like the geek I am.

But then as I actually started reading the books and completing the courses, I began to completely freak out about parenting. Not about parenting Turtle (well maybe a little, what with the fear of the unknown and all) but about parenting the child I am currently parenting, Bunny.

I know adopted children have grief related to their adoption even if they are too young to remember the event. I know that Bunny may have memories of the way she left her birth family and went in to orphanage care, on some deep fundamental level. I know that she will have questions about what happened and why. I know that I don't really have the answers she is looking for. I know that I will have to help her come to grips with her past in a way that is right for her.

I know all of this intellectually, in this big, over educated brain of mine. I do. But in my heart, the heart that loves my daughter more than anything, more than air itself, this knowledge scares me. It scares the shit out of me. Reading something a long the lines of "grief over the loss suffered during adoption can arise at any time and may not have a triggering event." is not what my mushy, weepy heart needed to hear.

So I obsess and over-analyze everything. Every behavior, every action takes on new meaning. "Did she do that because . . . ? " "Is she angry or upset because she is . . . ?" How do I know? How can I tell? OhMyGodWhatAmIDoingWrong?

When I get like this, I need to step back and take a deep breath. I need to let my brain be in charge. Most, if not all of her behaviors can be explained by one thing, the fact that she is THREE. She is trying to find her place in the world, figure out how far she can push, what she can get away with. Its normal.

I need to trust my instincts. I need to follow the path we decided on, discussing Bunny's adoption as openly as possible in an age appropriate manner. But most of all, I think I need to stop reading these books, they are really messing with me.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Ship of Friends

There are many different kinds of people on this ship. Some are those you just wave and smile at when you see them. There are some you stop and chat with. Still others you call when you want to have coffee or go to the movies. There are those you call when you need a friendly ear or a shoulder to cry on.

And if you are lucky, really lucky, you will find a true friend on this ship. You will find someone who is willing to ignore all of your crazy issues, the fact that you never call or that you forget birthdays. They will embrace you when you are down, laugh when you are happy, and give you a kick in the ass when you need it. They will drag you kicking and screaming to the park for a run because they know you are training for a triathalon, even when they know you'd rather sit and have a beer.

They will throw parties and invite a cute boy, a boy who would later become your husband. You will return the favor by getting married and having her stand up with you, dressed in a purple dress. Okay maybe the dress isn't the good part. Maybe the favor is returned when your cute boy asks his cute friend to be his best man, a cute friend who would later become her friend.

You will return the favor when on one drunken evening you will ask why they haven't kissed. You will demand to know why they are not together when they are so perfect for each other. You will give her a kick in the ass when she needs it.

You will fly to Mexico with your boy to watch her marry her boy. You will be filled with happiness because your best friend married your husband's best friend. You will be forever linked because you had a hand (or a kick) in each other's happiness.

You will adopt a beautiful girl right after she gives birth to a beautiful girl. You cannot believe the luck, two girls so close in age. It was meant to be. Your girls were destined to be friends.

Despite the geographical distance between you, you will remain close. You will fly with your boy and your daughter to visit her and her boy and her daughter (well daughters, you can't be equal in all things). They will let you stay in their apartment, sharing their lives with you. Your boys will play video games. Your daughters will play with dinosaurs (one who loves them, one who cooks them) and read books. You will run and shop and chat.

If you can find this, you will be so lucky.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Update Time

Its time for my triathalon training update. After not working out at all the week before, last week was a pretty good week.

I had been feeling like I wasn't making progress in my swimming at all. I was completely gassed by the end of a 50 and couldn't add any more distance. I would end up swimming about a 1/4 mile in bursts of 50 meters. That is not going to get it done. So I scheduled another session with my swim trainer and he worked on a few things with my stroke, mainly helping me to slow down and swim more easily. The next time I was in the pool, I just added an extra 25 and before long I was swimming 100 at a pop. Pretty good for me. I may be able to do this after all.

Biking and running have been going well, they are more natural to me. I even ran while on vacation in New York. My friend MamaCarter dragged me out to Riverside Park in the insane New York heat. I needed to run. I did not want to run but she was a good friend and made me do it. They weren't the greatest runs I've had but I'm glad I did it. Plus it was nice to run with someone, it gets kind of lonely doing the training by myself.

This week I have a 5K scheduled. I'm hoping to do it under 30 minutes but we will see.