Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Dear Melancholy

Dear Melancholy,

It's the way you creep up on us as the temperature drops and the chill in the air takes our bare skin by surprise.  It's they way the sunlight shines a little bit differently in the mornings--with more color and saturation--because of the fading moisture that filters the air.  It's the way Mother Nature takes out her earth tone palette and paints the world in colors of red, orange, yellow, and brown.  You linger in the crisp morning air, and that's how we know that fall is here.

We've gone from opening our windows to let in fresh, cool air, to shutting them again and turning on the heater.  We've begun changing our warm weather clothing to the layers needed for this time of year.  We've noticed the earlier arrival of sunset and the later start to sunrise, and we know what's coming in the days ahead.  Many people adore the season of fall, while others brave through unexplained mood changes.  I am very ambivalent about it, and you can call it "seeing the beauty in melancholy."  

While I do love the cooler temps, I don't like what they signal in the months ahead.  While I do love the beautiful scenery of changing colors, I despise the mold spores on all of nature that wreak havoc on my poor nose.  While I do look forward to fall recipes and all-things-pumkins, I also begin to fret about Halloween and kiddos' costumes.  But I do sport my favorite fall pair of shoes with pride.  Close-toed, burnt-orange, sockless Mary-Janes are the way to go.

Fall is also a very busy time of year.  With Back-to-School events, fall picnics, and pumpkin fests, Life is full.  I just barely survived a super busy weekend that made me feel very old.  My body does nott function the way it used to, and somehow I point my finger to that chill in the air.  What a superb day it is to curl up in bed to read a book or take a nap!  Yeah, keep dreaming, cuz that ain't happening.  My sluggishness is actually prompting my body to get movin'.  It's been a while since I've plugged in that elliptical machine, and I actually have an urge to use it.  We shall see...

On a more upbeat note, fall is the time when favorite TV shows return!  Not that I watch TV very much these days, but I cannot wait for the start of The Walking Dead.  I am also excited for Grey's Anatomy, although I still have the entire last season on my DVR to catch up on.  That could certainly be my motivator to get on the elliptical machine...

But my very favorite part of fall is the colorful world that will spice up my tired eyes.  When I spot a burning bush in fiery crimson, I take in a deeper breath.  When I see reds and oranges replacing most of the greens in the great outdoors, I gaze at them a little longer.  I find it ironic that as the air gets cooler, the temperature of colors in nature gets warmer.  I guess that's Mother Nature's way of achieving Balance in the Grand Scheme of Things.

As I trudge on to embrace the many Colors of Fall, I would like to feature a poem written by my Dear Daughter from last month.  For one of her summer writing prompt pieces, DD wrote to the word "melancholy."  Don't we all wonder what goes on in those little noggins of our children?

So, Dear Melancholy, I leave you with her response here:


Melancholy is a wilted flower,
Brown and crumpled.
Melancholy is a tree chopped down, 
Forcing birds to move.
Melancholy is sickness 
That can't be cured.
Melancholy is sadness
Deep in your soul.
Melancholy is a fight 
That doesn't need to be fought.  

(Do you see my ambivalence here, too?  I see the beauty in her melancholy.)

Happy Fall!

Google is deprecating the API of its product, Feedburner, which is what sends you my post feeds and email subscriptions.  I don't know if the service will terminate.  I will keep an eye on my feeds and make changes accordingly if necessary.  I certainly don't want to lose my readers who read via RSS or email.  Please contact me if you notice anything out of the ordinary.
Thank you for reading Letters of Muse.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Dear Ten Years Coming

Dear Ten Years Coming,

You represent an entire decade: 10 years, 120 months, 520 weeks, 3650 days.  The difference between me being 29 and 39.  The time before children and now.  In other words--a very long time.

Brace yourselves for my announcement:

You guys, I went to a concert.  (*Wide-eyed and nodding head for emphasis*)

A real, pop rock, live concert.

No, I wouldn't believe it if I were you, either.  

You see, the last time Dear Husband and I went to a concert was ten years ago.  I was pregnant with my Dear Daughter.  I remember vividly wondering if the loud music was going to freak the baby out.  But being the freakish pregnant mom-to-be that I was, I was pretty sure that my baby hadn't grown ears or developed auditory nerves, yet, at the time.  So I went, because we got tickets!

That's what having kids did to us.  The kids took over, and we became satellites that revolved around them.

Well, truthfully, that isn't quite true either, since the time before that concert was almost another decade prior as well.  But my valid excuse for that was we were poor, starving college students turned poor, starving graduate school students turned mortgage-paying, babies-raising grownups who never had any extra money lying around, ever.  Concerts to us were extravagant entertainment only for very special artists or for very special occasions.

I guess my special occasion was due.  For my birthday this year, DH bought us tickets to a live concert of one of my favorite artists, with babysitting service already booked and planned.  I was ecstatic.  It meant a very rare date night at an even rarer event into the rarest of hours to return home.  It also meant that I had four months to prepare Dear Son for this.  You see, I had never missed a night of putting him to sleep. 

The four months flew by.  I had planned on studying song lyrics so I could sing along, but Life forgot to set aside Time for me to do that.  On one of the busiest weekends of the month, the concert date came and we all got ready for it.  DS was finally okay with us leaving for the night; DD was very cooperative about helping to care for her little brother with his nightly routines.  They could not have been in better hands than with my SIL and MIL, so I really had nothing to worry about.

Except if you know anything about me, you'd know I'd find something to worry about.

As we parked and walked into the venue, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the fear that we were going to be the oldest people at the concert.  Do people as old as we still go to concerts?  Remember, I hadn't been to one in ten years!  When I asked DH, his response was, "Don't worry, cuz we won't look like we're the oldest people there."  Hmmm.  Good answer.

We then got settled down in our seats at the largest open-air amphitheater in the state, and much to my relief, we weren't the oldest people there.  With that worry out of the way, soon, the magic started right before my eyes.

The music blasted into the crisp, fall air and hugged every inch of space around me.  The bass pounded on my chest and my heart was beating right along with each boom.  I was being swallowed by the sheer volume exiting the speakers, and it shook me into a carefree oblivion.  DH shouted into my ear, "Doesn't loud music bother you?"  I smiled.  I tried to say, "It does, but not when it exceeds a certain level, like this," but I'm pretty sure he couldn't hear what I said.  He didn't have to, because he could tell I was having a great time bopping to the music and trying to sing mouthing the words of the songs. 

It was a beautiful night for an outdoor concert.  The weather could not have been more perfect.  People danced, sang, clapped, and woo-hooed--including the gray-haired couple a few seats down in the row in front of us.  I couldn't help but feel so cool that they liked the same artist as I did!

I marveled at the night air as it did its job--albeit between not-very-subtle and obligatory whiffs of weed and beer--as it delivered the vibrations of each instrument into space and into our hearts.  Horns, drums, guitars, keyboard, violin, accordion, and harmonica all took their turns making music and interpreting the expression of moods and feelings.  The stage and backdrop gifted our eyes with videos, slide shows, light shows, and syncopated lighting while the talented musicians bestowed our ears with melodies, voices, rhythm, and soul.

His music was something special.  His songs made my feet bounce the rest of me to the beats.  His words brought forth my laughter and tears.  His voice was uh-mazing.  The colors of his voice varied from the depth of a mahogany to the clarity of crystal blue, from the warmth of fall leaves to the ease of nature's greens.  His stories were heartfelt and compelling, his motto was simply Love, and his messages reflected the need for people be kind to earth and be responsible citizens of the world.  I marveled at how some people have the gift of music and can pack an amphitheater of 12,000 people.  I guess there was a good reason why I was there, too.

It was a night to remember.  Not only did DS go to sleep without a fuss, DD took care of him like the wonderful big sister that she always has been.  Even though we got back home well past midnight and had to get up early the next morning, we still muddled through the busy day fairly well.  Which means--really--I can get used to this.  It could be our new norm: we'll gladly sacrifice our old age routines to experience a music high, even if it costs us a few more gray hairs or age spots for one night of fun.

As long as it happens again before another decade passes by.

So, Dear Ten Years Coming, I certainly hope that we'll go to another concert soon and not repeat your last record.  Because if music speaks to our souls, then live music most certainly enables meaningful conversations between the the two, resonating the art and passion of music and soul. 

I am still high from the music of that night.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Dear Voices-Inside-My-Head

Dear Voices-Inside-My-Head,

You have been busy for the past few days, inundating me with your conversations in my mind.  Discussions, arguments, perhaps even debates.  And they went something like this...


OMG, what will people think of me?

Why do you care so much about what other people think of you?

My imagination goes into overdrive whenever I do something unintentionally stupid.  Or worse, I do something stupid and don't even realize it.  I think I've spent my entire life trying to be aware of what I do so I won't come off as a clueless person.  So when I think I may have 'just been clueless', I become undone, because I cannot undo what I just did.

And who are these people?

Mostly people on the internet--Facebook, Twitter, blogs, social media in general.  Sometimes people in real life. 

But the social media peeps are just 'out there'--strangers, even--on the internet.  Why should what they think affect you?

That's a good question.  Because I care?  Because I fear being judged unfairly?  Because what I say or write on the Interwebz reflects who I am?  Because once it's out there, it's out there!  You can't take anything back on the Interwebz!  And just because I feel very strongly about certain things doesn't necessarily make me very articulate about them, and I end up with my foot in my mouth and that bothers me to no end.  So basically I feel trapped because I can't express what I want to say.  So I feel lost and frustrated and stumped and beaten. 

But you're not trying to make people change their minds or anything, right?

No, I'm not.  I just want to make myself clear, but I sometimes I can't.  And then sometimes I admit that I don't even know all the facts, which makes me even more of an ass.  I don't even mind admitting that, but it doesn't stop me from feeling frustrated about myself.

But nobody knows everything!  People live and learn, and are always adding to their life experiences.  You can't expect to always know it all or have an answer to everything!  

I know, I know.  One time I completely missed a crucial reference on a blog post and subsequently made a comment that clearly reflected my lack of knowledge.  I felt like such a schmuck.  No, actually, I'm sure that's happened many times.  I've had panic attacks over blog comments, Facebook posts, Twitter conversations, what have you.  It's definitely something I'm trying to get over, but it's hard.  I can't control what other people think of me, and that's a very hard thing to come to terms with.

Precisely.  Because you have no control over it, you should stop obsessing.  Why bother stressing out over something you have no control of?  You're just wasting your time!  You're not the only schmuck on the internet, you know.  Move on! 

Geez, thanks.  But if only I could...

No, no, no.  You can't.  That is not in your power.  People think whatever they want to think.  You think however you want to think.  People are different.  Embrace the differences.  You just have to trust that even if people think differently, people can still respect one another as human beings.  

That's having a lot of faith.

Yes, it is.  It's very tiring wondering about what other people think all the time, isn't it?

Yes.  Maybe I should just quit social media.  Kidding. 

So you'll just have to let it go to rest, add some New Ingredients to your Life Experience Recipe, and move on. 

Okay.  But that's easier said than done.

Yes, it is.  Didn't you recently write about your perfectionist tendencies and how in order to remedy that, you should follow the words you would preach to the people you love?  Well, perfect example RIGHT HERE.  Believe my words, and stop with your double standards.  

Oh, okay (*sheepish grin*).


So, Dear Inner Voices, thank you for your conversations--albeit being ever so annoying since it carried on for days--to set me straight again.  I wavered between your two voices long enough.  (To be fair, one of the voices usually gets coached from Dear Husband or a Dear Friend--which is something we all need in times of uncertainty and fear.  It is often to their credit that I am ever sane once again.)  Please keep up the conversations during my times of need.

Because I'm insecure that way. 

Thank you.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Dear Morning Madness

Dear Morning Madness,

Now that I have experienced you for two weeks, I most certainly declare that you are not my favorite part of the day.  By any means. 

For the first time this school year, I must get two bodies out the door in time to catch the school bus.  Double the pleasure, double the fun, right?  I play the roles of a crazy alarm-gone-mad, a circus master cracking my whip, and an assembly line worker in the kitchen.  I am Mother, hear me roar!  Here are my Top Ten Morning Madness Hurdles each and every school day morning:

10.  Good Morning, Social Media!  After I wake up and wash up, and before I get the kiddos up, I get on my laptop.  I check Facebook and Twitter my email and glance at my calendar to see the agenda for the day.  But one thing always leads to another, and before I know it, it's past the time to wake up the kiddos.  If I linger any longer on that computer, I will only be making my own next 45 minutes end in a train wreck.  #SocialMediaIsEvil

9.  Rise and Shine!  This part I rather like--waking up the kiddos.  First of all, I get to wake up Dear Daughter by doing things to her she would never allow if she were awake.  For example, I get to rub her cheeks.  (No, not those cheeks.)  Secondly, I wake up Dear Son in my most obnoxious best Nemo impersonation: Time for school, time for school!  Wake up, wake up, it's time for school!   If I'm lucky, he'll crack a smile before he opens his eyes.  #BestAlarmEver

8.  Dressing and Grooming.  DD dresses and grooms herself, after she checks in with me about the weather forecast.  DS still requires help with brushing his teeth, and he'll let me pick out his clothes if I help him get dressed.  I do both, since we're always short on time in the mornings.  #CrackingMyWhip

7.  Breakfast.  In the shortest amount of time possible, I put breakfast on the table after consulting with the kiddos about their choice of food.  Cereal, toast, oatmeal, or waffles.  Water or milk.  Even an occasional doughnut or homebaked goods.  After the short order cooking is done, the kiddos feed themselves with my constant reminders: Eat!  For goodness sakes, put food in your mouths!  #IHaveEyesBehindMyHead

6.  Check Homework/ Assemble Backpacks.  I am the worst best procrastinator.  While I should check homework in the evenings, I wait until the morning.  This is usually my mood breaker.  If I find careless mistakes on DD's homework, then we waste a lot of precious time.  She corrects them while I stew in frustration.  #NotAHappyCamper

5.  Prepare Two Snacks.  Our school has a wonderful snack policy: Healthy Snacks.  The children must bring fresh fruits or vegetables and/or cheese.  So my assembly line includes cutting board, knife, fruits, containers, plastic wrap, ice packs, and insulated bags.  DS has long adopted the 'apple a day' philosophy, so he's easy.  DD will rotate her fruits, which is nice, too.  #HealthySnacksRock

4.  Prepare One Lunch.  DD prefers home lunches as opposed to school lunches, and who can blame her?  Occasionally, she will opt for school lunch, which gives me an extra five minutes in the morning, but more likely than not, I make her a sandwich or a thermos-filled hot lunch of last night's leftovers.  #MyBestGirlEatsLeftovers

3.  Prepare Two Water Bottles.  Wash and fill two insulated water bottles that keep water cold.  #JustTheWayTheyLikeIt

2.  Brush Hair/ Apply Sunscreen with Lotion (if necessary).  DD takes care of herself while I serve the Prince.  Shoes on, backpacks ready, and we're nearly there.  #AlmostSeeTheLight

1.  School Bus.  With minutes to spare, we go outside to the curb and wait for the bus.  Last minute reminders, hair/clothes adjustments, and Mama's hugs and kisses happen right here.  DD always lets DS go on the bus first, like the wonderful big sister that she is, and off they go.  #Hallelujah

(One day Dear Husband worked from home and witness this Morning Madness.  He was compelled to ask me what was the matter, since I looked really peeved.  To which I assured him that I happen to be peeved like this every morning.  To which he snickered, "As long as it's everyday and not because something out of the ordinary happened today."  Um, no.

I go home to a messy kitchen and plates/bowls to put away.  I make my morning coffee and eat my breakfast.  And like so, my day really begins. 

So, Dear Morning Madness, even though I've managed you with passing grades so far, I know that by cutting my timing so close will one day backfire.  I also know that you will continue to evolve throughout the school year--specially when the weather gets cold and fifty layers of clothing, snow pants and snow boots are involved.  But I guess I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.  For now, I gladly do my Victory Dance as I watch the bus drive away into the morning sun and give me three hours of blissful alone time.

To clean the house. 


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Dear Wordless

Dear Wordless,

You have rendered me entirely tongue-tied.  For as long as I have rambled here, I have finally run out of things to say.  Temporarily, hopefully.

I am tired.  My mind does not focus, my words do not flow, and my thoughts are broken like tortilla chips at the bottom of its package.

September is a month of settling into new schedules, reorienting oneself with The Way Things Work, and getting used to the pace of a different song.

While our senses are getting ready for seasonal changes, the heat lingers and challenges our expectations.  Rain storms sweep by and douse us with suffocating moisture in the air, whose menacing sounds add to the inexplicable drone of muffled words inside my head.

I stare into the harsh monitor light, waiting for words to appear from the motion of my fingertips.  I force my eyelids to stay apart and not drift into the mad oblivion of the verge of sleep, where my metronome warps into uneven rhythm, causing unsolicited panic until my eyes jolt open and I determine that time is still linear.  

I am tired.  The night is young, but I feel old. 

I begin, hesitate, backspace, and re-process.  I visit all the tabs on my browser to seek inspiration, only to come back and blink at my own reflection, questioning my words against the astounding talent of the blogosphere.  My thoughts pop like fingertips on bubbles, vanishing.

I search for a comfortable tempo to move forward again. 

I find my song at its introduction--a slower, less rhythmic progression.  I am waiting for the music to begin, for the melody to sound, and most of all, for the refrain to set the beat of this song.  I yearn for that predictable cadence of days and nights untainted by the unknown.

Moreover, I desperately await to hear the lyrics of my song--words that will gush from a geyser when the time is right; words that rescue me from my state of abstraction, of incompleteness.

I am tired.  This loud muteness deafens me.  This resounding silence startles me.  This murky stillness shakes me.

This gap between Summer and Fall, Chaos and Rhythm, and Unknown and Certainty is stifling. 

I am, simply, out of words.


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Dear Blink-of-an-Eye

Dear Blink-of-an-Eye,

There's nothing like looking at old photos to experience your meaningful significance.  Digital slideshows of years past easily make us wonder where time went.  First one notices how tiny the kiddos used to be; then one realizes how old we have become.

On a day-to-day basis, we don't see how much our children grow.  During back-to-school time of the year, we see how much other kids have grown because we haven't seen them in a few months.  A friend of mine, upon seeing Dear Daughter, gasped at how much she's grown over the summer.  I looked at her and thought, really?  We parents may not notice the daily tiny bits of growth in our own kiddos, but there exist a few subtle clues.  Here are my Top Ten notable signs that my kiddos are growing up.

10.  When you realize your child is wearing flood pants or three-quarter sleeves that were not meant to be.  #GrowingLikeWeeds

9.  When all of a sudden DD can get her own clean plate from the cupboard and serve herself a snack from the top shelf of the pantry.  Or when one day Dear Son opens the garage door by pressing its button on his tippy toes, all by himself.  #OutOfReachHasNewMeaning

8.  (I always chuckle at the innocence of little kids who go to the potty with the door wide open when there are guests in the house.)  When children voluntarily close the door while using the restroom, you know that they've learned a thing or two about 'privacy'.  #HeyNoPeeking

7.  When your kids begin a sentence with "When I was a baby..."  #BabiesNoMore

6.  When children begin to explore foods beyond mac and cheese, hot dogs, and hamburgers at a sit-down restaurant, you know they are no longer satisfied with the Kids' Menu.  DD has started asking to try new foods, including sushi and vegetables!  #ItsAboutTime

5.  Speaking of food, when your child starts to eat more than you, get ready to 'go hungry or go broke'.  Voracious appetites signal extra caloric needs for a growth spurt.  #FromMyPlateToTheirs

4.  When your child no longer needs 'the lovey'.  It happened for DD one day out of the blue when she was five.  DS is still attached to his, but only at bedtime.  #LonesomeLovies

3.  When kiddos request a makeover of their room decor or favorite DVR show recordings, you know they are moving on to newer, better things.  #EndOfAnEra

2.  When after many years of violin practice at home, I finally realized that I needed to raise the music stand for DD--by a good four inches!  #GetWithItMama

1.  When your kiddos can make comebacks at you all on their own with their Sassy Mouths, you know your reign is over. #WheresMyParentingManual

I'm at a point where motherhood has gotten just a bit easier with both kiddos becoming more self-sufficient than ever.  But removing the Wow, Wow Wubbzy recordings and iCarly wall decals sort of hit a sensitive nerve in Dear Husband and me.  I think it will always go something like this: the kiddos move on while we parents still look back, unwilling to let go of what they've let go so easily.  For a moment, we really want to scoop up the dirt in which they left their footprints and keep them safely put away in a memory box.  But in the next moment, we are chasing them down that One Way path and just as eager to see what is up the road ahead.

These real-life signs of the kiddos' growth are even more profound than looking at old photos, because they are happening in real time and in your face.  So, Blink-of-an-Eye, even though you are an illusion--since Time is only steadily moving forward--you still remind us that today may be a day that we look back on fondly. 

Before the kiddos move onto something newer, better, and tweenier.