The Hat

This is a story about a hat. A hat that was just a simple baseball cap but ended up becoming a symbol of hate. My hate.

It all started when our son told us he wanted to play baseball instead of soccer in spring. Being that neither my husband nor I are baseball fans, we asked our son a number of times whether he truly wanted to play. After answering yes each time we asked, we gave in and signed him up. Spring was looking to be rather interesting.

As the holiday season ended and the new year rolled around, emails came slowly started trickling in from coaches and managers and officials of the league informing us of events to warm up the players and try-outs for the teams. Knowing as little as I did about this sport, I went into it thinking this should be fun! And new! And exciting. I was still thinking this until try-outs arrived and I realized the kids would not only try-out but would be marked down and drafted by the coached sitting quietly on the first base line. They were judging each player based on the skills they showed instead of a blind numbering system that I had known in soccer. Oh man… This mama was not ready to watch her son get judged, even though I understand why. Then realization of how different baseball was from soccer hit me and I had a sinking feeling.

But I brushed it off and went along, encouraging my child to believe that this will be fun and that he only had to stick out the season if he didn’t like it because we didn’t believe in quitting. We worked through things we were afraid of or things that we were uncertain of. While I was speaking to him, I know my words were meant more for me. I was telling myself not to quit and pull him from the possibly HUGE mistake we were making and stick him back into soccer, a sport we all know and like.

Then the final nail in the coffin came, sealing my doubt in with my fears. It came in the form of a parent meeting for all rookie players. At this meeting we were given our practice schedule and our practice location. They also explained our game schedule for the season and all the little tidbits of information needed: expectations, volunteers, events, the usual. My husband attended this and sent me back text messages that made the pit at the bottom of my stomach grow larger. We’d have two practice a week, throwing off our whole routine. There would also be a weekday game (WHY?!) and a weekend game.

So we sucked it up and shook off the initial shock of how much was involved and the scramble that would become our lives from now until the end of the season. And I realized that our son was hearing our doubts and voiced his concern that he’d made a mistake in choosing baseball. That shut us up fast. If he wanted to play, we’d make it work. From here on out, I’d have to silence my concerns and just fake it through.

It wasn’t until the first practice that made me realize how big a of a mistake we’d made. After practice, our son was lamenting how he missed soccer and didn’t like baseball. Oh boy… this was not what we needed to hear. Knowing now that he was only lukewarm to the idea of baseball made us feel even more hesitant. Was this a bad idea? Could we still get out of it? Instead we told him to give it a little bit longer to get used to it. That we didn’t quit things we started but if after this season it didn’t work, then it didn’t work. But, together as a family, we’d make it through this first season come hell or high water.

I only half believed what I was telling him.

By the second practice we were receiving both emails and text messages about all the goings on of this overly involved sport that neither of us liked. And each mention of the team made me grumpier and more frustrated. How could we have been so mislead to think that a family of two working parents could make this work? Who can make 4:30 pm practices twice a week when both parents have jobs?! This was becoming a perfect pitch for multiple wives. More hands, more help. But I digress.

At the second practice, it was asked that all players brought their hats and $25 for some embroidery to be done on them. Well, we never made it due to issues with homework not being finished so his hat was still with us. On Sunday we were reminded about uniform pickup and to bring the hat, too. That way the team moms could take it all in to get stitched and ready for our first games. Come Sunday, we were ready, cap and money in hand. We got our uniforms all picked out and sized up and then we left… with the damn hat. Somehow I had missed the memo that we were to leave the hat. I didn’t know who to give it to or what we were to do it with and somehow my husband didn’t know that I didn’t know so he didn’t do anything either.

So we left. With the hat.

Suddenly I get a message. The team mom realized they didn’t have our hat and wanted us to come back to drop it off. We were already out of the area and on our way to our delayed beach day with my sister, a day that was supposed to be a brunch date but got moved to late lunch when we found out our uniform pickup time conflicted with our plans. So no, we weren’t going to turn around and come back. Instead we made plans to drop it off the next day.

It was that moment that I started to hate that hat. The hat was nothing more than a piece of clothing but it became a symbol of something more. Of our frustration, of our lives slowly being whittled away by a sport that none of us, even our son, was really all that interested in. A sport that he wanted to just try for a season that was now consuming us. My running schedule was being disrupted and my husbands work schedule and gym sessions were being moved around. Everything was changing. Our happy little life was slowly being rearranged for baseball, a sport none of us loved.

As we all woke this morning, the moods were light and fun as we gave each other hugs and kisses goodbye. Everyone seemed to be in good moods. That was until I realized I hadn’t sent the address of our team mom to my husband for the hat drop off. It had slipped my mind. As I pulled up to drop off our son at his grandmother’s house, I sent a quick message containing the contact information to him when I saw out of the corner of my eye the lurking black bill of our son’s baseball hat.

The damn thing was with me. Sigh….

Dropping him off with a quick word and a kiss from my mother, I jumped back in the car fuming. I had to retrace my route and go back home to give my husband the hat so that he could drop it off for us. And this made me 30 minutes late to work. I was not a happy mama.

In a joking manner, I took a picture of me giving the hat the Bird and sent it to my husband for a good laugh. And we did chuckle at it. It was funny and stupid to flip off a hat because you are angry but it also had a deeper meaning to us. This hat, this season, this sport, was slowly becoming everything that was making us mad. It symbolized all of our frustrations and anxieties over how we would pull this off. It was the visible reminder of our big mistake.
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The hat is now in the possession of the embroidery shop that is stitching our son’s name to the back of it along with his name on his jersey. And to add insult to our already tender wounds that this damn hat inflicted over the past two days, we received the schedule for our games. From Monday-Thursday and then Saturday, our lives are now all baseball, the sport we are slowly hating more and more each day. The messages between my husband and I are littered with colorful words and a deep sense of frustration and anger. Anger at the loss of control over our schedules, the inability to foresee how this sport was going to affect us and change everything. And, personally, I think this has opened our eyes to how much we love our lives and how much we love the schedule we had built carefully and meticulously.

For now we’ll have to decide if this is something we can make happen without putting too much strain on our family. We’re also going to have to pool our resources in the form of babysitters, grandmothers, and family members that can be there if we can’t. And if we can’t make it happen, then we’ll at least have the ability to say we tried but it just wasn’t for us.

Press Pause!

Stop! Everything just stop for one god damn minute!!!

I know this is a ridiculous request but I feel like my world is spinning out of control and I have no way of slowing things down so I can just make a quick list of what the hell is going on then put things into motion again.

Kinda like playing a game. When things get too much or you lose sight of your objective, you can press pause and make a note, check your positioning, then you hit play and the game goes on.

But this is life, it’s not a game. And I’m completely lost. There is so much going on I feel like I’m in the middle of a storm that has no end in sight.

First there is the loan process. We’re applying for a home loan and the steps taken just to get that started has been migraine inducing. Then there is the timing. We have a lease till June and we’d like to buy a house to move into so we can’t look too soon or too late. Too soon and we’ll be stuck with double payments or breaking a lease. Too late and we’ll have to find temporary living quarters. So when it the right time to look? I feel the strain of being stuck in limbo and the pressure is making the migraine in progress get worse.

Now for the kidlet. He’s been struggling and fighting against school work. So we’re changing things up. A sitter is going to come to our house and take care of him and help him with homework instead of him going to daycare. This will give him someone to work with in the comfort of his own home. We hope to see some positive outcomes from this. Although it’s a great move, it makes me nervous. We’re saying goodbye to a center that is always open and always there and relying just on one person to make sure she arrives on time to take care of him. I don’t feel that she wouldn’t, we’ve interviewed her and feel good with our choice, but I feel like my safety net has been removed beneath this tightrope I’ve been walking.

On top of that, the kidlet asked to be in baseball this season. A sport neither his dad nor I play. Well, we were very unprepared when we heard that we are committed to two practices a week and two games, one weekday and one weekend. Huh?! How in the hell are we supposed to fit this in?! So now we’re scrambling (at least it feels like we are) to figure this new twist into our already busy week.

I could cry… And I have. My emotions seem to be sitting on the surface and I get teary without much provocation. Watching a show, I cry. Reading a book, I tear up. Playing a video game, I choke back my sobs. The stress and swirling madness that is our life right now seems to be weighing on me heavily and I can’t find a calm place to rest my mind and detach from all the changes and the big life questions we have in front of us to just breathe and recenter myself.

And the worst part is that I don’t feel I have time or the availability to really get everything out. I don’t have an outlet. Even my running isn’t defusing the issue. I run and put all my hurt and sadness and frustrations and anger on the pavement. I’ll feel a little relief but it lasts a few hours then I’m back to square one feeling shitty and overwhelmed.

Deep breaths. Loud music. Quiet reading time. Lots of water and less junk food. I’m taking all these steps to alleviate my frustrations and sometimes it works. Most times it doesn’t.

I’d just like a break…

The Teacher vs. The Mother

My son is blessed with a curse, I am his mother but I’m also a teacher. Fully credentialed, passionate. I fall into teacher mode often with him, working through his homework and discussing classroom behavior modifications options to help him succeed in class.

Recently we were told that Jake would have an SST (student success/support team meeting) to give him a boost in school. An SST, at least as I remember them in the past, were meant to create a plan for that individual child that would be recorded and kept with his file. Areas that needed improvement (reading, math, study skills, testing, behavior) would be brought up and then a plan would be created to help him improve.

Since he started elementary school last year I could tell that Jake would need extra help. He struggled to focus in class and found writing to be exceptionally difficult both in mechanics (a slight delay in fine motor skills) but also in finding motivation to get it done. Last year was difficult and a lot of tears were shed over homework and many meetings with his teacher were had. But the change from last year to this year has been extraordinary. He’s received more support and so far we’ve seen him adapt in areas and improve.

Even so, his teacher and school staff have seen a need for more and so in we go to the depths of the public school support system to get him what he needs to keep up this momentum.

I’m pleased, thrilled even. But the bigger concern of mine is, do I go in with teacher mode on in the background or am I there to just be his mother?

Any teacher who is also a parent must know how this feels. To have the knowledge and educational background to teach in the system and run meetings like this but understanding you are there for your own child and not a student. To be his advocate and to bridge the gap between home and school but nothing more.

How do I turn it off? How do I stop teacher mode and instead go in as mom? Is it possible? It must be and I think the next couple of weeks until the meeting takes place I’ll be talking and working out a way to have both sides of me be there without one stepping on the other. To blend the two.

My son is my son first, and not my student. So I must be his mother first. His mother always.

Dreaded: From The Top!

The other day my husband and I were playing a video game. Actually it was more like he was playing and I was trying my hardest not to feel ill from the movement. We had picked up where we left off months ago in Enslaved. As he played along I made a comment about the female character’s hair, how I thought Trip’s dreaded locks and band wrapped red hair looked kinda awesome.

Click for photo credit.

In response, my husband agreed and said I’d look good with them, an unexpected turn in the conversation. I hadn’t expected him to like the look of dreads but somehow it made sense. I mean he was the one that encouraged me to follow my wish to have pink and blue hair so why not dreadlocks?

This revelation turned into a discussion between us about me turning my natural curls into locks and the choice to have a natural but alternative hairstyle. The convo didn’t last long but it was long enough to plant a seed.

From that moment on I started reading and searching for all the tidbits, guidelines, and suggestions around the web for creating natural dreadlocks. I can’t explained what compelled me to consider doing thing at this particular time but it isn’t the first time. Many years ago I had this same inclination to dread my hair and allow it naturally do its own thing. I asked around and brought it up with a trusted family friend and hairstylist. She gave me some pointers and supported me in my quest to find out more. But that was it. Instead of taking the leap,  I ended up choosing to go natural and let my curls be free with no more combs or towel drying. I switched all my products to curl enhancing and natural. Lots of coconut and argan oil were harmed in the making of those natural curls. So much oil…

I wore my curls for a good four months without using a comb or any heating items. I just used my fingers and wrapped my hair into a lot of tee-shirts and other soft cottony things. But soon, like most hair styles, my interest faded and I went back to normal. I started brushing again and towel drying and straightening my hair for special occasions. A couple of months later I bleached the bottom third of my hair and dyed it red, then blue, then red again. That lasted a good 9 months and I even wore my hair bright pink to my wedding. Since last July my hair has officially been left plain and my bleached portions are slowly growing out.

Now I’m back to that same first square where I’ve got all this information and the inclination to make the change but not quite ready to make the leap. And I’m left with a burning question I must answer before I start: why? Why do I want to do this?

I can give a few reasons. First, like some people, I like to change up my look from time to time. Short hair, long hair, curly, straight, pink hair, blue hair. Style is something that is discovered and changed over time depending on where you are in your life. And right now I’m up for a change. Secondly, it feels like the a natural next step for my curly hair. First, I continue washing with my natural products that I use my hair already but I stop combing, something I’ve done in the past to keep up the curl. But instead I keep myself from separating my curls with my fingers, too, and allow the natural progression of the locks to form. Plus I wouldn’t mind seeing what I would look like with them. My curiosity is winning me over.

Aside from these shallow reasons to change up my do, I’ve been wrestling with some pretty big concepts about beauty and vanity and society all from considering this drastic change. As I watched and read people’s suggestions on how to start and the best method (I’ve decided to mostly do a neglect/natural process but to help it along a little twist & rip), I’ve also listened to their stories, their reasons and their personal agendas. For the most part, people mentioned they had deep personal reasons and spiritual connection with their dreads and their choice. I was completely enthralled by this. To me, hair is hair. It’s on my head, I can cut it or grow it but I’ve never thought about my relationship with. How it defines me. It’s such a back-burner thought, something that isn’t up front and constantly on my mind. But, after watching a few videos and sharing my concern with my husband about the big step this would be, he made a comment that stopped me for a second. He has done the same. Not with dreads, but in choosing to shave his head continuously.

About four years ago he realized his hair was thinning. Even in his still youthful days, he recognized that the end was near for his head of hair. So he decided to shave his hair completely off. At first with just a short buzz left behind. Soon it went from a short buzz with the electric razor to a full on straight edged razor shave. Smooth as a baby’s bottom. And it’s been that way for years. His lack of hair on his head was a source of discuss from family members that weren’t pleased with his choice but soon everyone adapted and accepted that it was his choice and his right. It was his release and his freedom but also his new burden and responsibility.

I know I have his love and support, completely and totally.

Hair, it’s something a lot of us are born with and we all have the power to control and do things with it but so many of us stick to what is known in our community as the norm and don’t venture beyond that for fear of being the black sheep. Every time I dyed my a wild color, I had the part of my circle of people that were jealous and wished they had the balls to do so, then there was the other group who all loved it and felt inspired, but then there was that last group who didn’t understand and felt it took away from me. They felt it didn’t add to my natural beauty but detracted from it.

And, in all honesty, every time I dyed or bleached my hair, there was a sense of apprehension about the enormity of what I was doing. How would people react? Would I be able to handle the looks and comments from the people I know and the strangers I’ll see everyday? As I ask myself these questions I almost have to laugh. I’m talking about HAIR! It’s just hair. But it’s also apart of your identity.

So I’m torn. I’m torn by my willingness to shuck the norms of society and allow myself to be free but I’m also struck down by the gravity of something so small that defines so much of me.

For now my choice is to slowly allow my hair to naturally dread and to take this journey step by step. I keep telling myself I can always brush it out if I don’t like it. It’s not permanent. I’m also telling myself to be honest with how I feel about it. About the shaking free of the shackle of normal vanity and beauty and instead embracing a more natural look and finding beauty in that. This is also an exercise in my need to control my hair and to allow it to do what it naturally is inclined to do. I’m that girl with the shiny curls that always wishes it was straight. This will be a test to allow things to go, to let go of my vanity and to believe that my hair doesn’t make me who I am or define my beauty.

So, after all that soul bearing and talk of hair (again it’s just HAIR!), let the journey begin!

The Permanent Roommate

Lucy knew what she wanted. She wanted the laundry to fold itself. She wanted a house with a yard and a small space for a tiny garden of herbs and vegetables that she used all the time so that she could have them fresh and waiting for her to cook with. Lucy wanted a dog, nothing too big or too small or fancy. Nothing with a long name that sounded more like a gourmet entrée in a French café than a dog breed. She wanted hardwood floors and long drapes to frame some windows that looked out onto that large yard in back. A home she could call hers.

Lucy also wanted to have another child. Her first two were growing fast, faster than she could have ever imagined. They were growing out of their shoes and pants quicker than she could keep them fed. She was proud of her children, of all their little accomplishments. But she yearned for another go at pregnancy and the infancy of new life. She ached to be needed by a small baby with pudgy hands and rolls of chub along their legs.

As Lucy put away the freshly folded laundry, still warm from the drier and smelling of cotton and sweet flowers, she reflected on all the things she wished for and sighed. All these things, these dreams and wishes, were once not only hers, but they were also Ray’s dreams, too. Dreams they shared oh those many years ago before marriage and children. The days long ago when they were more than friends. When they were lovers.

But life had changed in the last couple of months. Ray’s job offered him a new position, one that was more demanding of his time and efforts but afforded them more luxuries like a healthier savings account and for Lucy to be able to quit her job and stay home. While life was easing into this new phase, their romantic inclinations were slowly fading away. Lucy couldn’t tell if it was the stress of the job or just the waning interest in a long term partner that had struck their intimate life down, but, either way, Lucy felt the pangs of desire but didn’t know how to approach her husband.

Bending to pick up a pile of books left in the hallway by the kids, Lucy thought back, trying to remember when it all started. As she racked her mind to pinpoint the moment their relationship shifted into this complacent, friendly area, she spotted a corner where a cobweb had been missed. Tsking her own work, Lucy put down the woven laundry basket resting on her hip with the pile of children’s books placed on top of the dirty clothes inside and reached into her back pocket for the dusting rag she had tucked away. Waving the rag around in a half-heart manner, she swiped at the accumulating webs and scattered dust from the corner. Stepping back, she felt pleased and considered that area now done when her eyes glanced at a framed picture of the two of them, laughing in a swinging hammock together. Her heart sank as she saw the glimmer of adoration in his eyes that she longed to see again.

She married Ray for his laugh and the way he could turn a simple meal into a two hour conversation about anything and everything. He always spoke with passion and interest. And it wasn’t very long ago that she was the subject of that passion. He always took the time to tell her how he felt about her, to hold her hand even when simply grocery shopping, and he made sure they had a date every so often to spend time just being together, alone. Those days were gone. Her role as wife was now more of a glorified best friend. As a permanent roommate.

Lifting the basket and slowly placing it against her hip, Lucy realized she had unwillingly slipped into this role as she supported Ray in his new job by being there and not asking too much. In doing so, she had become no more than a housemate; always there, always pitching in and sharing the space around them but nothing more. They talked and laughed occasionally over a dinner of macaroni and cheese. He’d hug her after a long day and she’d scratch his shoulders if he asked while they caught up on the news after the kids were asleep. There was always love and devotion, an unwavering vow of fidelity tacked on the walls between baby pictures of the kids and their honeymoon in Tahiti. But that was it.

Lugging the heavy basket into the kids’ room and depositing the missing books into their book-bin, Lucy stifled a sob. They didn’t fight or argue. They still got along wonderfully. Nothing was out of place and she was even granted the gift of staying home to tend the house and the kids when needed. But that was the growing problem, no one needed her. Not really. Ray could take care of himself as he always had been able to and the kids were growing more independent with every blink of an eye. And while Lucy would take being needed by either her husband or her children, just being wanted would have been enough. It would have filled the hole that had been growing steadily. The feeling of being wanted by those she loved would have mended the tear across her heart.

She no longer cared to be a wife or a mother. Or a roommate or a best friend. As she cried tears of grief and loneliness on her way down to the garage where the bulking silver washing machine awaited her with freshly washed clothing, Lucy realized she would like nothing more than just to be wanted.

Better Late Than Never

For a while now, I’ve felt compelled to write this note. To put down in words my apology for something that was done years ago.

So long ago I am not sure on the time and date. I just know small details like the apartment I was living in at the time had blue carpet and how little my son was when this all took place.

The time I hurt someone very badly, causing undue pain and sadness.

It wasn’t something I did but more what I didn’t do. I saw signs I should have paid attention to. Small ones, little inklings that something fishy was going on. That lies were being sown. My gut reacted, I put the ball into motion to get to the bottom of it all, to get some answers. But I my concerns were dismissed and instead of following through I dismissed them, too.

A couple of years later, I ended up hurt and emotionally battered after surviving a storm caused by someone I had loved and trusted. Maybe trusted a little too much because it was that trust that lead me to quiet my gut instinct and in turn hurt someone very much. Someone I’ve never met but someone who deserves so much more than the pain my inactions caused. Someone who was worth more than the lies they were given.

Fast forward to today and I still have moments of regret. It was never my intention to hurt anyone and though I’m not the direct cause, with hindsight being 20/20 I realize I could have stopped a whole lot of broken hearts, mine included. I’ve been working on accepting that the suffering so many went through almost 4 years ago was meant to happen because we all learned something from it.

I have over the last two years debated whether it would be a good or a bad thing to contact the injured party personally with this apology. But doubt held me back. I was worried that instead of offering peace it would instead open old wounds. And that’s the last thing I would ever want to do. Enough tears have been shed.

So here is my open letter of apology, my offer to the one that was left behind and hurt by someone’s carelessness and by my ignorance. I, to this day, wish I had listened to my gut and asked more questions. You deserve an apology from someone else, not me, but I doubt that will ever happen. And if it has, or does, I doubt it will be honest and sincere. But know this, as small as my role was and as little my apology may count, it is given with the utmost sincerity.

I don’t expect anything to come of this. But I can hope this reaches the eyes of the one it is meant for.

 

The Day The Lights Went Out

I crossed the finish line so many times, and every time
he was there.
To urge me faster, to cheer me on.

He was there.

Maybe I asked to much. Maybe I did too little
but another finish line came into view
and he wasn’t there anymore.

He wasn’t there.

The crowds cheered and people smiled,
but my eyes searched for the one face I wanted to see.
The one face that meant the most to me
and he wasn’t there.

From here on out, I’m on my own.
I asked too much and listened too little.
I sealed my own fate
and now I walk alone.

On my own.