Tired Gaffaws & Fublunders

In an instant of extreme toddler tiredness,

my daughter asked,

if,

“Mommy

Mommy

Mommy

Can I

Can I wear

your….your…..

um…

your hee-highs?”

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I would love to, if they wouldn’t ruin her back

and maybe turn her bony four-year old ankles

into hurting, falling on the floor.

 

 

I love when we, people

and our shorter people

coin the next new hot phrases

out of tired “his-maps”, you know, “miss-haps”?

like when I call Peter and Lori,

“Leter and Pori”.

 

So today,

even though it is a rainy mess outside,

I would very much like to wear

my “hee-highs”

and dissolve into fits of “taugh-ler.”

 

 

 

 

A Rainbow for the Eyes: A Review

I want to tell you, dear parents who scan the newsfeed, dear sweethearts of the world—you teachers who already know that in your classroom, the grownup lines are redrawn, my kids who know friendship and faith and friendliness across the board, they are not the “onlies”. There are others, others like the authors and photographers of Beautiful Rainbow World, who obviously, intentionally care about teaching love in the full spectrum of color.

Our kids, the readers and thinkers, players of make believe, the scientists, and lovers of nature, will recognize different as something the opportunity to grow and become friends, to recognize the truth that we are different and yet, some kinds of “same”.

Cue the pretty book:

wpid-img_20141124_132717.jpg                I appreciate the work that Suzee Ramirez and Lynne Raspet, sisters, have partaken in, creating Beautiful Rainbow World. The book, itself, is small, but the hearts are focused on big things. They join forces in this project, with folksinger, Daria.

Readers will take-in approximately 44 vivid photographs of children and young people, full of color and spirit. The diversity of children is of course, lush, as expected. The couple black and white images that may be my favorite.

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One feeling that keeps tugging at me is the want to know more about the children, in terms of “rainbowness”. Perhaps this child is Armenian and Greek? Perhaps this boy is from Uruguay, and was adopted by an Irish-American family? And these children implying sitting and gobbling up each other’s company with wide smiles— are they cousins? American, yet from many different parts of the globe?

Instead of just hearing (from the included melodic download of the book’s namesake) that we are a beautiful rainbow world, I would love the authors to delve deeper, especially as the term “rainbow” can be overused and therefor, a bit cliche. I wanted them to us the fullness of their own experiences to show us who these children are and why the word “rainbow” applies.

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My daughter, with another worldly companion book.

And yet, I also wondered if being somewhat elusive was their intended angle; do they want us simply to see beauty, innocence, and wonder? Are we simply to see pictures of children and not need to label according to background, language, ancestry, place of worship, or citizenship? Perhaps simply looking at clear, bright faces is most honoring. Maybe it is a welcome break to walk away from the defining labels on our crayons.

And yet, the writer part of me asks, “Can we at least know their interests, though? Give our own young readers something more of a hook? A shared interest of soccer? Or new vocabulary? Maybe the Portuguese word that describes Maria’s hair and the way it bounces softly when she runs in the school yard, or the word that describes the shine in the mesmerizing eyes belonging to the girl on the book’s cover?”

Well…after a generous, thoughtful interchange between me and these authors, photographers, and even Daria, the enigmatic, highly-acclaimed folksinger on this project, I am so grateful to understand more of where these creators are coming from. The unspoken information, the words not in print do not necessarily need to be there if we believe every child is just so awesome and incredible as they are, with no backup or background knowledge. Everything is fine on its own, understated.

Perhaps the authors will provide some minor compendium later. Or imagine if they return to the subjects and take their portraits in a few years. What beauty will we see. I hope only glowy, healthy faces, loved and supported.

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The project continues to grow on me. And yet, I am a words-person (obviously). Learning more about Daria and her acclaim, scanning through her song index only makes me want to know and hear more. Of course, we want more of the things we like. I will always want another spoonful of buttery pasta or ask for two flavors of ice cream. Within this context, I want my own Japanese and international, bicultural, sometimes trilingual students to identify and recognize themselves, recognize light. 

I want my former students back in Lake Worth Florida, the ones whose mamas carry babies on their back with Guatemalan rainbow carriers, and the sweeties calling to their daddies with French Creole and Patois and Island songs and bit of Bengali I heard from my evening at Rasha’s home, to feel honored and celebrated. I want every child, really, to feel invested in.

This is an inspiring project. Imagine what any of the Rainbow World readers may aspire to do when we see beauty in all these faces and hearts and

I think many of us want more than a rainbow, more than the “red, black, yellow, brown and white” of the lyrics and text. Thing is, sometimes you have to start with the universals. It is the smiles, the gazes, the joy we see on these pictures. Delving into his book and humming the accompanying song, maybe we all will I suddenly crave the smell of tomatillos or maize or black beans and saffron rice. Maybe we’ll peek out from our hats. Maybe we will be ready to bridge a new friendship or discover some new aspect of our bud. Maybe our own kids will be even more able to look on their own diversity and gorgeous heritage with love. Maybe they’ll want us to snap their pictures and make their own book of rainbows. 

I will be eager to hear your own feedback. See what you think. 

To order from Multicultural Kids, here you go!

Amazon Books also carries it.

With all the wonder of love,

Melissa

Living Abroad, A Synopsis on Moving On

Living abroad means

your dear dear friends

are on the next plane

back to their own, real home,

the place they’ll go back to school

or eat those foods they’ve had such a

hankering for.

 

It was never going to be

some forever-stay;

there are bigger plans

than the ones

I foresee.

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They will leave you a chair

or a small lamp stand

a cup for your kids

and some cute hairbands

and then

 

gone

to be computer friends

not in a cafe

not to help you go shopping

not to tuck you back into the folds of dirt

here in your still-new garden

called

Another Country.

 

And everyone is fine with the leaving

because it is routine.

It is called “expat”

and “next season”

and “roll with the tide, baby”.

 

And then

it is just you

with your family

and it always becomes fine

but when you watch shows

or plan a birthday party

or wanna make some tortillas and queso

a real margarita,

it is lonely

 

and it is life

on an island

where so many are expats

and the nationals, the everyday people locals

I have met,

connected with on balcony parties,

on high towers, landmarks

over tea and cake,

every other day in cafes and the library—-

well, with them I’m still playing catch-up.

It is not their fault we aren’t connecting.

 

So goodbye dear friends, the special, the beloved trading secrets and tricks

the special, the beloved trading secrets and tricks,

prayers and swear words kind.

Bye in less than a month.

 

Goodbye to the long ago

thinking

that roots

are not so easily

repotted

and repositioned

and just plain picked.

 

People move and here, it’s often.

 

Hello, maybe to

the white cereal bowls or random candles

the travel shampoos

the “thank you” on teal cardstock

they leave behind.

 

We should just call ourselves

Casa B&B

and then I can remember to expect

a checkout time.

Fall Reminder

Fall means

Don’t kiss your babies

With those lush, dark fall plums

or moody mauves

midnight azaleas

that instantly make you

want angora sleeves

and cashmere shrugs

 

Don’t kiss your babies

when you are feeling nice and warm

in dark scarlet, plummy lips

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…when dropping them off at preschool

or somewhere will the school nurse, teachers, & principal

may think

that your autumn-inspired dark lipstick

is really a sign that something needs to be

reported

 

right there

from the purple smudge

over his left eye

and there,

Cremesheen Hang-Up (that really is the color)

on the four-year old’s forehead.

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It really looked like a shiner

so I’ve gotta think–

clearly, the people at MAC don’t have kids?

Or they know better tricks to making that

lipstick stick & stay on.

 

 

Her Professions

“Mommy”, she began, matter-factly, smart and Scotty-like. Her little nose could have been turned up, a red ribbon round her neck and shoulders. Instead, my daughter’s long kitty pj pants and too-small polka dot pj shirt brought her more down to earth. She is my full-of-personailty, Pippie Longstocking, pippin and sweet friend, my sassy girl who does her best to listen.

She began with an almost imperceptible starting breath and the glimmer of a smile, “I love you even when you get mad at me”.

 

(Five minutes prior, she had gotten upset & swatted at me in frustration, then proceeded to mimic me. Not good.

Of course we had a talk).

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“You love me even when I’m mad at you? Oh, really, sweetie? Well, thank you, and…good”.

“And I love you even when you make fun of me”.

“What??? I don’t make fun of you”! She must have seen my cockeyed brows, my puzzlement, even in the darkness of                             tuck-in. She really knows how to take a dramatic stand.

Yes, yes you do, she corrected in playful singsong, “Yes, you do.”

And, she continued, “I love you even when you make mistakes”.

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“Wow, honey. That is really beautiful. Thank you so much.

I love you when you make mistakes, too”.

“I don’t make mistakes”, she may have countered. This was a tennis match. My four year is the lobber of the house.

“I would love you even if you spilled buckets of glitter all over the house”.

And you, too.

This was fun! Here was another zinger, easy to picture. “I would love you, still, K, darling, if you squirted ketchup all over the walls, and then rolled and got all goopy in it.”

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And her brother, too? She wanted to know.

“I would still love you even if you had accidents every night in bed and I had to wake up and clean you.

“I would love you, too”. She was my tabby kitten, purring in my arms.

“Wait—and poo poo, too?” she needed to know! “Also, mama, you HAVE to love me forever, all the time! You’re my MOTHER! That’s what mothers do! What they are supposed to do”!

“And of course,” because she so eloquently discourses,

Even in the dark, a little cheshire cat. There was a broad grin. I felt it. She  said, “I love you even when you gas”.

What?? Who is this girl??

“Yes, I love you toooo much, lady”. This is what she says to me. “Lady”. What a little punk or pumpkin. A sweetie.

 

At that we had me leave so sleeping could start.

A dozen kisses on the nose and I was out.

That girl, man. Sheesh!

Is Going to an Onsen Preparing for a Nudist Colony?

Man, I have the absolute best litmus test to access how we feel about our bods. Last week, I flung myself, into the onsen doors, pretending to be confident, knowing I was going to obviously, take it all off.

Have you been in an onsen, a Japanese hot spring bath? They are all over Japan; the water can vary in terms of mineral content and acidity, but an onsen is always healthy for skin, muscles, and your average, tense mind, especially in a busy city like Tokyo.

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Unless, that is, if you were not born here, in this naked-in-front-of-everyone-bath-environment. If you are like me, only now, totally middle-aged (holy crap um), full-on adult, finding yourself in a public bathhouse sans bathing suit, you are most likely sifting through so many thoughts that you might as well have one of those Wild West gold sifting trays and a nice cognac. The Japanese women who’ve been raised in these waters probably carry little-to-no self consciousness. I imagine, though, when they drifted into those preteen years, they may have wanted to take a big break from public nudity. All I know is my sixth grade locker room, okay? All I know is that I’m immature, mostly. 

Last week wasn’t my first time; I’ve visited a good few times, prior. Once with my visiting, onsen-obsessed mom who finally cajoled me into coming. “Hey, if I can’t get naked in a spa-type facility with my mom, what hope do I have?” I hung my head a moment, then squared my shoulders, and prepared myself for something awkward. I onsened with my daughter and mom, together, in a sort of grand, three-generation day of womanhood, and still tried to nonchalantly hide behind my itty washcloth to and from each tiny pool. I’ve gone once or twice more, alone, and again with mom and my girl.

My goal is to hide my discomfort for my girl, showing instead, a peace, even general malaise. “Ho hum, naked me, us, we”, but also cultivate a healthy respect for the bodies G-d creates. I think it’s the biggest feminist action I can muster–not just showing a girl chics in Spanx, or photoshopped anti-aging make-uped masks. This is it: life, man. Boobs at every age. 

The same day I sat reflecting upon my latest trip to the onsen, Japanese hot spring bath, better phrased as a “same-sex public bathing experience in the nude”, I read an article about proper etiquette while dining at a nudist colony or some nude place like that. (Who are these nude diners and why don’t they don pants?)

I guess you’d better have good manners in the buff; there’s nothing else really after you’ve thrown away your clothes.

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Also, fine for those nudies, but what does my experience at onsens reveal about my comfort with nudity?

Well here it is:

1. If you are not raised in a culture that knows how to relax, even have greater peace, bathing in the nude, then it will be a shock. A doozy. The whole onsen experience, and I guess nude beach or whatever, could leave you wishing you’d begun with a drink. And held onto it. (Then again, after birthing children, what’s your body, anyway? You gain a little more perspective).

2. If you are not raised with such a healthy setting of seeing women in all stages of their lives and therefor, bodies, it will be a shock. (“I’m going to look like that when I am older??” Or “She is a grandmother and look at those abs!”, but mostly, it’s more like the first example. The body changes, but it is all beautiful. In an onsen, you see the whole spectrum, from young girls scrubbing up with their mothers, to tweenish girls rinsing their hair with friends, to me, to my mom, to the lovely great grands. They have been through each stage. They are the wise ones looking on at the rest of us, or maybe just relaxing on a cedar bench. And they don’t care if I’m uncomfortable with my body. I’m sure of it.

3. The things I worry about is…if I am growing more comfortable with my naked body being our in a public place, then am I on the road to some nudie life where I’d consider a stint at a nude farm?

4. Perhaps these co-ed naked people are also, at times, uncomf with their body and this is their way of coming to terms? Maybe we all want a drink?

5. Maybe some of us enroll ourselves in these challenges, in these opportunities to be a spectacle or feel the part, just so we grow. Maybe getting naked is like joing Toastmasters, only you don’t have to picture your audience sitting in their boxers and briefs. There are no props. You, yourself, are free-cheeked. It is like coming to terms with a potential, or old, nightmare. There are no pants. There is coming to terms with YOU and your boobies.

6. I may will always compare myself. It is not enough that I am the hairy girl with furry teddy bear arms who came to live with hairless, beautiful Asians. This is how I sometimes perceive myself. I once was given a thorough wax job by the most gorgeous, intimidating Russian woman you could ever see, dramatic accent and everything. I must have been to her, an experiment. She was my dream, hairless.

So not only is it possible that I have a bit more hair than the men here, but now I need to get naked with these ladies? The ladies who shave whatever wisps of NOTHING they have growing on their arms? I am my own spectacle, I think. Maybe. No one has said anything to me yet. I don’t know what they would say, actually. “Please take my razor, Miss. Please. You are offending the guests? Here are some websites for lazering off your everywhere-but-lashes” (I swear, even brows here are shaved and drawn back on, sometimes even by the men).

Skin gleaming, hair super conditioned, I returned back to my husband last week, post-onsen, feeling radiant in some ways, but a bit pruned and glum. Before going, I thought I was okay with my body. Now, there is a list of what I see happening, sliding towards unatractive, sailing towards “not pretty”. This is a sad state of affairs. There is some work to do, some on the inside.

I guess in retro-retrospect, I really am not on a fast track to the nudist colony. I guess if I am to leave my comfort zone, it will be but for a short dip in a bath. I won’t need my own parking spot or my own mug at some nudie resort. No “I’ve moved” postcards to send out, not just yet.

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Maybe, instead, I’ll just do some squats, some crunches, and the occasional lazer hair removal session. Or I’ll go and choose to relax, to just sit. Or I’ll order a nice plum wine before it’s time to derobe. Because getting comfortable in these onsen waters is a process. Above all, the goal is to chill out and to not lose your locker key. Otherwise, it’ll be a long day. 

I Really Hate Loss

It could sound like i’m missing a person

immensely, excruciatingly

even for a moment

while i mourn a loss.

it could sound that way,

and really, maybe I really am.

I’ve just lost months of pictures,

maybe two or three months of raw footage

documenting those I most care about,

those I am saying goodbye too, if even for a while,

if even for a chapter.

i am so hurting to get it back.

Saturday my girl cried, caterwauled.

“Why does Maki have to move? She is my godmother.”

That alone could break your heart.

Our Maki left, sailed off Saturday

as my girl hurt, wanted to claw herself to Maki,

the woman she has been tied to since before being born.

Part of her is leaving and I don’t know how to say that I mourn the loss of those pictures we snapped

Friday night, the two them sitting close,

K hovering, pinning herself to Maki’s shirtsleeve,

distracted from the task of eating.

It was difficult, but taking the pictures, gave me a joy and an anchor.

“I will have these”, you know?

Those pictures, and the ones of them together, lighting Shabbat candles are gone gone.

The ones of Maki dancing and laughing and then crying, too.

Gone.

The joy of being in the room in the unveiling process of my Mom-and Dad-in-law’s new room

with our designers, turned friends, crying crying and cheering and jumping on the bed, well done.

Those are gone.

Shhhhwtttt. Paper ripping, torn up gone.

I’ve said good bye to friends almost everyday.

There is losing and missing and turning over new leaves

and old ones rotting away.

There were students in those months,

beautiful teaching still-lifes and ahas.

It was all beauty.

Irretrievable changes and milestones marked

with my own children.

A little while ago, I slammed a baby gate

and cried on the bath rug on my knees.

My moments in time

reflected, bathing in light

ready for my words— they are gone

and it seems all I have is some crappy tin, battery-less  flashlight.

I want my pictures back.

I want my girl’s godmother

I want my beauty, my words

ready.

I mean every shot is gone since August 11

and i just want to have them come flying back–

the sweet people and birdsong

the material

the momentum that gets me writing and praying and thanking G-d

the pure recording.

There were birthdays and my anniversary

and all that beauty inside a frame I can’t get back

and doesn’t that make anybody just want to wail

or sob or sniffle for just a little bit??

I mean, i am a very sensitive, highly nostalgic,

recorder and keeper of moments.

I BLOG, for goodness sake.

I want my time to mourn, if even a little.