MY POEMS IN DOWN IN THE DIRT

I’m super excited to have four of my earlier poems in Down in the Dirt, an excellent lit journal, also publishing previously published works.

Interestingly, I was first notified they’d accepted two, but then I sent a follow up letter with two additional poems saying although I know they don’t want the rhyme in their magazine, I’ll take my chances, knowing that the one that rhymes here and there is a good one, and assuring them that when I use it, though rarely, I do it for a good reason, never for the sake of the rhyme itself.

So, persistence pays off.

You can read my poems here, here, here and here.

JOURNAL OF A MOM – RESTLESS HEARTED

In my previous post about my son B, I talked about our bad sides: having a short fuse, chronic impatience, stubbornness and ways of dealing with frustration. Now comes the good part. Maybe. You be the judge.

There are things the two of us absolutely adore and habitually put into practice, whenever.

We love puppies and often play with them. Though we don’t have one of our own, we’ll always find a victim in the street or parks we go to. Dogs over cats, of course! (Sorry cat lovers), whether they lick us, bark, howl, snarl or wag their fluffy tails.

We find Chopin soothing. There’s no better music to lull you to sleep, except in the evening when ‘Goodnight to you, goodnight to me’ will just do.

We are crazy about sand, and water. Leave us there and get lost. Don’t come back.

Our favorite pastime in the playground, besides playing in the sandpit, is the slide, and the swing (swinging at least 40 min till we fall asleep). While there, we might steal other kids’ toys (especially dumping cars, balls or sand toys) and flee the scene of a crime without being noticed and/or getting caught.

We have a soft spot for clocks and every time we see one, we’ll make sure everyone sees it by pointing it out and saying ‘clo…’ (k’s are so outdated anyway). Yes, we love pointing. Sue us! This includes planes and choppers, screaming aka aka, as well as trains. We’re completely nuts about trains (and elevators, riding up and down and pressing call buttons,…and cranes…and buses…and trucks, especially garbage ones. We’ve even been offered a position in solid waste management). FTR, we know all subway stations in the neighborhood and can unmistakably go to the nearest one from home (willingly) and back (reluctantly).

Our favorite places in the apartment are kitchen (foodies is right) and bathroom (loooove bubble baths, both alone or with mom or dad).

We love the sound of the rain on our bedroom window and could watch and listen to it for hours on end while mom sings: ‘Rain rain, go away.’

We enjoy brushing teeth together, swaying and singing: ‘Brush your teeth up and down,’ as well as toy theater with mom as the only/best actress.

 

When it comes to more abstract things, we’d say we value independence and unconventionality.

We go with the flow of life and are comfortable with ourselves.

We don’t profess to be free-spirited. We ARE free-spirited (and fun-loving, however impulsive).

restless.PNG

We like things our way and are fiercely unapologetic, as people often describe us.

We are not restricted by other people’s opinions and always have one of our own.

We’re allergic to bullshit. We have to speak our mind, one way or the other. It’s not that we don’t want to, we are simply not able to hold our tongue if we find something unappealing, untrue, stupid or boring (read: not in accordance with our standards). So we say directly what we think, that is, mommy does, while I (until I begin to say it loud and clear) will slap your face, pull your hair, take your toys, slam the doors, cry, scream at the top of my lungs, run around, run away, roll on the floor/ground, make a scene, stomp my feet, throw things around or break them down.

We don’t (can’t) pretend and are not trying to be mysterious. You see how we feel on our faces. Remember Meg Ryan in French Kiss? Happy, smile! Sad, frown! Use the corresponding face with the corresponding emotion!

When we don’t feel like doing something, however much we like it, we don’t do it. It’s ok not to be in the mood. Did we say we’re moody?

When we have nothing smart to say, we don’t say anything. We’ll start talking…one day. Don’t push us. We love doing things at our own pace.

Don’t underestimate us. We can do it and we will. In case we don’t or can’t, you will. Don’t overestimate us. This is stupid anyway. Besides, it’s your job. No objections, please.

OK, OK, we’ll say it. We are dominant and oftentimes order people around. That is, most of the time….OK, all the time. Jesus, didn’t we say not to push us?!

Don’t try to contradict us. We’re right. All. The. Time.

Last but not least, NO means NO. We won’t change our mind. If we ever do, it’ll be on a full stomach. Our demands are nonnegotiable. Period.

ODE TO WISDOM, Waltz No. 2

Remember our last chat? Dentists, last molars, wisdom. Does it ring a bell? In case you’re interested, I had my wisdom tooth examined, in the meantime. The pain has subsided somewhat, though I still feel minor irritation which I’ve been told can be relieved by rinsing with warm salt water (1/2 teaspoon of salt in 200 grams of water (7 ounces )). However, having medical doctors as parents has obviously marked me for life so I just prefer good old over-the-counter pain meds to alternative medicine. Anyway, we leave my tooth for now (does it mean I’ll be wiser?) and if it keeps causing lots of pain, gets infected or interferes with nearby teeth, the usual treatment is no treatment. We basically take it out. Please note that I have to be in great pain. If not, we don’t have a deal.

Now, the million dollar question was: Does age equal wisdom?

When I was younger, I looked up to the elderly. Like all youths, I was often at odds with my parents in my teens and since they were not what I’d call my real role models, my grandparents, uncles, and some teachers certainly were. Back then, I thought that when I came of age, I would, like all adults, magically know all the answers to life and that everything would suddenly start making sense. What a worrying and sad realization when it didn’t. Naturally, I didn’t automatically learn how to handle problems and conflicts nor was there a moment of clarity where everything turned intelligible. Although I had a few tricks up my sleeve, truth be told, I wished I had more.

stupid.PNG

During a Pentagon news briefing in 2002, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld talked about the lack of evidence linking the government of Iraq with the supply of weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups. So let’s put aside my subjectivity and what I really think about the guy and concentrate on what he stated on this occasion:

‘As we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.’ I would add that this could be applied to both our professional and personal life. The only thing I know for sure is that I really know nothing.

I watch my son grow, I teach him, he learns but the real question is: Who is the teacher here? I like to think I don’t teach him but, as Einstein put it nicely, provide the conditions in which he can learn. While he learns understanding of concepts, all the activities he engages in, whether self-motivated or not, whether goal-oriented or not, are done with sheer pleasure and enjoyment. At this age level, even when he uses gestures such as pointing rather than naming things, his language is clear and comprehensible. By contrast, adults frequently fail to deliver an accurate message and are unable to express opinions precisely or verbalize real feelings. Additionally, while we enable children to be more active participants in life, we often turn into passive observers ourselves. It seems we still have a lot to learn. Sometimes I feel I know so little, despite formal and continuing education and the books read. I know for sure I should have more money coming in than going out and that I shouldn’t wear flip-flops and tank tops showing my cleavage and belly to a job interview and that’s about it. So many known unknowns, and God knows how many unknown unknowns there are.

Now, back to folks in later life. I mean later. Over 70 (i.e. septuagenarians, octogenarians, and nonagenarians and centenarians if they are still around). Science has proven that older people develop greater insight and are less likely to be hot-headed although their brain slows down with age (source: Daily Mail). According to a study, as opposed to young people’s brain which is driven by the chemicals fueling emotion and impulse, the aging brain is less dopamine-dependent. Therefore, slower responses of the elderly result in thoughtfulness and wiser judgments.

Since I hate generalizations, I’d say some of them because others are equally stubborn at a late age and not so perceptive as expected. Negative feelings and relationships, when nourished for a long time, harden our hearts, which is why some people continue holding a grudge or engaging in fiery quarrels till death do them part. Yes, the gray-haired might too pull a boner as if their experience hasn’t taught them a thing.

The point I’m trying to make is that we can’t and shouldn’t discredit someone just because they’re young but we cannot call them wise either. Their understanding of the world simply shows a different level of understanding. The bottom line is we can grasp some things only at a certain age. Wisdom comes (should come) in the maturity of old age when the immense experience and knowledge acquired throughout life leads (mostly…hm…sometimes) to good judgment. I’d like to think positively for once in my life and this is the most positive you’ll get from me. I retain the right to remain skeptical though.

I believe that people of different age groups could and should learn from one another. I am constantly learning from both my two-year old son, things I’ve forgotten or haven’t known I possess, and the elderly, things I have yet to learn. I need both in my life. Maybe that’s why I have friends from different walks of life and of different age groups. Without them I am like asentencewithoutspaces.

ODE TO WISDOM, Waltz No. 1

Toothaches. Painful, unpleasant, boring, irritating toothaches. Over the course of my life, I’ve changed dozens of dentists, all of whom were pretty moody, now that I think of it. Imagine looking down in people’s mouth all day long. Who wouldn’t be? My teeth have seen many a dentist maturing, getting divorced, sending their kids to college, marrying them, becoming grandparents, growing old, retiring and all they could say to the departing ones was: ‘Fill me in when you get back.’ I brush, floss, have my teeth checked and cleaned on a regular basis but it’s no use. I’ve had it all: dental infection, cavity, gum disease, braces, plaque, cracked teeth, poorly placed fillings, loss of a tooth, tooth extraction and, last but not least, a crown, though I need to have it replaced. I surely know what’s it like to be a queen. The only thing I haven’t had is tooth problems during pregnancy, which left me wondering to this day why the hell not. Due to fluctuating hormone levels, pregnant women are prone to gingivitis and tooth decay. Naturally, I got a bit paranoid and had my teeth checked more often than I usually do only to be told everything seemed to be in perfect order. Given my dental history, I would greet such statements with great dismay each and every time.

Anyhow, I’ve been having a toothache for a few weeks now. It’s the irksome wisdom tooth again. The gum in the back of my mouth is swollen and I have difficulty opening my jaw. I can’t even eat properly since I’m in pain when chewing and biting. But, don’t you worry about me. I’m a tough cookie. As for my tooth, same old, same old. The condition is probably (not) critical but, whatever the case, I’m not expecting it to pull through.

 

Let us sneak a peek at my next follow-up appointment with the dentist seasoned with a likely resolution of the crisis:

Dentist: I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news. You need to leave.

Wisdom Tooth: Why?

Dentist: I’m not quite sure why you’re there in the first place. There’s no way to say this nicely. You’re good-for-nothing, an unnecessary evil.

Wisdom Tooth: (sobbing) I used to be wanted and loved once, you know. You wouldn’t have survived if it hadn’t been for me. My three best friends and me were lifesavers.

Dentist: That’s only an assumption. Our great great great great great-grandfathers used to eat difficult-to-chew food and were rather susceptible to tooth decay.

Wisdom Tooth: I did learn the importance of oral hygiene in the meantime. I brush myself every day.

Dentist: I bet you do. If we ignore our teeth, they might go away. However, this has nothing to do with To brush or not to brush. You can prevent cavities by brushing and flossing, which isn’t the case here. You got run over by evolution. You’re not contributing much, not any more. There’s no longer enough room in the jaw to accommodate you.

Wisdom Tooth: I’ve been trying to move into a new position but it doesn’t work.

Dentist: Of course it doesn’t. Other teeth are in the way.

Wisdom Tooth: I’m having an identity crisis here. I don’t know who I am any more.

Dentist: Listen, you’re bad. You have to go. It’s nothing personal. It’s something we have to do, like putting the toilet down. You may know history, but I know dentistry. I’m telling you, it has pretty advanced.

Wisdom Tooth: A dentist always gets to the root of the problem.

Dentist: Don’t get smart with me.

Wisdom Tooth: Will I get to see the tooth fairy?

Dentist: I don’t know. The money she leaves is pathetic anyway.

Wisdom Tooth: Can I at least have a hug?

Dentist: No! No offense.

Wisdom Tooth: None taken. I get the point. When you gotta leave, you gotta leave.

WISDOM.JPG

 

I honestly thought I’ve got rid of all four by now. Just when your least expect it, the third molars strike back. As far as I recall from my biology classes, the bastards usually appear in our late teens, that is early twenties, which is basically the whole point of having such a weird name, since their eruption coincides with entering adulthood. This is depressing. It means I could practically be a mom to this wisdom tooth so why the heck is it coming in so late?

Now, what is the point of my talking about my wisdom teeth? It’s to try to answer a question that has been going through my head for some time: Do we get wiser with age?

Being almost 41, I don’t consider myself old. 40s are the new 20s (thanks George), which makes 50s the new 30s (right, Tom?) But then again, I’m ancient for the jerks to be bugging me now. So, I’m not old, yet a peer called me wise recently, which isn’t really like being told you’re intelligent or well-read. Wisdom comes with age and consequently experience, as we become more educated, knowledgeable, accomplished, adept, rational, pondering, even cautious, if you will. Proper education is important, but we shouldn’t neglect the lessons one receives through informal education obtained by learning from one’s experiences, both good and bad, rather than a formal educational institution. Quite a few people didn’t have papers marked 100 and tacked to the wall or A’s on report cards; some might not have made it past grade school, but still they could have learned more from the school of life than some of our professors. Their shrewdness, sharp-wittedness, and farsightedness coming with age is what makes them wise.

In a nutshell, I wouldn’t call myself wise yet since I’m not old enough to meet the criterion. On the other hand, when compared to an 18-year old, I am definitely more experienced. I’m not sure about being wiser though. Does it mean that my tips have more weight than those of a person half my age or not really?

Are we supposed to measure wisdom with the scale of age and why do we give age so much credit? I’d like you to think it over and I’ll meet you same place to discuss more. Soon (I promise).