Thursday, April 29, 2010

All...and nothing in a name

Yes my real name is Zen. Birth given.
I was going to be Zen whether I was a boy or a girl, my father says with some pride. He used to call us "People", no gender, not boy or girls. People. The other "us" are my brother Tao and sister Chi. All make sense now?
Tao means the WAY of life or the Path of life, Chi means the BREATH of life and Zen and life are so close in distinction that Zen is almost life itself.
Tao, Zen, Chi.

On top of that, those names were our middle names. No first names. On our birth certificate we all have an X where the first name should be. We were allowed to CHOSE our first names. Whatever we wanted. Our parents were obviously married in the 60's. Some people give me a knowing smile at this point... no, they were not pot heads..they were Dad was nearly 49 when his last, my sister was born. My Mom was 35. They were too busy with having kids, running a family summer cottage resort and being teachers to be entrenched in the late 60's and early 70's music and marijuana far as I know anyway.

So whenever we wanted, we all chose our own first names. We were aware that this was slightly peculiar, but from my perspective anyway, it was empowering. Exciting. Also a bit daunting. To invent oneself brings alot of questions to the table..
Who am I? Who do I want to be? How does my name represent me?
People looked shocked " WHAT? You get to pick your name?" The looked disgruntled, cheated, and then I tell them that anyone can pick their name, just go to the court house and change it. Then they wonder what they would change it to...

I thumbed through a dusty old book of names, and came across a french name
"Mignonne or Mignon" I had a distant cousin named Mignon. Didn't know her, but at least the name was validated by her. My father is French. I was tired of getting picked on by the blond 6th graders on the school bus for being half Chinese. The ching chong noses rang in my head like a church bell, ominous and foreboding.
I wanted something different, something French might remind them I am just as much Causcasian as I am Chinese...maybe...

The name meant petite or darling and I weighed about 70 pounds at the time. It fit.
I took it on. When I transitioned to "Jr. High" ,meaning 6th just so happened that the one African American person in the whole town, probably the whole county, was in my class and finally had his adoption papers go through and he now wanted to be called Adam instead of Clay. We formed a pact. You call me Mignon and I will call you Adam. The teachers announced it, we kicked it off, and soon, with weird looks and frustrated sighs, it eventually caught on.
Not without some taunting though, after letting it slip about the "petite and darling" meaning, one of the other blond eight graders taunted in a sing songy "Mignon, me darling, me dogshit".
Later in high school, it was " Filet Mignon" or a big "YAWWWWWN" as I walked by.
In college, at noisy New York City bars...the soft "M" and unpronounced "g" and "non" melted into the city noises and was simply " WHAT???"

On a trip to France I received snickers, out right laughter, and a "talking to" by several concerned adults. Mignon meant "cute" or more modernly " hot"...guys would check out woman walking by and say " Ahhhh, Elle est Mignonne." I was literally calling myself hot. And oh, it should be spell in the feminine version.

When I backpacked around Asia at 19...I don't remember if I told the fellow travelers that my name was Zen or Mignon. Hence, I didn't communicate and follow up, keeping in touch as often as I thought of it. I was beginning to confuse myself.
After a while I got tired of all the drama around my name.

When the current position holder version of Tim Gund at Parsons School of Design was reviewing my final fashion design project, he saw my middle name was Zen and asked me if I would like to be called that. I sighed and released a huge burden of "Filets", miscommunications and confusion and said strongly "YES."

People often ask me now if I am "Zen" and in my twenties I never said yes, I said, in a defeated tone " No not really...I have a temper." and would smile sheepishly. Later I became mildly Zen-like, saying simply " Sometimes. "
Now I am Zen, I own who I am... and yet I might not be...what you think zen is. Names don't really MEAN anything about us, except what we make them mean. Who were are is simply created every moment. We are nothing and everything. I am Zen if I chose to be.

And there are implications to a name. I know I have received job interviews because my name is Zen. I know my company name is catchy because it has Zen in it. I even successfully negotiated with a 5.9 billion dollar company over the right to use my name in my company and won. It matters.
I get that it is important to name your children something strong, something good, something that, if possible, stands out with grace.

When it came time to have children, however, I got the most important name to change was my last name. I wanted to be unified as a family. This would make a difference for them, for us to be Team Honeycutt. I debated however, as my maiden name is french, melliflous and royal. La Bossiere. I love it.
When I read on a chat board, a posting that said " I would rather have the last name of the man I choose than the name of the man my mother chose." That struck me.
Nothing wrong with who my mother chose, nothing wrong with his name, and however, nothing better about his name either. It's just a name. I do however choose my husband now. Today. I choose him and his name is Honeycutt.
So I am Zen L. Honeycutt ( kept the last name as a middle name to honor my family of origin and dropped the Mignon)
And none of it matters and yet it does. It's a choice. Thanks Mom and Dad for the choice. Thanks Todd, for choosing me back.

Zen L. Honeycutt

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Light at the End of the Tunnel

I am washing the dishes, thinking about this, thinking about that...when the image of an article in Mothering magazine comes to mind. It was a reader's response to an article called "And Baby makes Four". She was talking about how hard it is to transition to two children from one. The lack of attention one gets, the sleepless nights.
I've been there, I get her.
And then she writes " but I know there is light at the end of the tunnel."
I have felt that too. I am so grateful she shared.

And then I think again.
What is the light at the end of the tunnel?
What is the tunnel?
Is the light at the end of the tunnel when they move out?
Is the dark tunnel this thing called parenting?
I know it's all semantics, but I get suddenly, like a dam opening up in my heart, that the light is NOW.

"The light" is not a someday phenomena.
Having children IS the light. Even when they are screaming. Especially when they are screaming. Thank God they can. Thank God they can express and breathe and belt out what they want.
I got very present to NOW. I was moved to tears while doing the dishes.

Since then, I have listened a little longer, kissed more often, smelled their hair more and cuddled them until they squirm away.
I know that things are not always the way we would like them to be, that we can not meet every child's needs at every moment...but something shifted in my heart and consciousness when I got that even then, all is perfect. They are alive and they are light.
And as my Mom might say, so am I. So are you.

Zen Honeycutt

This is a photo of the morning Bronson was born, at home, in the water, and greeted by his brothers after they woke. Better than Christmas.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Attack!! of the Toddbot

This week has been OFF THE CHARTS! As a business person I have been creating more connections than ever, leading a networking event and having one of the best months ever for Zen's Purple Garden. As a parent I have been a chauffeur on steroids, 10-12 trips in a day, packing in the baby in the car seat like I shove my foot in a shoe. In and out, let's go, time to run off to the next place, over and over again, without thought many times. He's thinking "What the frick?? Again with the car seat?"
He screams until his face is red and yet I drive, annoyed, off to another class, bank or drop off. He must be soooooo mad. I try to explain, tell him where we are going, turn up Raffi and wait out his screams.

Thursday night however, I attend a parenting seminar at my eldest son's school. Scott Peebles speaks to us about "Off The Wall Parenting" and he invited us to be surprising, do some pretty wacky things. When the kid lays down in the store and throws a tantrum, get down there too and throw a bigger tantrum with him!!
What? Is this guy nuts? Hang on, does he even have kids? That makes a difference for me for some reason, but I never get the answer. I am guessing he doesn't because he doesn't mention them. My sitter later reminds me that he doesn't have to have kids to be great with kids. I begrudgingly agree.
(His point by the way is that kids don't care about your problems, they care about THEIR problems, and if you are embarrassing them, the have a problem!)

So today, in the car, Bronson starts to scream his head off in sheer protest. There is nothing really wrong. He just wanted to have the lip gloss I was putting on and I chose to not entrust him with a bottle of sticky goo. He protested with a scream that could burst yer eardrums. I thought of Scott's advice and I promptly began to scream a Halloween type mock scary scream. With some vigor. The baby look stunned and stopped cold. Silent. Bodee began to crack up. He laughed like a hyena and the look in his eyes, connected with me from the rear view mirror, was that of pure love. Man I love that kid. He just loves to laugh. (That's why he says "Butt" so much, people laugh!) Soon we are all laughing.

I got the pure joy of being a surprising parent. I was reminded of my son's 5th birthday a few weeks ago. I came home from picking up the balloons, cake and juice with about 30 minutes to spare to set up for the party. My husband was mid way in cutting into a huge cardboard box on the floor. I immediately jumped all over him, questioning him What he was doing, didn't he know we need to get the cooler cleaned out and the kids dressed and we have 20 things that still need to get done??? My head is telling me that I need to do EVERYTHING!!!! ARRRGGGH!
I get now that my husband was single focused, as all good hunter men are, on the most important thing....
Our kids having fun at the Halloween Birthday party. He was being surprising and fun and making a robot costume. I was making him wrong. What a turkey!

I am sorry Todd for making you wrong so many times. This is my public apology. You are the coolest, funnest Toddbot ever.
Twenty different circumstances also pop brother tying my sleeping sisters big toe to the top of the underside of the bunk...I though how cruel!!!!
My Dad surprising us by taking us to the movies and insisting on packing home popped pop corn in huge, embarrassing bread bags and hiding them under our jackets.
I get now that you were just committed to having FUN... in your own ways. Might have to be another blog to get the full scope of how much I have made you wrong in life. But really, I really get how dedicated and cool and FUN the male species is.
And from that I now get to chose freedom and not make myself or you wrong.
Just be surprising!
I love you guys.

Zen Honeycutt

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A New Mommy in Town

It's a sunny spring break day and I am at the community pool with my three boys. Bronson is babbling and waddling around the kiddie pool a few feet away. I am standing by the edge in my purple bikini ( pretty proud of that:), and I glance over to find Ben and Bodee, 7 and 5, both decent swimmers, but still sequestered to the below 3 1/2 foot area.

One Mommy, one set of eyes, and three boys.
I find them, take a long drink from my Klean Kanteen, and then glance back at Bronson.
At first my mind does not compute what I am seeing. Bronson is face down in the water, silently moving his legs and arms about, the water swirls around him. There is no sound.He is so quiet. My brain finally connects what's happening and I rush to him and pull him out of the water. He coughs and burps. No water comes up, but he is clearly gasping for air.
I hold him, wipe the water off his face, and inspect his face and body as if I could read somehow that he is ok.I am stunned by how silent it all was. A mom stands two feet away with her back to us, combing her hair.
She turns around, I tell her what happened, wondering if there is anything I should be doing. She is surprised, but gave me the "been there done that" speech.

The incident, and my reaction of momentarily freezing, sparks my little voice to comment that I am crazy to bring all three to the pool by myself, what was I thinking? and Why did I freeze? What kind of a mother freezes?
Then I get that that little voice is just trying to protect me...make me so wrong and bad that I will just stay at home with my boys,watch TV and be safe.

I shake it off, go to the big pool, keeping a close eye on Bronson's breathing, which is fine, and join my big boys. They play, it's fun.
Then suddenly Bodee is screeching, sputtering and acting like he nearly drowned.
"What happened?" I ask
"I was walking to get Ben(in the pool)and then I shrank!" he cries dramatically.
It's the end of the world! Bodee shrank! I catch myself from laughing because this is obviously very serious to him.
I explain to him that he didn't shrink, the pool gets deeper the further you go into it.
He doesn't care and wails at the top of his lungs. The same mother that was brushing her hair before sees the drama, nods a knowing nod and says "It's time for Mommy to go home."
I get the she is empathizing. The old me would have gotten frustrated with Bodee, angry with myself for having two near drowning incidents within ten minutes, and would have tersely packed up and ushered a pack of wailing boys home. Enough is enough I would think. This overwhelmed Mother can't handle one more accident.

This time however, I am just present to how much fun we are having at the pool. Yes, stuff happens. It doesn't mean anything about me as a mother. In fact I am on the pool stairs, one foot from Bronson and he falls over again, face down. I pick him up, he doesn't cry, and in a second we are bouncing and splashing about.
This is a new Mommy in town.
This one doesn't pack up and shout and go home when something goes wrong.
This one stays and plays.
Thank you very much.

Zen Honeycutt

I am reminded that I am doing this with my business now, yes the economy is down, I am, however, Stayin and Playin!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Ode to California

I Live Where….

I live where the seasons sing in songs of sun,
Glowing,encouraging ,
Searing white light,
Gentle, comforting,
And soft, furtive sun.

I live where the Eucalyptus kiss the sky,
Swaying with long tendrils of sophisticated leaves,
Trunks reveal ridiculous peach and lavender
beneath layers of delicate cool grey skin.

I live where the freeways and fences are draped with gentle jasmine,
Hypnotically intoxicating.
Where walls between dense apartment complexes are topped with
Fiercely fuscia Bougainville, screaming “Fiesta!”

I live where hummingbirds bob between Bottlebrush,
Lush pink balls of nectar and flirty fun.
Where fluorescent purple Jacaranda scatter their petals like confetti
On grateful sidewalks…giving morning dogwalkers and
moms with strollers a reason to wonder…What color, What beauty!

I live where the luscious ocean goes on forever,
Licking my feet in the soft millennial sand.
Smoothing the purple, spotted and green jade rocks,
Unleashing wave after wave after wave endlessly…

I live where the rolling hills of green velvet
turn into brown and yellow fodder for fires.
Where earthquakes roll through Easter brunch and we…
laugh and sit and sip our lemonade by the pool,
in the sublime sun and the shade of the palms.

Zen Honeycutt

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Where's My Bumper Sticker?

" Student of the Month at Blah Blah Elementary " used to make me roll my twenty something eyes...and when Hollywood actor parents were asked in interviews "What is your greatest accomplishment?" and they seriously said, "My children." I would get irritated to the point of hollering at the TV..."But they are not YOU!"
I would steam from the ears that these silly parents actually took all the credit for their kids accomplishments.
Yes, they had sex (as any animal can do), yes, they gave birth (which I hear is painful, but again, natural), and fed and clothed them as any decent human being would do...beyond that, I was sure as sugar and right as rain that those kids were their own accomplishments, responsible for themselves...not their parents shining glory.
It was downright annoying to see parents crowing about their kids. For Gods sake get a life and let your kids be who they are! I would think.

The funny thing is my parents pretty much did that. You would think, from my reaction, that I would have helicopter hovering parents, but I didn't. They were incredible. They let me go to the school of my dreams, a private boarding school for high school, an hour and a half away from home, called Choate Rosemary Hall. At 13 I was living away from home in a dorm like a college student in a school that looked like and prepped kids for, Yale. I was stunned by the freedom and responsibility I had gained all in a moment of "Yes, you can go".

I walked around the campus in awe of the whole idea, teenagers trusted and treated almost like adults, taught with insanely challenging methods and expected to perform at college levels. I was intensely curious about and slightly intimidated by, the other students that I likened to Rockefeller's and Kennedy's. I loved it, made my path and made good friends there. I knew it was a privilege for me to have received a scholarship and I was set on achieving. And I did.
My parents expected me to as well. They were proud of me, but they didn't send me gifts or money with every good grade. They didn't brag to their friends about my accomplishments. They expected me to do well and didn't take credit for it when I did. And they gave me freedom to choose.

Now, as I raise three boys and revel in their exploding personality developments...Ben is already a "Great Artist!" in his own words, and Bodee is a fierce competitor, Awesome at anything he does. Bronson is too young to be able to tell what he will excel at, but after three children, I get that he will find his passion. I see that, on one hand, as I parent, I am responsible for exposing my kids to different opportunities, to encourage them, guide them and be there for them when they give up hope on their dreams. The fortitude it takes, the patience, the commitment to be there and clean up when they are puking at 2am or drive them 6 places in a day or hold them when I would rather holler at them...all of that takes an inner strength that deserves acknowledgment. Parents have a very challenging job,albeit that they chose, and deserve kudos.

At the same time, on the other hand, who our kids end up being also can have nothing to do with us. They have their own worlds in their heads. They see things completely differently. They have their own lives, as Kahlil Gibran says...that we cannot visit, not even in our dreams...

Our children make their own choices every day, to do or not do the homework, to read or not read at school. To spit or not spit on the kid next to them. They choose all that. As a Mom I can say what I will, I can guide, threaten, cajole and plead..and try to reason til I am blue in the face....but when it comes down to it, it's all entirely their choice.

So I revel in their choices. I am fascinated by their gumption, interests and their accomplishments that have everything/nothing to do with me. And someday I will put the bumper sticker on the back of my car "Student of the Month", heck maybe I will even make one that says "My Kids Rock!" because they do. I enjoy them. They are their own bad selves and I celebrate them.

Zen Honeycutt

This photo was taken leaving a Moms Club Spring Picnic, filled with food, games, toys and sweets, and on the way to a birthday party, a perfect day for kids, so we declared it " Kids Day", celebrating Kids, and Bodee declared it "The Best Day Ever!"

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Women Freakin' Rock!

This blog is a shout out to Girlfriends. To Women. To Sisters and Moms.

Tonight was MY night to meet my dear, dear friend Sandi at the spa at the pool. I make sure to have a rock solid night once a month ( for a Mom that's pretty good, I know for you single ladies that is dreadful) where we get together for tea or a soak in the jacuzzi. This time she surprised me. She brought my favorite Chamomile tea to the Jacuzzi and surprise! Blueberry muffins and a pink candle. She lit it and with gracious love, sang Happy Birthday to me and gave me a big smacking kiss on the cheek.
The fact that this busy women made the time to bring gluten free muffins, and take time out from therapy with her special needs child, just moved me.
I had tears in my eyes as I made a secret wish for really good things to happen and realized that this wonderful, loving and beautiful girlfriend of mine gave me my bonus birthday wish this year.

See, my birthday on Tuesday was exactly as I asked for, I told my husband that I wanted Chinese take out for dinner, to open my presents at home, and then go to Yogurtland for tasty frozen yogurt topped with delicious fruity and candy toppings. He gave me exactly what I asked for, plus flowers, and a beautiful necklace, He was my Birthday Hero. His efforts showed the boys that birthdays are fun and that celebrating each other is important. He gave me a happy birthday and it was perfect.

What I didn't even realize until I saw Sandi whip out a lighter and lite the candle, was that now I was going to be able to make my Birthday wish.

That's what girlfriends and sisters and Moms do I realized, they do what our men don't do even when what our men do is PERFECT. Women do things that are just different from men. We finish each other's sentences, we agree with each other and validate every single feeling we ever had, we cry with each other just because and we listen and listen and listen. And oh yeah, talk.

So tonight I give a shout out to Arikka, my first friend, since nursery school, who sang at the top of her lungs with me, Whitney Houston's "We are the Children" in the rain in a canoe in my childhood pond, and let me be free to be me.

I give a shout out to Melanie, my roommate from Brooklyn, who taught me how to dance to "Bonita Applebum" in boarding high school and gave this half white girl some moves and confidence away from home.

I give a shout out to Teresa, my NYC big sista. To Plana who got me Out, after three weeks of holing up from a break up and swearing off men, to go out swing dancing at Mid Summer Night Swing in NYC...where I met my husband.

I give a shout out to Gigi for inspiring me to GO! travel and to Cathy for inspiring me to be a stay at home Mom. And to Christine and Julie for enabling me to be a more peaceful Mom.

I give a shout out to Jennifer, Anisa, Maki and my sister Chi and my Mom...who all love me and listen to me and see me only as the best Mom and wife a woman could be. Who "get me" to me very core and let me fall apart, blubber and sigh...knowing full well that I will pick myself up again, but not in that moment....and it's ok.

I honor women for all the grace, love and compassion that we naturally embody. I am so thrilled to be one of allow myself to be soft,to cry when I am moved and to love pink. Thank you for being a girlfriend to somebody, whomever you are, you contribute more than can be expressed in words.

Zen Honeycutt

This picture is an older picture, but of a very happy girly time when both my sister and I were pregnant. Look how happy my Mom is! Isn't she adorable?