When the spirit catches you....

I was up at 5:00 A.M. making coffee cakes for clinic staff. Hubby called me at 10:30 to tell me that I might like to know he gave the coffee cakes to a homeless family that came in. I know I should feel happy that they went to someone who really needs it. Instead, I feel sad and embarrassed for our riches. I stopped short of raiding our pantry and driving around Winona flinging out food because I know we do as much as we can and in some cases more. But it seems like no matter how much you do there is more to do and there is the rub. Staring at our tree and looking at the excitement on my little babe's faces lifts my spirits some. I want to hug them close and pray that they will never have to be on the receiving end of their daddy's morning exchange. I pray that they have his spirit and mine and perhaps even a touch of my melancholy. At least then we'll know the giving will continue and someday, somewhere another coffee cake will find a home.

Christmas Miracles

I don't have to leave the house. I see them everywhere!

Properly installed plumbing!
Oh heck- plumbing in general. We know we have it good.
Children creating and executing games together without fighting. Added bonus--not one screen was involved.
Meatballs. Crazy, right? But when all else fails, this is what I can make and everyone isn't just fed but happy! Again, who are we kidding? Like I should care when it's enough that bellies are full, but you know moms. We're a crazy lot, and we just have to make sure the brood isn't only cared for but satisfied.
Butter. It might not be a true miracle, but if you have ever dared to make a cookie worth it's salt (butter), you will know it is not really a cookie. So I am enjoying the pounds of butter that have flown through my hands to create the cookies I am sharing this season.
My common sense. I have forsaken cleaning in favor of baking to get to the spirit of giving this season. See above.
Snow tires. The untimely visit to a snow-laden ditch en route to a medical emergency in the midst of storm number 3 or 4 (I've lost track) finally inspired the purchase of said tires. They are amazing. They keep the car on the road and this seems miraculous.
More common sense. I know we are lucky beyond belief. In this crazy world, we are blessed with a warm home and all the things we truly need and a heap of extras. So I look outward, beyond this little space, and wonder if I can help someone make their own little Christmas miracles happen. I think I can. Can you?

Timing Schmiming

Who says we don't know when to strike when the iron is hot? Or really cold. Of course it makes sense to install windows in the winter. There's that tax write-off that's set to expire on December 31st and seemed much farther away on November 1st. We're Minnesotan's for cripes sake. We're hardy--never mind those record breaking snowfalls! Your contractors come equipped with snowblowers and they blow out circles and paths around your house so now you have just saved yourself time trying to find a place for the dog to pee. Two birds. One stone.

Oh...and parties? We know the best time to have those, too. Have one while aforementioned windows are installed, but the trim is off so that you can let everyone see that you aren't much for details anyway. This sets the tone and keeps expectations low. Go ahead even when that pesky pipe above the garage breaks 2 hours before expected the party is supposed to start, listen to children whine and husband cuss, and let the dog skitter around as if rabid due to all the turmoil. Now that is time for a party if I ever saw one. Keep baking during all of this because what else is there to do? The electricity is still working after all. Oh, but first locate a
plumber with emergency service offered, call, and have him ask you this after you've explained the timing of the dilemma, " You want I should come out now?"

Oh well. So maybe our timing is off, but don't they say there is no time like the present?



From the mouths of babes

Mom and Ben:

"Why aren't there any presents for us under the tree?"


"Because you are always around. I haven't had time to wrap when you aren't here. I work when you are at school."

"Well, maybe you should cut your hours."

Mom and Lucy discussing the fact that we don't whine.

"Hey, girl! This is Minnesota. We are a stoic people. Life's foibles don't creep into our voices-especially in the form of a whine."

Big pause.

"Mom, I was born in Wisconsin."

Mitten Season

I will perish from this earth shouting, "Stuff them! Stuff them in the sleeves of your coat! Don't lose your mittens!" Ugh....it's winter. Double ugh...it's mitten season. Three weeks of true mitten weather has found me at most major retail stores looking for cheap yet warm mittens. I've scoured the Salvation Army and other second hand stores looking for suitable inevitable replacements. Organized, well-mannered people teach their kids who apparently listen on the keys to success in keeping the same pair of mittens all season long. Maybe it's a clip attached to the coat, but this disappears in grade school. Usually it's the stuff-it method as I was taught, and who knows what else is out there? My daughter suggests magnets, but this idea doesn't seem fully developed. As the temperature plumets while my blood pressure rises in the attempt to keep those hands warm, I wonder-- why do I get so keyed up over this? Is it the money lost? Is it the time and angst caused in getting out the door? Because the hold-up is always, always, ALWAYS the mittens or gloves. Where is the other one? This pair is wet! These finger parts are scrunched up! These don't keep my hands warm! Please, dear reader, don't write and tell me that Land's End has great mittens because I KNOW. But one great mitten, no matter from where it hails, is not all that great.

Lonely mitten, let me introduce you to lonely sock. Perhaps...you have finally met your match.

Scout is it!

I loved reading To Kill a Mockingbird. I loved Atticus Finch and I loved Scout and I loved Calpurnia and I loved that tired old town and I wanted to be there living those adventures as the keenly observant Scout did with Dill to blame and Jem to shout at and Atticus to complain (without success) to. I shake my head at Lisa the seventh grader. I did not know that what I was reading then was a such a fine illustration of social mores and injustice and defined roles in our world. I didn't know then that there will never be as many Atticus's in the world as there should be. I only knew that a book could take me to a place in such a direct and unassuming way and make me want to stay. Later I taught To Kill a Mockingbird and watched hipper kids than myself get drawn in and tonight, I get to talk to adults who have only just read this book for the first time. I hope I don't cry. That's how strongly I feel about this book. It's the first introduction I had to thinking about life in someone else's skin. It's the first introduction I had to a world that does not treat everyone fairly and it's a lesson I have never ever forgotten. Who am I kidding? I will cry... but it's all good. I love that about books.

Sleep, babies, sleep.

I get it. I've gotten it for awhile, but this morning at 5:00 a.m. as I was creeping past their bedrooms to get some alone time, I peeked in at each little one and my heart just lurched and squeezed and stopped and thumped all at once. Those babies, my babies, aren't really babies any more. Sometimes their bodies are unfamiliar to me. How can that be? Two kids with legs that are longer than mine, the girl who is, umm...developing, and the boy who seems to grow in his sleep. They seem like imposters--someone has stolen my babies! But....the trick is this: you must sneak in late at night or early in the morning to be reminded. Sleep softens the blow and takes you back to the way they clutched their stuffy or thumbed their blankie and curled their mouth just so since their beginning. I can't stop the clock or turn back time, but sleep lets me revisit who they once were. It helps a bit. But daybreak always comes and with it, the challenge of becoming familiar with these new little people, my babies.

Thanksgiving

It's time to count our blessings. The pilgrims had it right when they decided after all the blood, sweat, and tears that they must take the time to pause. To celebrate. To give thanks for this new world that they worked so hard in creating. To feast upon the fruits of their labor- a feast so plentiful as to mirror the enormity of their gratefulness. I wonder what they would think of this new world now? Would they shake their heads in wonder, disgust, bewilderment, bemusement, or just plain shock at what they had started evolved into what we are today? I don't know. I think they just might jump for joy when they spotted duct tape. Just think of the problems that could have solved back then! Oh, sure, this technology has made many of us fatter and maybe even dumber necessitating that perhaps we hold back a bit on the feasting part. But really...they could not have even dreamt that we, bright and caring and perserverent Americans would create medicines to prevent and cure illness, roads easily travelled everywhere, and planes to take you to far away lands ( California) in less than 3 hours. This same America allows for Sarah Palin and Lady Gaga to coexist. Will wonders never cease? But this Thanksgiving, when it's hard to take in the enormity of what we have become, I like to look closer to my own home. And aside from those truly miraculous blessings of family and health, here are a few things I don't take lightly:

1. Coffee
2. Mr. Clean Magic Erasers
3. Modern Family
4. Colors and paper
5. The family table
6. Firewood

The list could go on, but it will be more fun for you to make yours.

Boomer, the traitor dog.

Granny is still on my mind. In her casket we included a bag of circus peanuts (she ate them until the end), a cross-stiched picture of a sheep, and a picture of her beloved Boomer. Boomer is a miniature dashchund that came into her life about a year before Grandpa died. Grandpa must have known his time was coming--he didn't want Grandma alone so he had my little brother search for a little dog for little grandma. Enter Boomer. Small he is, but he has an imperious gaze and rules whatever roost he lays claim to. He can make monster dogs quake...or at least retreat with their tail between their legs. At any rate, Boomer was Grandma's constant companion until she entered an assisted living facility and her heart broke to not have him near. Boomer went to live with my mom and that's when he broke her heart twice. Grandma was a good sport about it. Mom often brought Boomer in for visits but after suffering through the obligatory petting, he would hop off baby grandma's lap and sit by the door. Little snot. There he would wait patiently until mom left and baby Grandma shouted, "Good-bye little traitor dog. You'll be back."And he was. And they went through the same thing every time. But it delighted Grandma to no end just to see him. I know when Boomer passes he will get some more quality time with Baby Grandma. It will be when my mom passes that things will get really interesting....

Granny is gone.

My Grandma Gray passed away this past weekend at the ripe old age of 96. She lived a long, productive, lucky life. In her 96 years she lost her spouse only afer 68 years of marriage. She raised 4 children, watched 6 of 8 grandchildren marry, and enjoyed 9 great-grandchildren. She survived the Great Depression, welcomed a son home from Vietnam, and changed her long-held Republican status after the second term of George W. Bush. This she did at age 88. She was stoic and soft-hearted at the same time. She nursed baby kittens and lambs with such gentle care while chasing unruly boys with a wash stick. I don't feel sad, exactly. It's more like I am taking mental notes. I am looking at all these people whose lives were touched by her (some more figuratively than others) and thinking that I hope she knows she did it right. She didn't do it perfectly or elegantly, but she did it right. How do I knows this? Because we all have stories to tell. And a life well-lived is full of good stories. Thanks, granny, for being such a central character in my story.

Don't try this at home.

Wigs are for people who have no hair, who don't like their hair, or simply want a different look. Imagine my surprise when I was able to accomplish two of the three while trying to trim a wig that didn't seem to look right. Oh yeah. The wig was on my head while I was trimming it. The pieces that fell were black and silver and a lovely brown.......and my hair dresser is in Paris for a week!

Vote, I say!

I found myself in a little tiff with a 20-something at the bookstore. He was claiming frustration with the political system and therefore will not vote. I replied, "You are too young to be jaded. You have to live through more than one president to have that right." Ok. Maybe that was harsh. Everyone is jaded, but I liken it too parenting. It's just hard, damn it, but we can't give up the fight. Cast your vote because there are people in this world who don't have that choice. Cast your vote because so many men and women fought for our right to do this. I always think of a time when I heard Dr. Maya Angelou speak. She was addressing young black men in particular when she said, " Your debt has been paid." Her point was that so many people fought so hard to get you the opportunities that you have today. Don't mess it up. Respect it and keep working for better. I know, I know, I know. People rant and rave and drink tea and coffee and call each other names, but in the end if people would just stop....they might be able to listen. The only way I feel I can be heard at this time is by my vote. Good families, good schools, good communities all function when everyone does their part. We all know what we can't do. But there is this one thing, small or large depending on your view, I can do. I will and I hope you will, too.

I can't find a pencil!

Really? I found 126 of them. Apparently they are under the couch, between chair cushions, stuck at the bottom of back packs, and hiding under rugs. I also found 12 erasers, 5 plastic sharpeners, 7 pairs of scissors, and 4 partially chewed rolls of tape. I assume the dog did the chewing, but in this house it could have been anyone. There is also one large green dragon head perched at the head of the table. Nobody seems to be missing him though I wish he would scram. I felt him watching me as I victoriously culled the house for missing school supplies that were exactly where everyone left them. The dragon dude needs a name, I need to examine why I have a life that involves a 4 foot dragon dude, and my kids do not need to ask me for pencils.

Yippeee!

Talking about books in front of 30 captive people may not seem like a good time for everyone, but it is for me. We had our fall Book Lover's Night at the store and I made my pitch for a few favorite titles (Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace, The Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore, and Lit by Mary Karr). I also quoted my husband who says this of my favorite genre, memoir, "Most of it is self-indulgent crap". This got big chuckles and a few nods of agreement, but I pressed on with my pitch for Mary Karr who is anything but self-indulgent. In the end there were whoops and claps and I can compare it to a runner's high without the sweat. Why it's so much fun, I can't tell you, but I like it!

Live your best life?

Yeah, the country has been Oprah-fied and there are some great things she does suggest. But the best-life message can be frustrating when there are bills to pay and doors to be fixed and bathrooms to be cleaned. The constant reminder to stay in the moment really just makes me want to float above it. Secretly, my best life is occuring in the hills of Tuscany with a glass of red wine and a big plate of pasta. Why am I not there?

Kaboom!

Do you ever go somewhere with the intentions of doing one thing and find yourself somehwhere completely different? Imagine my surprise when we stumbled upon someone seemingly made for my family at an art fair in Red Wing. I did get to look at art, but the highlight of our trip was this guy ( http://www.doktorkaboom.com/). He is responsible for more antics and messes than I care to recount in a 24 hour time period. Doktor Kaboom put on a one hour show of entertaining science experiments and I could see wheels turning in heads of all ages as I looked around the theatre. I am willing to bet there was a spike in garbage can sales late Saturday afternoon in Red Wing, MN. We poor Winonans had to wait until 8:00 a.m. on Sunday to blaze our trail. As grandma said, "No wonder school is boring." The pay off may not be visible now, but Halloween is around the corner.....

Just wondering...

if I could bottle up this sun and let it loose in March when we are hoping desperately for a weak spring smattering of light to lift our winter-heavy hearts?

Relax, Missy.

Recently, my book club read The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls and it's done wonders for my parenting. In this book, Ms. Walls describes some wild adventures her family embarks upon with an alcoholic father and a schizophrenic mother at the helm. It's not a "poor me" book at all, but more of a,"Hey, this happened. I mean, it did happen, right?" sort of book. The siblings were often left to dumpster diving for the next meal because her artistic mom was following some creative flow and her scheming dad couldn't be bothered with the day-to-day business of kids. In no way am I becoming an advocate for neglect, but my point is this: kids are amazingly resillient. In my brain's daily chatter about doing not enough, too much, right or wrong, I do think now," Well, Jeanette Walls made it out ok." Of course, Ms. Walls is not recommending this wild sort of parenting, and, in fact, has made a conscious choice not to be a parent herself (shocking, right?). But...I could lock myself in my bedroom for three days and sleep through field trips and piano lessons, and I am sure all would be fine. Oh, I might get a few knocks on the door. A few friends would probably stop by, and of course the husband would wonder about the ensuing mess and lack of warm meals. I would become furious that my plan to be left alone has failed miserably. By this point cereal boxes would rattle and computer games would be played, and it's likely no one would get hurt. So my mantra for this week is relax, missy. If my bar gets set a little lower occasionally, chances are it'll be fine.

Home Base

Our kitchen table is an office, a study carrell, a work bench, a science lab, a potting shed, a beauty parlor, a laundry basket, an art space, a meeting room, a confessional, a snack shack, a nursing station, a design center and can be easily converted into a dog house and spy fort. Depending on the hour, it might also appear to be a garbage can. Most recently it can bear witness to the creation of a dragon head out of PVC pipe and paper mache'. It has seen tea parties and dinner parties and birthday parties and ice cream tastings and cake disasters and game nights and book talks and cooking demonstrations and tense negotiations.
Daily (hourly), I grumble about the shuffling I do of all the stuff that is required of something that wears so many hats. Really? I think. I am moving a 4 foot dragon head so we can eat? I am vacuuming glitter so I can see my rug? I am picking up microscopic pieces of Legos so I can pay bills? There are people I know who have a place for everything and everything has it's place. Lucky them. Or maybe not. Life isn't as neat as all that. And really, I think, I wouldn't have it any other way if the way I have it is the way I have always wanted it in the first place.

Calling on experienced parents of boys

Well, we have officially entered the, "I don't want to go to school, school is stupid phase". It took two weeks to completely settle in. Combined with this, a pediatrian informed a friend that there is a very strong testosterone surge at age 7. This would explain the explosive entrances, the walks that are not strolls but a combination of wrestling and track and football all in one. Of course, I think my child is bright. I didn't read the entire nonfiction of the children's library to him for nothing. But, of course, he hates practicing reading. A few days ago he did not bring home his homework folder. We went back to school to retrieve it. In front of the teacher, he emphatically explained, "These readers are boring and stupid!" Calmly, in the manner that only a 20 -something with no children
and hoards of time on her hands can get away with she said, " Well, we all have to do things we don't want to do." She didn't think I'd already used that line? Oh well.
My heart breaks and my frustration rises at the same time. This kid with a creative brain and body growing so much faster than I can write is in turmoil and I want to be gentle, but I also want to just scream. Do it! Tow the line, and buck up! My daughter waltzes through school- she's just not bothered by all the "do this and do that" orders of the day. Her interpretation of school is that there are rules and his interpretation is that everyone is bossing him around. She has her faults for sure, but she takes everything in stride. And my son bucks it all every step of the way with his tender ego just hoping someone will light his fire and call him out as special.
This can be all too much when the socks just have to go on and the coat just needs to be zipped. Is this boy? Or just my boy? A little of both, I am sure. He is special, after all.

You can get what where?

Did you know http://www.growafrog.com/ existed? I did not. But when a friend of mine asked if someone in my family might like an African water frog who was raised from a tadpole ordered from this place, I soon discovered that you truly can find joy on the internet. Since nothing could be more ill-mannered than our dog or a grumpy first-grader, a frog doesn't seem likely to cause much of a stir. Needless to say, the seven year old is THRILLED and monitors those who watch him closely. Proclaiming, "He's mine!" means you have spent too much time in front of the tank. It's an odd little webbed-footed friend who's major selling points included the price- free- and was an amphibian thus high on the list of things desired by a seven year old boy. Surprisingly agile, Bullseye's life expectancy is 35 years but we all know we dropped that by 10 when he crossed our doorstep. The anticipation in the acquisition of this frog was so high it was nearly unbearable, but the minute our Knopp Valley elves pulled into our driveway and revealed the bucket transporting our new friend all was right in the universe. When he was released into the tank...it was Christmas and birthday all rolled into one. I am sure that Grow-a-Frog could never have anticipated the joy they would create. Or maybe they did, and I need to stop bashing my own dreams. Truly, anything is possible.

Tiny tale

Ben has quite an imagination and it can prevent him from sleep. He woke up at 2:00 a.m asking for me. I went in and he started complaining about some creatures invading his safety shield and then after a pause he asked, " How long is this night gonna be?"

Whose idea was this?

I often see families out and about looking just like advertisements for travel brochures-everyone bicyling happily or walking along the lake with smiles and laughter. Just like a pre-teen looking at her first Seventeen magazine, I'd think, "Why can't this be me?" It always seems like any outing no matter how small becomes a big production of dramatic "I don't want to go" or "Do we have to?" protests. In less than sixty seconds you become your own mother clenching her teeth chirping unconvincingly, "You will come and you will have fun!" Once out and about someone forgets their water bottle (I look back and think that I must have spent my childhood dehydrated because I do not recall the obsession with water bottles when I was a kid-is that what was wrong with me all those years?), someone has to pee miles from a bathroom, someone is being attacked by flies, someone wisely becomes pokey or incredibly efficient to remove themselves from the bad group karma (him), and someone glumly trudges along wondering when she will learn that most of her great family friendly ideas are bad (her). What saves everyone is some lame attempts at humor which eventually become real enough that people forget when the mood turned and it no longer seems like the project that it was. "Can we do that again?" requests are met with silence. Then you slowly nod your head because of course, you will forget all the bad parts and you will do it again and it will likely be your idea.

In the parent hood

It's the last day of our grueling school week (only 3 actual class days) and people (my kids) are CRABBY. Oh, they like it well enough. However, the only comment Ben could muster about his first three days was this, "My teacher has smoov (smoothe) hair."

We've been lazy--sleeping in until 6:45 all summer and that 6:15 wake up call that is currently still exciting has already shown signs of fading when I prompted Ben awake and he rolled over muttering, " I don't fink so."

My days are quick. Polite people enter the book store and look at me kindly and show appreciation for any help I can give them. I am giddy with this thing that almost feels like affection. I switch gears at 2:30 and prepare for the onslaught of what I like to term "soft abuse"--whining, indignant requests for this and denials for doing that. Ben attacks me with hugs- he can't tone it down--he's been reigning it in all day. I am a sponge for all that pent-up angst.

Despite the drama, I see that perhaps even if I never publish a book or teach a class again, I have done something-- I have kids who light up when they see me. Besides a spa week in Hawaii, what more could I want?

From bones to bells

In one day, I experienced two firsts. I took my eldest to get her first cast on a fractured wrist due to an adventure down on the farm in Iowa. More than anything, the COLOR of the cast seemed to dominate the visit. Growth plates, be damned! What color will this cast be? Try as I might, I couldn't get the doc to crack a smile (no, it wasn't her dad) and I aborted the mission after my third attempt. I did see the student suppress a grin as though he wasn't sure he should or not. The child was nonplussed and thoroughly elated with her electric pink accessory and is desperately seeking Sharpies.

I ended my day with a 12 minues Fat Blast using kettle bells. There is a lot wrong with that sentence. If I could blast my fat in 12 minutes I would not be toiling on this blog. I would have pulicists and agents to attend to and speaking engagements to prepare for, but some crazy women I know wanted to show me Kettle Bells. At 9:30 p.m. I found my self swinging some weird 12 pound weight while a perky and fully abbed-out chick kept saying, "You're almost there." Where? is what I wanted to know. On the path to freedom from fat? Sunny San Diego where you are taping this damn thing? I didn't feel on my way to anywhere--except on my way to get an ice pack for my sore arms.

As I have said more than once, I can't make this stuff up. Adventure seems to stalk me.

Gone, babies gone.

Everyone probably thinks I am clicking my heels. And perhaps my step is a bit lighter, but the first day of school is always a little weird. Everyone is so excited, but I also feel a bit sad. Ben didn't think I needed to stand there to witness them getting on the bus. "We're big kids, mom." Oh. Well, I stayed anyway and he held my hand anyway so that was something.

Perhaps it's because while it is our adventure, it really is their adventure and it baffles me to think there are parts of their lives that I just don't know. One day you can time your child's bathroom habits and the next day, they are off in the free world listening (hopefully) to others tell them what to do. It's great and it's odd and it's what you've wanted and now it's here and it's great and it's odd.

"Will you meet us at the bus stop after school?" says Lucy Goose.
"Do you want me to?"
"Just today. You know we are big kids now, mom."
So I've been told. But I'll be there.

Be where you are.

For much of my life, I have struggled with staying in the moment. I am always planning the next thing or thinking of what's coming after what I might be doing. I am reminded time and again how present kids are--case in point would be the ability to become totally enraptured with a bug detected on daily walk to the car. Even if we might be late, we just have to run to the recycling, find a jar, poke holes in the lid, and cart the thing with us. Another example would be the intense focus on "hitching" the next wave at a beach we were lucky enough to visit. There were scads of places to visit that day- Sea World, a zoo, a famous aquarium, Lego Land and Disney Land if we wanted to. But there we were- stoic mid-westerners standing in the cold Pacific with the 9:00 am hour barely past, and my kids were encased in love of the ocean. One noticed the smell and the other noticed the color of the water and compared it to a lake we had recently visited and both threw themselves in without fear or reluctance. "Let's hitch some waves, dad!" cried Ben. With squeals and giggles, the quest for the next big one began- and they were hooked. After the trip, I didn't point out their happiest moments happened at places that didn't cost anything. It is good enough that I noticed them. Perhaps I am making progress after all.

Everything is just peachy!

Have you ever wondered how things that you never really thought much about before can suddenly become the only thing you think about? Such is the case with peaches. Or should I say, lug. You know-- big boxes of peaches come in lugs. I bought one. I never knew I wanted one until, say three days ago when I aquired one. This occurred because my kids have been wanting me to make jam. They love jam and I learned to be proficient at canning jam and even better at gathering berries over the summer- a combination of wild and tame and generally a hodgepodge of whatever I could get my hands on. But then the tv became a problem and this became a problem for the berries which is just nuts but so it goes. How this relates to peaches is circular so try to follow this: I freeze the berries as we gather them and put them in our basement freezer. Shiny globes of raspberries and strawberries and few blueberries filled the freezer. But then a mental storm broke out- fights with wanting too much tv ensued and in a fit of frustration, the breaker to the tv was turned off so little ones thought the tv was broken. Parents thought they were clever and children started fundrasing to fix the tv. A few days later someone goes to the basement for a few frozen berries to put in a smoothie only to discover a gorgeous red puddle of berry juice cutting a fine line througout the basement floor. Yep- the circuit connected to the tv was connected to the freezer. Clean-up was not fun. No berries meant no jam and the tv was miraculously fixed. Which brings me to the peaches- the only fruit ready for jam making, which seemed like a fine idea three days ago. But now it is two days before we leave on a week long trip and jam making doesn't seem like the thing to do. The fruit flies threaten to swarm and the peaches will rot so the only thing to do is make jam, which is what got me into this mess anyway.
Three hours later:
I did it. It's pretty and yummy and things are just peachy.

Storm Troopers and Lemonade

Four kids decided to make a lemondade stand knowing that the amount of lemonade available to sell was slim. First there was lemon juice mixed with water and sugar. Then there was a trip around the valley to locate lemonade mix and finally there were single power aid packets made to order all in the name of the business. The kids decided they'd get more action if it was a fundraiser so their school's PTA will be the beneficiary of $19.90 made in less than 2 hours. How this happened I don't know. Maybe it was the three kids milling on the side of the road or the assertive girls who would hold their hands out as if they'd been traffic cops all their lives beckoning passers-by to stop. Or maybe it was the boy in a white Star Wars Storm Trooper costume trolling for customers on his bike and in some cases hand delivering drinks. The boy was irritated at dinner time because some people had made promises to stop by in one of his adverstising campaigns and they didn't show. "Big people are mean!" Yes. I didn't venture to explain how startling it might seem to see a Storm Trooper selling lemonade, but then again maybe everyone is used to us and it all passes for normal now.

Who doesn't love a wedding?

Where, oh where have I been? The story is too long and not that interesting to tell, but I am back and will be post more regularly from now on. Thanks for your patience.


O.k. Who doesn't love a wedding? Well, my six-year old son and a handfull of deaf aging men, but aside from that? Recently we had a grand time gettting dressed up for my sister-in-law's wedding. After my son survived the most happily tearful exchanging of vows I have ever witnessed (bride and groom were alternately dabbing their eyes with handkerchiefs the size of a small table cloth),we got to attend a "wicked party" according to my daughter. Said son made these two comments during the ceremony: "WHEN will this be over?" and "This is disgusting! I am ready to take off!" (whispered loudly during the kiss). Ok. So we know how that went. I considered it a success that he did not crawl under the chairs or actually leave the ceremony. After sitting through the meal, a fabulous auntie from my side of the family rescued him and took him off to his natural habitat-- the Science Museum in Minneapolis, which apparently, is a fine place to be on a Saturday night if you don't like crowds and/or weddings. He had the dinosaur skeletons and his auntie to himself.

The "wicked party" began when the music began to play and my daughter and a bunch of mid-twenties gals found their bliss on the dance floor. Why do so many of us lose this pleasure? I love to dance. I am no good, but my mom and dad did it regularly while courting and my dad loves it, too. At my own wedding, my favorite pictures are of dad and my sis not just cutting a rug but burning it up. So daughter must have inherited this from my dad- she was positively glowing and relentless on the dance floor. Twirling and moving without a care in the world and soaking up the music while mommy-me cringed at the thought of her absorbing too many of the lyrics. I am old. But we continued to dance with aunts and cousins and strangers and on some occasions, she twirled about on her own. I flashed back to a different wedding when she was two and half and there was chamber music- but the smile and the twirl were the same. Keep it, I whispered to myself all night long. Keep this joyful uninhibited desire. Keep twirling.

This is for the birds.

True story:

Ben is obessed with pets. He's so desperate for them that any creature that moves slowly enough will become a pet. I watched him methodically throw a frisbee at a birdhouse until in tilted enough for a nest to fall out. With glee he scooped up whatever was in it. I waited. Five minutes passed and he ran inside clutching a little bird. It was chirping and and flapping about but not really able to escape. It's no surprise the bird became a pet for 36 hours. He tried to devise an appropriate bird house but was not successful when I pointed out that no air could get in or out of many of his contraptions. He eventually settled on the dog kennel. He wanted the bird in his room. So in it went until Bob put Ben to bed and the bird would not shut up. Ben told Bob that he could interpret "bird" and the bird was not talking nice about him. So the bird went downstairs where it chirped ALL NIGHT LONG. The next morning we were heading to camp. Ben suggested it was time to set the "little guy" free. He tosssed him off our deck where the bird flew/fluttered/flailed to the safety of a tree. Ben's conclusion? "He struggled a bit, but I think he'll be o.k. "

What's it gonna bee?

I am not completely unhip. I know The Black Eyed Peas are more than a food. But when it comes to lyrics sometimes I just don't get them. This is not new. My sister can vouch for many an incorrect understanding of song lyrics while smirking with delight in catching me mess up. I am unflappable though and will stand by what I think I heard. Until this song. The kids caught me singing something about a "bumble bee" and I just said, "Hey ! You guys love that bumble bee song!"

Total silence and then big howls of laugther and calls for "Dad! Dad! Mom thinks it's bumble bee!" This prompted a spontaneous dance party with "I'm mo be" blasting at full throttle and 3 people mocking me by inserting "Bumble bee" for "I'm mo bee" and few 'buzzz's' for good measure. I still don't think my interpetation is all that off. "I'm mo be" is slang for cripes sake. But most good humor usually has a bit of a sting to it, and thankfully I am not allergic.

Mommy-rants

I want my own bumper sticker. You know, like the ones that say "Start Seeing Motorcycles" or "Start Seeing Pedestrians" or whatever. Mine will read "Start Seeing Shit" because even though the things I am asked to locate in one day don't belong to me, apparently I am Goddess of Everyone's Shit so I must know where it is. This is crass. Oh well. "Start Seeing" doesn't seem to pack enough punch and since we don't use fists in our house (Well, ok. Ben does. But only sometimes.) we do use words. As a lover of words it's always best to be decriptive, to the point, and in this case, all-encompassing. I am open to gentler suggestions. But...should I be?

The County Fair

I love the county fair. I am sure it has much to do with growing up on 4-H in Woodbury County. It's just so fun to see the earnest kids trying their hand at skills that are still appreciated such as jam making and sewing (did you know people still do that?) despite the fact that many of those kids have a cell phone in their back pocket. And where else can you let your kid play a game for $5.00 and win a toy that is worth 5 cents? Oh, yeah. Chuck-E. Cheese.

But the county fair atmosphere is so much better! Under a fading pink sky, we walked from the petting zoo which consists of exotic animals like chics and bunnies and baby calfs to the chicken and rabbit barn (a personal favorite) to get a milk shake (the best EVER) from the dairy stand. Then we made our way into the midway and among the startling music (sex on the beach was a lyric I wasn't expecting to hear), I saw a mom simultaneously wrestling a toddler in one hand while texting with the other, and two physically challenged kids cheer their sister on as she raced down a slide. Constant dichotomy. I love it. Grandpa with toddler girl on the ferris wheel and tweens in too small shirts running through the crowd without notice of anyone but themselves. Cows doing their business whenever the moo-d strikes them and the stiff upper-lip of the 10 year old boy trying to harangue said cow into obeying just this once. It was a tattoo extravaganza and if I ever decide I need one, I have some great ideas now. But I also know where our local heritage family farms are now and that's seems like good information to have. Honestly, I felt sad for all the texters. There was so much to see that I couldn't have strayed from the moment if I tried.

People wax poetic about the Minnesota State Fair--'tis true it is a gift. But I'll take hundreds instead of thousands and continue to support my local dairy council.

Mama rocks a mumu

My kids love to swim. This stinks for me-- I hate heat and swimsuits. To deal with this dilemma, I enrolled the kids in lessons as soon as they could walk hoping to shave years off the total time I would be required to be in the pool with them. God has blessed me with children who can swim, but I still have to be there. To deal with this, I bought a swimsuit cover-up the other day. As long as I have a cover-up, the suit will last for years and I avoid swimsuit shopping. Swimsuit shopping should only be done once every 15 years if you play your cards right (more frequently to compensate for major weight loss, weight gain, or unsightly worn patches in inconvient places -which of course, isn't a big deal if you have a cover-up). But cover-up shopping is much more fun and much less stressful. Really, swimsuits are just so...small. One hasn't been invented that covers the mid-thigh vericose veins or the legs that didn't get premiere shave time. So until tea-length swim skirts are in and functional, the old suit stays (it has another three years to go). When the debut of the latest cover-up occurred, I was told I rocked the mumu. Well, thanks. I think. Or not. I don't equate mumus and "rocking" but oh well. Summer is short and rocking it or not, the mumu is my ticket to survival. Make way for mama!

We're still camping

Summer is here and for the first time since an abandoned water-logged tent in the middle of nowhere Wisconsin while nursing a newborn, we have decided to see if we still like to camp in a tent. Before kids, we did it a lot and really liked it. I'll be the first to admit I am a fair-weather camper. Major mosquitoes, humidity and heat and continual rain will send me packing, but when it's nice (you know, on those three days of summer where conditions are perfect), I am all for it. With little ones, I found my desire lessened. Anything that ends up feeling like more work than fun should be abandoned if it is supposed to be relaxing. But after the pain faded, there was one other attempt after Benjamin arrived but that, too, ended in bailing in the middle of the night during a down pour. Those combined experiences left me quite sour on the whole thing. But there was the pull to camp, still, so we decided to rent a pop-up and that worked. But...parents are silly. They get nostalgic for things they either did as a kid or always wanted to do and that's why it still seemed like a good idea to try the tent again. When we set up the tent in the yard and the kids go crazy. Soon half the house is in the tent and my kids are happy as can be. Surely this translates to- we want to camp! So...in a grand experiment of travelling light, we even managed to pack and travel on this latest venture in our small car. And survived. Despite rain every day, we had a great time. Lucy decided cooking was fun on a camp stove outdoors so I did none of it, Ben legally played with fire every day, and there wasn't a screen to watch anywhere. Other than some minor heart failure while watching my babies climb on water-covered rocks that seemed a little too close to a large cold lake, pulling a leech off the girl, and bandaging my boy's knees (twice) there were no accidents and the bugs stayed far away from us.

Home again, the kids still think we're camping. They liked being piled into the tent close together so the sleeping bags have migrated to our bedroom. Most night at least one of them will wake up at some odd hour and get snuggled in trying to re-gain that feeling of closeness. It's sweet, but I like my bed and I am not joining them on the floor. That will have to wait for the next adventure.

Da-aaad!

We are just entering this phase-- the one where we embarrass our children. Mostly, it's the daughter who you can hear say this in the way only pre-teen girls can. "Da-aaad!" It makes me remember when my own dad just would not tone it down in the name of my own hoped-for coolness. Despite my repeated admonishments and requests to not do this or not wear that, dad would just grin and forge on. I remember walking through the local mall with a friend, my dad, and her grandfather. Both men were sights to behold. Her grandpa's pants drooped a little too low- way before drooping pants were cool. To be clear, no sporty Joe Boxers were peeking out. My dad had a five inch single cuff on his dark blue Wrangler jeans (of course they weren't cool Levi's). If he moved just right or turned too quickly, you might notice a kernel or two of corn flying out from this elegant cuff. Neither man could hear well so the shouting that ensewed would have been comical had my friend and I not been so hyper-aware of how completely un-cool these two guys were. If memory serves correctly, both men also sported tootpicks just to the left of their front teeth. My friend and I were trying to walk far ahead or behind them and we may have even appeared to be mocking them. Her grandma caught us and gave us a lecture that surely had the, "These are good men. They take care of you girls. Show them some respect. Kids these days...blah blah blah" in it. Dad just grinned. Again.

As I grew older, more embarassment would ensue. The big grin on my dad's face when he brought home a 1972 two-door, sky blue Oldsmobile mystified me. That car was larger than my first dorm room. Later I would concede that despite it's 40 gallon gas tank, I could haul 6 extra people and that was great-- even if parking caused me problems. This same dad had the gall to teach me how to change oil (none of my other friends had to do that), ask me to bottle-feed calves BEFORE school, and expect me to help walk beans, sow oats, and pick rocks out of a field. I was just slave labor, apparently. But I lived through it all and what I thought was so embarrassing now just makes me smile. Because now I hear my own daughter echoing the same tone which will be the music in our lives for the next few years and I kind of think this will be fun. No wonder my dad was always grinning.

Three out of Four Isn't Bad

It seems crazy that I can say I have been married for fourteen years. At times, I still feel sixteen and chubby and wondering if anyone will ever ask me to dance. But someone did eventually. Well, ok. I didn't get asked to dance but close enough. You all know about the Sweet Potato Queens, don't you? They believe you actually need four husbands- one who can do house repairs, one who will cook, one to ....., and one who can dance. I didn't get this recommendation until I was well on my way with the one that I chose. At the time, getting one husband seemed more than enough. I now joke with the ONE that being three our of four isn't bad.

Ok, I didn't get asked to dance. I got asked for a ride home from a party.We were at a Halloween party of all things- both in costume. I was carting all the bridesmaid's dresses from weddings I'd been in along with a sash that said "The Eternal Bridesmaid" written on it in blue Sharpie. I also had those lovely dyed-to-match shoes so I could change the whole ensemble every hour on the hour. From fetching frothy peach to shocking satin pink to a lustrous aquarmarine, I gave reports about each couple. The ONE had on a mask of some melting-faced creature. Pinned to his t-shirt was a sign that read "I should have listened to my mom. I DIDN'T stop making that face. It stuck."

I don't know if meeting my future husband in costume had any weird meaning for us. But what I know is that we felt comfortable with each other early on, that we got to know each other through letters (how old-fashioned) because we didn't live in the same town and we were both short of cash that enabled us to travel frequently to see each other, and the laughter came easily and frequently.

Fourteen years later, I can report that we are still comfortable with each other, we don't write to each other anymore except for the cryptic e-mail reminder of this or that, and that laughter has sustained us and gotten us out of some tough spots. Halloween is celebrated in a big way--for the kids, the grandparents or for us--it is never quite clear why, but it is. I feel certain I won't look for a dancing partner. Who knows? Maybe my son will buck the Wilfahrt male tradition and ask me to dance one day. However, I've got no complaints. Really. Three out of four is pretty great.

Not much

The last fight about getting dressed was today. The last rush for the hair brush and matching shoes and the underwear check seemed just about normal, but it was easy to take since we are all looking forward to the long break. Adventure awaits....right? What I remember of summer as a kid include hot days with no air conditioning while helping mom can corn, walking beans, and the county fair in good old Iowa humidity. I remember buying taffy at the local pool for five cents and getting sunburned frequently and taking joy in pulling off real large pieces of dried skin. There may have been a random car trip to visit relatives in exotic Northern Minnesota, but usually there were just vast days of sun and no plans. I am hoping to give my kids much of the same-large amounts of unplanned time. This is a challenge to the modern parent. So much is offered for kids and much of it is good. But we all know boredom breeds creativity and I loved playing imaginary games and just being a little bit...idle. It's not a very popular concept in our world- idleness. But one of the things I like about myself is that most times, I can be comfortable just doing nothing. I can be in silence with no tv or radio and just be. I get restless, yes, but once I settle in, it feels good. I work really hard to listen to myself. I hope I can teach that to my kids. I suppose you don't have to be idle to do that. But I think it's ok to not rush from here to there. There aren't any awards given out to who did the most in one day and if so, I am hereby bowing out of any race. Oh, I am not trying to be too philosophical. Any parent does what works for them and maybe I am just lazy. But I want my kids to not need something or someone for entertainment. In the end, we only have ourselves, right? For sure there will be camps and play dates, but there will also be a lot of nothing. We'll see how it goes. Check back with me on day two.

I did it!

The introduction went well. It was totally fun being in front of people though I forgot about the microphones being too tall for me. That being said, I had my captive audience and they laughed when I wanted them to! It wasn't a big deal at all. Most people just expressed relief in not having to be the one to do that. Perhaps I should join Toast Masters just to get my kicks from speaking. I don't know...I will find more opportunities. They must be out there somewhere!

Check out my addition in Family Fodder today.

A Chance to Speak

From my boss yesterday:

" I have a big favor to ask. A really big favor. Would you introduce Nicole Helgut on Monday night at the Masonic Temple?"

Silly boy! Of course I will. There will be hundreds of people there and you are giving ME a chance to talk? Never mind that no one (until now) knows I will be talking. I love a captive audience! How weird is it that I love to introduce people? I spend a disproportionate amount of time crafting introductions for the writers that visit the store. What is even weirder is that I don't always give the introductions- my boss does. He hates writing introductions and usually forgets. I salivate at the thought and usually hand them off too early and he loses them. Oh well. But I love finding little factoids about the author that lets them know I know something about them. I wrote this really great introdcution for a bigwig author (Michael Perry--if you don't know who he is, you should. Check outhttp://www.sneezingcow.com/ now and finish this later)who visited in the spring. Of course, my boss read it since this guy was a bigwig, but the author referenced my introduction and pontificated a bit on details I had mentioned which segued into a great story that he added to his talk. Cool! Now, this doesn't exactly jive with my need for praise, but I got through it. And this time, I will be delivering the introduction, which I would have written anyway and passed off to the boss. The occasion is a night with the Winona Reads! author and the book is The Turtle Catcher, which I have read. This reading of the books by the author is mostly a good thing. Occasionally, I have had to introduce people with whose work I am not familiar, which creates a talking-out-your blowhole- sensation and that is not fun. The other icky feeling that can occur is that you have read it and don't care for it so then the acting bug kicks in. As a parent, I feel well-schooled in this department. Feigning interest in the stag beetle book which is 21 pages too long or attempting captivation at the fifth viewing of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer' Stone is a skill I had not banked on using. But, I have. I am safe, however, on both counts and do not need to cram or prepare to fake it this weekend. I just need to write and practice and pick my outfit. Yes!

For my muse and my amusement

When is the last time you did something you felt was so praise-worthy that you asked for the praise outright? My mom and I share this trait: After making what we feel is an above average meal, we can be heard saying, "This tastes pretty good. If I do say so myself." Yes. Well, we do say so ourselves because we are certain no one else is going to be heaping on the praise.

As well-documented here, my family gives me much to ponder- serving as my muse more often than not, as well as old-fashioned, live entertainment. This morning, as if it were some major culinary feat, the Big Man made slow oatmeal --you know--not in the microwave. For everyone and not just himself. Personally, I think this was the bigger cause for any celebration if there was going to be any celebrating. Over oatmeal. For whatever reason, he seemed to want something from the rest of us regarding this task. I heard him mutter, " I can't give my oatmeal away," as one child opted for toast. The coffee was poured and steaming in front of me, and I had yet to take a drink because I was enjoying slow oatmeal. He'd also made the coffee and was waiting for my reaction. So it made me wonder...is this over-praised kid's world creeping into the under-praised adult world? Are we all becoming needy? Looking to others for validation for the simplest tasks? Ok. I am the first to admit that I am not of those stoic quiet midwesterners just flinging out one good deed after the other without expecting something in return. I am a midwesterner. I like doing good deeds. I probably differ in that I don't mind if people know I have done something good. Plus, I just think it's good manners to say 'thank you' when someone does something for you. While I wanted to just, you know, let him stew in my reality for a bit, I did say thank you to the Big Man. Occasionally, we just have to put it out there. There can't be too much harm in asking for what we need and in turn, practicing good manners. Good manners are under-rated. As is the Big Man's slow oatmeal.

Sometimes, You Get More Than You Bargained For

I was taken back to 1983 recently when I took my nine year old daugher and some friends to a place called High Roller for her birthday. No...we weren't going to gamble, we were going to skate. The impetice was a party that was low-stress for me, but lots of fun for all. This was the suggestion that seemed most appealing and the price was right. It was refreshing to see that as much as things change, some things stay the same. Oh, there were in-line skates to be sure, but the skates available to rent had four wheels, they were an ugly tan color, and the laces were too long- -you either had to triple-knot them or tie them around your ankles twice. As soon as the lights dimmed for a couple's skate, the disco ball started to twirl and Journey came on, I knew history could indeed repeat itself. However, this time, I took matters into my own hands so as not to be left on the sidelines waiting for an offer. After my own daughter dissed me half way through, "I'm Forever Yours, Faithfully" I headed for my hubby. His natural grace on land doesn't transfer well to the roller world, but we made it through the end of the song without falling and gracelessly clunked into the cement side wall in order to declare ourselves done. But only for that song. After getting our bearings (pun intended), we all went back for more. Brain scientists and life coaches would say it's good to do something different, to get your mind and body working on patterns it's not comfortable with-- it keeps your body guessing and I guess that is a good thing. I just think it's the laughter that really makes it worth the while. I know my knees and ankles weren't exactly shouting praise. I hadn't actually considered that I would have fun at this party. I am all about the execution of the party. With nothing for me to do but have fun, I was able to I step out of my box, roll back to my childhood, and skate into a new year with my daughter. Life is constantly surprising me. I don't always get what I think I want--sometimes I get more and for that, I am grateful.

Too Much, Not Enough, Just Right

This world is crazy. This morning my son said, "I wish we were rich." I started to launch into starving, abandoned children from Haiti and then I stopped. He came to it himself when he said, "But you don't have to put me up for adoption 'cuz we have food." True dat, is what we like to say. But here is the constant crux of life-being more than content but happy with what you have. One of the latest reads in my book group was called "Stumbling On To Happiness" and it attempts to make scientific the idea of happiness and the main conclusion is that really, we all have some sort of set-point. Barring major catasrophies and even then, people seem to just re-calibrate themselves to the point at which they naturally are. They asked people who had become paralyzed or quadraplegic to rate their happiness, and especially if they knew no different, they weren't any less happy than people with fully functioning bodies. How weird, right? So this makes that quest for...whatever...that longing or whining for something different just seem so...silly. And this makes me even more committed to just encouraging not just my kids, but everyone to do what makes them happy. Why would we spend our time doing anything but? Of course,there is that money thing and here is where our culture in particular gets it wrong in a big way. We need money to live, but how much? Really- how much do we need? Yeah, I can hear the groans from the peanut gallery since I am the spouse of a physician. But it's no secret that most of our doctors would be much happier and more effective if they worked less. If I rate my life between my twenties and now I will admit to being happier, but much of it comes from learning lessons in the school of hard knocks and finally having the courage to just listen to myself. I am paying attention and this is what makes me happy--hearing my kids laugh, listening to their reasonings about the ways of the world (recent advice from Ben: when you feel or see something coming toward your face, scrunch up your head skin), cookbooks, the book store in which I work, living in a community where I daily run in to people I know, reading, connecting with old friends, making new friends, planning a party, helping someone, listening to storytellers, preserving food with a group of friends, and walks in the sunshine either alone or with friends. Perhaps I am just a slow learner- how could I reach 41 and just start to realize that the best way to live is to seek and find those things which bring you joy? Some would say life gets in the way. But I am going to argue that perhaps we have it backwards- we are getting in the way of our life by denying ourselves the experiences that bring us the most joy. Who knows? I am not a philospopher, but I am feeling that what I have is just right.

In my version of hell...

there are two hundred socks floating around. None of them match. Yesterday, I picked up sixteen socks lying about the house. Three were found outside the house- in places like the yard, the sand box, or under patio furniture. I also found three shoes. How does this happen? One might assume that all items were of child-sized proportions, but you know that adage about assuming...

Why didn't I think of this?

Every once in a while you come across something that seems to have been born of your mind--only someone else got to it first. Well, here is something my husband stumbled across and it just made me laugh and then wonder--why did this never occur to me? Check out this link and you will understand. Excuse the crass language in the title, but we all know it's perfect. http://shitmykidsruined.com/

A few things I could have contributed:
1) A nice glossy photo of a then new Honda mini-van with equally fresh inscriptions made by the sharpest rock EVER. Lucy, at age 4, was practicing her newly acquired writing skills. If you look closely (and you still can because it is still there), the words look like L ucy devil.

2) Same child, different year. Picture a stone fireplace. It's a place of warmth and apparently happiness due to the blue smiley face that will never fade-- permanent blue sharpie script never does.

3) The creme de la creme would be a picture of our newest television. It's a flat screen with a dent off to the side and rainbow etched lines shooting forth from said dent in a star burst pattern. This was caused by our son in a story I am not yet ready to tell.

I say none of these things with pride. Only that stuff happens despite your best intentions and in the end, children are independent creatures with minds of their own. I would be much more worried about myself if I couldn't now laugh at much of it. The tv bit still stings, but pass no judgement dear friends. If you are childless, you may never understand and that's ok by me. If you aren't and you still don't get it, you should not waste one more second reading my blog and probably not invite me for coffee. I feel the conversation might be stilted.

In the future, I see Shit The Dog Has Ruined. I am working on getting my photos together this weekend.

Read Read Read

It is not possible to be a part of any community and not hear this battle cry: Read to your kids! Every day! Seriously, did you know that they are going to add "Do you like to read?" and "Does anyone read to you?" as part of the well-child exam? It's THAT big. It seems just crazy to me-- another fine example of what for years just seemed to be common sense is now pushed, pushed, and pushed some more. I can only lament about it because...well...I read. I don't remember my parents ever pushing me. My parents were always readers, though. We still have stacks of every Louis L'Amour book ever written. Sadly, I admit to a pile of Sweet Valley High and Danielle Steele paperbacks that used to crowd my room. They did nothing for my ACT scores, but I quickly became the consultant in sorting out love triangles so it wasn't a total loss. I remember always reading yet still getting stuck in the average reading group. Back then, life was color-coded so you knew who the smart people were by how quickly they acended to purple and gray. Slackers like myself hung out in the orange area a bit too long. If there were just a few more passages that read more like Are You There God, It's Me Margaret? or Wifey and less like an encyclopedia, I would have been more motivated. At any rate, my point is that it wasn't pushed so much, but I lived in a house of readers. The statistics about poor readers and the long-term effects are frightening. I have to keep reminding myself that in this lovely little literate cacoon I live in, it's not so lovely for others. My house is full of books and compulsive readers yet clearly we aren't the norm. With the library throwing what really amounts to a pep fest for summer reading and the schools throwing pajama parties to encourage parents and kids to read- well, the problem is bigger in scope than I thought. Which leads me to how much we all take things for granted. I did not grow up in the most sophisticated of families, but who knew Louis and Danielle would be resposible for leading me and my family into the realm of above average--at least as far as reading is concerned? Mom and dad, thanks.

Tea....for 18!

Recently, my daughter and I decided to have tea for her friends and their moms. It all started because my own mom gave me twelve tea cups from my grandmother. I almost didn't take them because I really don't like stuff. But my daughter was drawn to them just as I was as a little girl. They don't match and that has always been part of the charm. For as long as I can remember my grandmother, I remember staring at these tea cups trying to decide which one was my favorite. Many are delicate and bone thin. Lots have flowers and gold rims and matching plates. A few are chipped and I am certain none are worth much in monetary value. But tea cups bring out the girl in even the die-hard tomboys. My daughter wanted to use them so why not have a few friends over with their moms for a sit-down tea? The daughter is almost nine and already signs of tween-ness are creeping in so I can see my days of her willingly spending time with me are numbered.

I am not good at keeping things simple when it comes to entertaining and food. Blame my mother. Blame the need to make sure there is not one chance that anyone will leave less than stuffed to the gills. If people don't feel bloated, I won't feel happy. At any rate, the daughter and I tackled most things together and had fun, though her attention wandered toward the end. This was a good reminder that entertaining people you care about aren't going to be critical. They come looking for fun and the big deal is that you have chosen your friends wisely, which is the real cause for celebration. It was a little moment of moms and daughters all laughing and giggling and loving together. The scene could be re-played anywhere, but this scene happened in my home just as it happened in my mother's home and my grandmother's home. It was sweet and silly and real and perfectly imperfect. So while I am not a collector of things, I am most certainly willing to store another box if what it brings to me is a moment of joy with my daughter. That's worth some space on the shelf, don't you think?

Check out my new post on Family Fodder!

It's all about mom! Check it out, and don't forget your mom this weekend! Happy Mother's Day to everyone who is a mom or acts like one for a day or an hour. It takes a village,'tis true. There is a bit of mom in all of us-we mother our plants, our pets, and even our art so it is a day worth celebrating.

I have a book!

Ok, ok, ok. Don't get too excited. But about six weeks ago, I was walking around the valley with Fairy Godmother and we were talking about her work. What keeps her going, what "brings me to my knees" she said, were the struggling moms, the depressed mom and their kids. It just gets her-she wants to build a community for these women, a safe place filled with resources and people that will be a place for them to go when the big waves hit. So...she wondered out loud to me ( how convenient) if there was a book out there for kids about living with a parent who is suffering from depression. Hmm....Two weeks after that, my sister-in-law asked if I could write a children's book. "No!" was my immediate response. I have access to Wiki-pedia like everyone else and after the fascinating turns through arachnids, dinosours, and all marine life I am confindent I could cut and paste myway through some mean non-fiction. But why? I wouldn't want to read it. I already have. As for fiction, well, how daunting! The best of the best has already been written and ...nothing has occurred to me as of yet. So...three weeks after this, I am lying in a bed in Madison, Wi and I can sleep in. Bob is off to a conference and I am on my own. I want to sleep. But at 6:30 a.m. I get this line in my head and it won't go away so I mutter, "Screw it!" to myself and pull out the lap top and two hours later I have the rough draft of a book.

I have shared this book with a few people including my Fairy Godmother. She genuinely loves it. One (my husband) said it was kind of a downer. Hmm.... depression really rocks! Seriously, he's a light-hearted guy and you know, emotions beyond "Cool!" are troubling so I let that go. He gave me some good tips on language that might be too strong for little ones ( you can tell I have trouble editing in my own life- at least my kids have a good vocabulary!) and every person has the same vision I have for illustrations so... this is my quest. I am looking for an illustrater. If you have any ideas...let me know. Sister-in-law Leslie is an artist. Uncle Alan is an artist. I am sure there are lots of artists in my circle of whom I am not aware.

This whole thing led Fairy Godmother to introducing me as Lisa, her friend, the writer. Hmm...I like that.

It wasn't exactly the cat's meow.

It should be well-documented by now that I grew up in rural northwest Iowa on a small farm between two tiny towns, Correctionville and Cushing. I have many great memories of living on the farm, but a farm girl I wasn't. Stuck on the farm, I was. As a young kid, getting together with a friend meant walking or riding our bikes around the country mile to meet somewhere in the middle and play...in the ditches or the dirt road. It was scintillating stuff.

In the thick of my high school years, I sought the freedom that only a 1972 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme could give me (it was baby blue with two doors and electric windows). The best reason, as far as my parents could see, for me to drive it anywhere was to work. So quickly I saught outside employment that took me to the big city of Correctionville and away from critters and other farm-like life.

One particularly memorable summer was spent working three jobs: detassling corn-- a certain kind of hell many will never know, working with the school janitor as her assistant (i.e. gum scraper-offer), and preparing tasty ice cream and fried treats at the local Valley Drive Inn. I was never and continue to NOT be a night owl. I loved getting up and heading to work to detassle in the early morning. I could then catch my janitor shift by late morning and work to mid-afternoon, and then do the closing shift at the drive-in. I felt good having spent the whole day making money and missing out on farm fun. But the end of the week made me tired, and you know, teenage girls can be a bit dramatic.

It must have been a Saturday because the drive-in was open until 11:00 p.m. A closer would usually remain until 11:30 p.m. I had a week filled with early mornings and glamorous work and I was tired. I tumbled in the door of our house close to midnight. Evidently one of my sister's cats was thrilled to see me and lept toward me as I was trying to close the door. I say trying because the door got stuck. The cat's tail was in the way. The cat did not like this. The cat lurched for my leg. The cat attached itself to my leg. The cat did not let go of my leg. Wearing my pretty polyester purple shirt and shorts provided no protection from a ticked-off kitty who was clawing her way down my legs. It was truly one of the only times I was happy to have short legs. I screamed. The cat howled. I fell and proceeded to roll across the floor hoping to unstick the cat.I screamed some more. The lights flew on and the people started coming. Mom, dad, sister, and brothers were all wondering what the hell was happening. As was I. Why was I on the floor with a cat attached to my leg? Why? Why? Why? All I wanted was sleep. I wanted no cat attached to my limbs, no blood pouring down my legs, and no fur stuck to my skin. I woke up ready to take on the world away from the farm and all it's critters. I lamely ended the day wailing and rolling on two-tone brown shag carpet with a messed-up kitty's claws piercing my skin. The scars would fade long before I stopped hearing that cat's meow.

Click your heels!

Over the weekend I clicked my heels twice- once for some coffee so good I wanted to yodel and once because Grandma Gray reported that my kids used their manners. Wow-wee! I am not a total failure as a mom. Occasionally lessons taught stick. Of course, two hours after my return they were back to fighting at a decibel level that even I deemed loud. Oh well. It's the moments, right? Just the moments.

When's the last time something made you want to click your heels?

What's stopping you?

This is a true story:

I don't recall exactly how old I was, but there were three of us kids who were of swimming lesson age. We lived in the country on a gravel road about six miles from the local town swimming pool. Six miles doesn't seem like such a long ways but when you live on gravel and your vehicles aren't always reliable, well, it can seem like you have to make a trip to the moon. My dad was a farmer and my mom took care of the home and the kids. The structure of mom's days was dictated first and foremost by what work needed to be done on the farm and then in the home and finally what the kids needed. Hindsight provides a clearer lens so I know now what my mom's motivation was. Then, I thought she had taken things a little too far.

Dad must have been in the field, lunch was prepared to take out to him after we arrived back from lessons so the only think left to do was go to swimming lessons. Except none of the three or four vehicles in our private "lot" worked. We watched mom get in each one, turn the key, gun it, swear to herself, and move on to the next one. Finally, she hit gold...the truck. Much to my dad's disappointment, I don't retain vehicle lingo. Perhaps it's a defense mechanism wishing to prevent too many scary memories from overtaking me, but I know a John Deere when I see one and that is only because of it's color. So there was this truck. Larger than a pickup and smaller than a semi. I see them hauling mulch or scraps. I do know it was a Ford truck and it had about six 2 x 4's hanging out of the back. What possessed my mom to even get in this truck is beyond me, but I feel a rush of pride that she felt confident enough to get her going and that she did. She literally jumped it, turned the key, gave it some gas, and yelled at us, "Get in! You've got swimming lessons!" We peeled out of the driveway a little too fast if you ask me. The clamber of the boards sliding this way and that combined with the wind rushing through the cab since both windows were rolled down made any conversation impossible. Of course, I was too dumbstruck to talk.

We hauled you-know-what to town, and it wasn't until we arrived at the lane that led to the pool that embarrassment set in. The truck was large and loud and dirty and...it was a truck. Who gets carted to swimming lessons in a cab truck? We did. And I for one, could have died. All my town friends arrived in sedate little four door sedans, lucky kids arrived on their banana seated bicycles, and we showed up making the largest scene possible. What's even funnier to me about this is that none of us were die- hard swimmers. None of us had the physical prowess of an athlete. We took the obligatory lessons but skipping one would not have killed us.

What I know now is that when you have unstructured time in your day-- open expanses that seem to drag on, such as time home with kids,especially on a farm, unwanted leave from work, or recovery time for health reasons, it's the little markers in your day that seem to mean so much. Living on the farm was hard and lonely at times, I think, for mom. She was social. Those lessons weren't for us- they were for her. She had an appointed time that she looked forward to when she would get off the farm and have a chance to talk to other moms and find out about life around town.

I also think, that with that kind of determination in spite of obstacles, that it seems silly that we can't accomplish more in our world. Financial reform, healthcare, cures for cancer..come on! We have the intellect and resources (and access to working vehicles)to make signifcant lasting change. Maybe we just need more ticked-off, determined women running the show. In my own life, I just need to tap into her more often. She's there. What's stopping you?

Pressure

View my April Updates on The Stack. You will need to scroll past my ratings system to get to April.

Well, here I am again. I struggle at times to determine what to write. I have looked at quite a few blogs and the ones I like the most seem to make me think or laugh. I haven't been feeling like I have much of either to report or ponder as of late. I went searching for material at a Wilfahrt family function, but I was greatly disappointed. Everyone was on good behavior. Even Dog. There was one off-color joke by Great Grandma, but even that seemed normal. So here is the real deal: the stress on the home front seems to be taking over. My lips are twice their normal size due to large cold sores. I find it convenient that there is one on the top and the bottom. If it works as a weight loss plan, I will feel less resentful. Work related issues for the spouse keep us agitated and restless and the ponderings of what to do seem a little too much. We make time for silliness and it starts out forced, but eventually we get into it. Sometimes silliness is unintentional. Yesterday I donned a less than perfect ensemble. I shuffled out to the kitchen and when I finally noticed what I had on, I decided to point out my fashion faux pas-- without missing a beat the king male said, "It's been worse." Ah, well, it seems part of our marriage success is that there is no end to the amusement we cause each other. But back to stress. Everyone has it, many have much more and frankly I annoy myself at times. But here is the kicker: why do kids seem to hurl their drama at you at the precise time of the big person's drama? Why can't it be evenly spaced out? Each of us gets a turn and we can handle it one at a time? Oh, right. The neat package of life is a farce so we must deal with the crap as it comes. Fairy Godmother Katy would say kids keep it real and put things in perspective and really, damn her, she is right. The time we get with these little babies is so brief. It won't feel good to have spent the time wallowing in stress. So we are muddling through and there are frisbees to throw and seeds to plant and pancakes to flip and Dog to walk and when your focus gets that small, it is really quite good.
But I do feel on hold as of late. Nothing new is on my horizon and pursuing something new right now just doesn't feel like a good idea. But if I wait for things to change or settle, well, I will always be waiting. But as this whole blog started, I was in search of something...and I am still searching.
Did I make you laugh or think? I don't know. But for now, this is what I have to offer.

When is the last time you thought about poetry?

We went to a dinner last night with a poet who is from Duluth, Connie Wanek. Here's the biggest news- my husband willingly went AND he liked it. Of course, there was good food and a little wine so the wheels were greased, but this woman was so great. Understated and just able to nail things we all see hundreds of times, and yet she was the one to come up with the perfect words. It wasn't overwraught or so obscure that you felt lost. It was just...real. I can't say I am over the moon for poetry. Or more accurately, perhaps my personality just isn't suited for it. I spent some junior high years rhyming- one particular claim to fame occured in 7th grade when I changed the words to a then-famous and very classy country song, "Elvira" and wrote about Santa. Mrs. Raymond gave me rave reviews and this set off a flurry of overwraught and over-rhymed poems about my baby brother and flowers(gag!) and life(double-gag!). As per typical in my relationship with my hubby, I discovered that he can do most everything better than me. He is a renaissance man- cleaning, drawing, musical, and he wrote this in junior high:
Happiness is
the pitter patter of little feet
across our kitchen floor.
He has a younger sister by quite a few years and his junior high time had a baby in it. My brother was 8 years younger and I wrote:
My brother is a baby.
I like to hold him maybe.
Until he cries.
We all know understatement is not my strong suit so perhaps that's why I won't be a poet. I can live with that.
Check out this link for more. http://www.conniewanek.com/

Comments welcome!

Hey everyone! Just like the wife who storms around the house waiting for her husband to read her mind, I have been feeling a little out of sorts. The best approach in getting what you want (most times) is to simply ask for it. I am working on getting a counter put on my blog so I can find out how many hits I get. But, I would also love it if people could leave some comments. Any little thought you might have regarding any part of my blog would be great. If you are not a member of I Google, you can still leave comments by clicking at the bottom and selecting "anonymous" and signing your name. I then read the comment and publish it. I have had people tell me they are blog illiterate. They just don't get it, can't navigate them, etc. I am, too, and I certainly relate to that. So email me if it's easier: lisa.graybookshelf@gmail.com, or go ahead. Give it a try. I would like to hear from you. Following through Facebook is easy, too. I am hoping that my updates are reaching people that way as well.

Am I on the right path?

I am reading a book called The Home Made Life. What is great about this book is that it is by a woman who started a blog 5 years ago called Orangette and while she is still writing, it has morphed into a book. Her blog is centered around food and the stories that accompany her memories of food. Am I hoping for some morphage? Yes. I think so. But once again, I don't take myself too seriously and doubt that what I have to say could fill a book.

I had this interesting conversation with a good friend who has a young son with anxiety and Asperger's. Someone had passed on a book to her about someone in a similar situation. She wasn't getting much out of it. "Why?" is what I wanted to know.

"Well, it's the same shit, but a different home, a different kid, but it's all the same. She is living my life and I don't want to read about my life. I need to learn something new. There was nothing new for me."

I asked, "Isn't there comfort in knowing you are not alone?"

"Well, yes. But I know that already. I know that without reading a book. It won't change how difficult my child is or how long my days can be."

For some unknown reason this made me very sad. I want to believe that books can help people, and as teacher of writing, I have professed to so many students that we all have a story to tell and our stories matter. Now here was this friend, someone I consider an adopted sister, telling me that other people's stories don't help her. Now I know she wasn't dissing this entire idea. She was actually just speaking of personal preference. I've had this conversation with people in the store. If they want to read a book, they want to learn something new or go somewhere they have never been before.

Which gets me back to me and this writing thing and where I want to go with it. Honestly, I wouldn't pick up a book by a 42 year old white woman with 2 kids telling tales of her life. Unless she lived in say, France or Italy, while her husband was following some crazy passion. Or she was left destitute and had to find her way into the working world again and spent time sleeping in homeless shelters. There would have to be some hook that stood out. Which is where I think- I have no hook. I am as average as you can get. This is not a cry for encouragement. It's just me musing, me asking the questions I ask all the time. I am having fun. I feel guilty for that. With bills to pay and classes to take and mouths to feed, many people are NOT having fun right now. On that note, I think I will clean some toilets for a shot of reality.

P.S. Check out "The Dog Slept Fine"!

FYI

I finally did it. I signed up on Facebook. You will find my page as bare bones as possible, but I have linked it to my blog for more readers. So friend me and I will friend you and your friends.

New addition to Family Fodder today. Check it out: Singing Past the Pain.

Seek and ye shall find

It's time to say good-bye to the car with one rearview mirror, a sagging ceiling, and license plates never fully attached to the front of the car. A recent longish-trip in the car disgusted my husband so much that he tepidly cruised a car lot looking for options. He didn't get out, mind you. He just looked. He equates haggling with salesmen as much fun as dancing or making "small talk". So I did the dirty work and finally, we are ready to part. This is what Bob unloaded from his car:
-27 pens (18 blue ones from Winona Health)
-1 dried apple core
-8 pencils (most with no erasers, only 2 sharp enough to use)
-1 used lunch container with unidentifiable contents
-1 men's spring jacket missing for 2 years
-5 toddler sized mittens (1 actual pair)
-1 sign that reads "Dr. Wilfahrt, You are a Physician SUPERSTAR!"
-1 foamy model colon that looks oddly...used
-2 manuals for cardiac pediatric emergeny training
-1 copy of Plutarch's Lives
-1 tub of Cranium model clay (from the game Cranium)
-2 packages of insulation

I mention this because for a guy who leaves between 6:30 and 7:15 every morning and arrives 12 hours later, making no stops unless it's for milk or a hair cut during lunch, I found these findings intriguing. But I can't really complain. As I unloaded our dying refrigerator the other day, I counted 41 different condiments, several cans of food just chilling in there (never opened or used), 2 dinosaur magnets, and 2 empty baggies just floating around for no apparent reason. Had I not noticed the condiments creeping up on me? Had I not noticed that Ben likes to store things in the fridge just for fun? I realize there is some cheesy self-help philosophy that says that just because you live in s*** doesn't mean you actually see it.
Oh well. The contents of the car and the fridge have now been pared down. While it it feels good, I am sure it will only be a matter of time before I stop seeing what's in front of me and I stop looking.

It was fun while it lasted.....

Well, my first official gig is not to be. The event I was supposed to emcee has been cancelled. It was the first of it's kind here in Winona and they did not get enough participants so they are going to try again next year. I am surprised how bummed I am about this. I was really looking foward to doing it. Bob said he felt relief for me. "You dodged the public speaking bullet!" Ah, well, I wanted to take the bullet was my response! So...I feel a little lost because I was really looking foward to it. Sadly, the applications to other jobs don't seem quite so appealing. Why is that? Is it that I am lazy, or that I simply don't really want those jobs? I guess I have more to consider and more time to write.

There is a new book out called The Male Brain. Imagine my surprise that it was a book and not a leaflet. My male boss and I discussed this at length. He was surprised to discover that the same author's book The Female Brain was one he could actually understand. We shared a few laughs about all this and concluded that really- what's the point? Some things are not meant to be understood and the mystery remains.

Don't cry over spilt milk... or jell-o that won't set.

It's always hard to admit when you are wrong or simply can't do something. I recently had a humbling experience that has taken me a week or more to process. You can now read about it in Family Fodder. It still stings a bit, so leave comments- only if they are kind.

A note about my books

Since my book page went up, I have had a few questions such as, "What? No 3 star books?" and "Hey- why only one star for something you liked and no stars for a book by one of your favorite authors?" Ok. So here is what I know as someone who sells books: You can know your reader pretty well and still hit a clunker. I am not being obnoxious when I say that I do pretty well at work. I feel like I know the right questions to ask and my scope of authors is not bad and I have memorized a few big author series in the genres where I am weak (science fiction and fantasy), but it is still hard to be certain because we are all so different. So I think my ratings are downplayed so as not to disapppoint. It happens far too often when somone gushes over a life-changing book that you can't wait to get to and when you finally get to it, your reaction is, huh? What was the big fuss? So it is safe to say that if I give a book 2 stars it really is just a damn good book. If I give a book 3 stars, it means it's damn good and for whatever reason, it is going to stick with me for years. This is why I put Here If You Need Me on my list of top 10 books of all time. I read it every year and find something new. It's the closest thing I will probably ever use as a bible. So to me that's big. To you, it might not be. Also, you can google reviews as well as me. This is just my take which may not be your take, but it is some place to start if you are looking for a good book.

Finally...it wasn't just talk.

I did it! I got my reading list on here. So check out my new section which I have elegantly named The Stack. This is much better than The Pile. I have a dog and just spent the weekend with a 9 month old so I think you know why that title wouldn't....do:) At any rate, I went back to January and listed everything I could think of. I will be taking January through March down soon to make room for the titles that keep coming my way.

It is now totally official that I am for certain going to emcee the upcoming spring colloquium. Here is a link that explains the event: http//www.southeastmn.edu/colloquium/ I will be travelling with my fairy godmother to Red Wing (she will be the keynote speaker there, she gets paid, and this is her 3rd time so I am looking at this as on-the-job training) next week to get a feel for the event AND to determine how fancy my outfit needs to be. Note Katy's nice picture for the Red Wing event. Could that be me in..2 years or so?

Sew...what?

A few weeks ago, when my parents were here for a visit, my dad brought an old stack of books he found in my grandmother's home. He'd been pondering how to help me with my restlessness and thought he'd struck gold. In the box was a book made just for me. He proudly presented me with the 1947 edition of The New Encyclopedia of Modern Sewing. 352 detailed pages of instructions for making tailored pantsuits, money-saving ideas for "remodeling your family wardrobe and gay home furnishings". Over 500 photographs of Barbie in stillettos pinning and tailoring everything just so. Yes. My dad knows me well. My mom passed on many gifts to me, but the gift of sewing was not one. Probably because she didn't have it herself. Both my grandmas were seamstresses to a point, but the buck stopped with mom and I never took an interest. In a tortuous year of home-ec (remember when they called it that? now it's Family and Consumer Sciences), Mrs. French helplessly tried to instill basic skills into one who could barely cut straight- even with the chalk line. Needless to say, hemming means duct tape, and real needle and thread gets passed to Bob who has more skill because of time logged in hemming pigs feet and people. Sorry, dad. Nice try.

It's Been a Long Time

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Where have I been? Sick or tending to the sick. On spring break with the kids. Enough said there. Travelling a bit and now digging out from said travels. I have much for fodder so I will get cracking when my kids set off to school tomorrow. In the mean time, I have accepted a gig as an Emcee for an event that celebrates women in the busisness world. I will be working with a local radio personality. I think the introduction to us will be funny. Lots to say about our local radio man and then....Lisa. She.... is a mom. She works at a book store. She can't make jello but has a cackle you won't soon forget. No worries, though. She will guide us through this delightful event with a smile. Give her a hand- she needs one!

What's it worth to you?

Recently I drove 15 hours for a surprise party that lasted 4 hours. This party was for a good friend that I have kept since my first teaching job in southern Iowa. It seemed like a crazy thing to do, but as the pieces fell together I knew it had to be done. Too often I opt out of things like this just because it's hard and messy. It seems like things can get complicated easily and when you have to get others involved just to make something work for you, it just seems like too much. But I am so glad I did it. I saw people I hadn't seen in 15 years not to mention my friend who started crying when she saw me. This person has the biggest heart and the biggest laugh and the room was filled with people who love her. What a sight. And I was so happy to be a part of it. How wonderful to receive smiles from people that I used to work with- sincere hugs and curiosity about my life. I started my professional career with many of these people and they were so good to me. It was humbling to remember their generosity. So often things like this are about the person being honored or remembered, but it ends up being so gratifying to you. It seems selfish and selfless at the same time. I am not going to pass judgement on anyone who opts for easy- I have done it often and will likely do so in the future. Life is messy. But I do think to myself, hey girl- the mess is the fun part. Get messy. It pays off.

Going Nowhere Fast

A sick child can really bring things to a screeching halt. I was on the docket to work more than usual this week, apply for a community college adjunct position, and write. Well, I scrambled to cut my hours and the rest is a dream. The hub-ster is putting in more than his share of caring for the sick world so I will heal our tiny little village. This is being written during one too many viewings of Scooby Doo--ruh roh!! The pile of homework to make up is tall, the tempers are short after day 3 at home, and I think I am on a quest to find out what else is out there? Ha! What little I have to offer is this: Never make life changing decisions while you or someone you love is ill. You may find your house up for sale, the walls painted PUCE (which is very wrong), or your dog's mug on PetFinder. com. None of these happened to me, but.....you know. I've had a few moments. Little tidbits of joy can be found under Family Fodder- all hope is not lost.

Wanted: Male Followers

A charming uncle of Bob's has noted my blog is estrogen-rich. Well, yes. My own brother hasn't officially signed up though I know he reads. I have a father-in-law who may take a peek or two so here is my call: Ladies sign up again with men's names and men, sign up! I am way short of my 100 goal and April will be here soon!
If Ken McCullough is out there, please sign up and you can gasp at how incorrectly I use my dashes! Old habits die hard. Ken is a former writing teacher of mine and our current Winona Poet Laureate. He is an amazing poet and writer in general, and even though I know I am letting him down, his male internet presence would be appreciated. Other males I am after include Chris Livingston from The Book Shelf (my boss), my dad, Ted Reilly, David Lynch, and Chris Michener. Michael Perry (author of Population 485, Truck: A Love Story, and most recently COOP) would be a long shot but very cool. I wouldn't mind seeing my old speech coach Jerry Hyler's mug appear, along with my high school junior prom date, Jason Holcomb. I don't know what kind of computer skills Larry Wolner, owner and chef at The Blue Heron has, but it seems he would sometimes enjoy this and I can picture Carew from Mugby Junction sneaking a glance now and then. Bill Perry and Jim Warburton may feel obligated, but let me tell you this: any female insight is bound to make your marriage happier. I like men. I married one. Speaking of my man...won't YOU sign up?

Floundering and fearful, but isn't that ok?

I don't know where the time goes. The hours without children fly by, and then they are home and usually crabby- I do bring out the best in them- and then the hours creep slowly until dinner. Sometimes it is apparent I was busy. Other times, not so much. My husband is brilliant at knowing which times to comment.

I feel I need to make some big move for the sake of myself. I was told of 2 more jobs relating to community colleges and so it seems apparent the universe is sending me NEON messages. I can't help but wonder if I want to do it really, or just feel I should. At times I feel so ricidulous for having such a sappy life. For instance, someone needed last minute childcare yesterday so I helped out. It was no big deal, but it was great to be able to say unequivocally YES! A need filled and that's all it took for me to feel like my day wasn't a total waste. I hate that pop-psychology that suggests we don't move because of fear of success. Isn't there some study that suggests that we don't break out of our bubble simply out of fear? I know exactly what I am scared of-- rocking my family's boat. About 6 weeks ago, we thought my elderly grandmother was going to pass. I wanted to see her so Bob sent me on my way for a 24 hour trip to Iowa on my own. That stint entailed detailed planning of childcare for 2 afternoons, rides to and from dance, meal prep that would ease my consciousness, along with reminders about piano and homework. That was for 24 hours only! Then there was bad weather and there was a late start the next morning. Bob found someone to take the kids but rolled in to work 3 minutes before patient number one and exclaimed to his office mate, "I could NOT do this job without Lisa". Well, yes. So while I certainly understand his pressures (most days), I have my own. When I want to rock my boat, I will then rock everyone elses and in the end, it just seems easier to take it for the team for another year. This blog is easy because NO ONE is affected. No, I am not bringing in any money. No, I am not getting published anwhere. However, my fingers are moving with my brain. Does that count for something?