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Heartbreak

Sometimes the heart snaps and breaks swiftly and cleanly in half. This can be painful and gut-wrenching....but after you catch your breath, the healing begins.

Sometimes, though, it is just a slow erosion, a willingness to let hope die at a snail's pace because there is always some sort of flicker, however faint, that things just might change.

Living in a world with evidence of both all around makes a person marvel at the resiliency of people. I bet if you look around today, you might witness a miracle.

Maybe, you are the miracle.

Pony up!

My dad has a little pony that he "got for the grandkids." Yeah, right. Dad wanted the pony because he wanted the cart that goes with it, along with the lead and the bridle and the peace of mind he gets just knowing there is a pony on his little piece of land.
So we got the pony cart out on a day when September was offering up it's finest and one by one, the pony hauled around the grandkids and a few adults. He was done being a showman by the time I got my turn and refused some simple instructions. My dad was chuckling because "he's an animal, not a machine" and the boys "get so frustrated when he doesn't do what he's s'posed to...just like kids, huh?" and I was laughing along with dad.

To say my dad hasn't always had it easy is an understatement, yet he is steadfast in his willingness to seek out the things that make him happy.

Even if I don't get it...old tractors and ponies past their prime, he loves them all with a dedication that I only seem to have for my kids and books.

Different things keep people going. Who am I to judge what makes people happy even when I want to? All I know is that my dad can still laugh and smile despite an anxious and sometimes heavy heart. And for that I say bring on the tractors and the ponies....just don't bring them to my house.

My birthday boy.

It seems he was born to the wrong mother, the way that we clash so. But, it's what we've got and man, do I love the heck out of him. Despite the number of times we eye each other warily and brace ourselves for another round of the disagreement du jour, I know he knows I love him. In fact, it's sort of a competition. The very end of bedtime always involves a back and forth over who loves who more. We get creative.

"I love you more than chocolate, coffee, and shoes!" I scream.

"I love you more than melted cheese and sharks!" he screams back.

Sometimes we travel. "I love you to the center of the earth where there is molten lava and temperatures you could not stand!" I proudly claim.

"I love you to infinity and beyond and beyond and beyond!" he states knowing there is no way to top that.

No matter what we say, he's got me. As I am leaving he always says, "You will never win, mom. No matter what you say, I love you more." He snuggles down with a big grin and drifts off completely satisfied with trumping me.

I don't tell him how wrong he is. How can his eight year old, little-boy self possibly get the depth and breadth of a mom's heart for her child? As much as I feel mystified and bewildered and frustrated and off-course, I feel committed to loving his little being in ways I don't even get.

After a final good-night, I walk out his door with my own smile of satisfaction. I let him win and...I always will.

My imagination.

I should be more disturbed by what I found behind my son's bed. Actually, I should be more bothered that I ventured to go there in the first place because I know what I am getting into. Among the detrius were three rotting apple cores... and one was quite furry. The bright side is that he eats apples! Great for health and all that. Another added bonus was that I used a Pokemon card also in the debris to scoop them up and I threw the whole lot away. That felt great. I know, I know. Pokemon cards, to the ill-informed, multiply like fruit flies. However, it just seemed like such a great act of mom-rebellion that I tossed that bad boy in the garbage knowing full well that 12 more will likely come home tomorrow.

But no. The rotting apple cores didn't really bother me. I know my son. I know that after we say good-night, he will attempt his covert missions into the kitchen and begin an after-hours private life that amuses him and shuts us out. I get it and don't really care as long as I am not bothered. Judgey parents judge all you want...the boy has his life.

At any rate, what bothered me were the clean pairs of underwear scattered around the perimiter of his room. I picked up five pairs and I could only imagine the scenario. Dressing, if you have read this blog at all, can be challenging for Thing 2, and underwear is a battle that I have chosen not to take on. But he knows how I feel so I can only guess about his dilemma every morning. "I am getting dressed, I am getting dressed. Here I go, I think I will make mom really happy and even put on my underwear. Oh...but I don't really like them. But it will make her so happy. But...,but..., but...." So, the evidence is clear in what wins for this internal battle. Or at least this is what I think. Maybe he just gets distracted, which is just as likely.

And that is what bothers me. I can't really know. I can't ask him because attention drawn will thwart any minor progress, if it is indeed progress, made.

I do realize how weird I am. I am a junk yard dog looking for any little scrap I can find. I need some evidence that this kid hears me and even it's not really there, isn't it ok that I imagine it?

Puppy's Last Stand

Thing 1 was recently engaged in a losing battle. She was trying to extend the life of a well-loved, well-worn, mostly decapitated, long ago stuffed puppy named....Puppy. Such was her desire to succeed that she gamely dug out sewing paraphenalia and sat for two solid hours attempting to stitch some life back into Puppy. I was of no use to her. I can't sew, can rarely thread a needle, and most of the other tools were unrecognizable to me. She must have gotten this kit from a relative.

But I admired her can-do spirit. She gets that from Big Man. Me? I know what I am good and not good at and rarely bust out of my boundaries. With the world so crazy these days, I like the predictabiltiy of knowing who I am. One thing I can count on is that I can't sew.

Puppy now sports a very tenous hold on the last stage of his life. The bright red thread screams, "I will not go down without a fight."

I get that. I feel that way a lot, which is why I write.
At the very least, you put something out there and maybe someone pauses, maybe a small ripple is made. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

So, no, I didn't teach Thing 1 to sew, but it seems, at least somewhere in this wonky, disjointed life we lead, a larger lesson has been imparted and that maybe I had something to do with it......maybe.

From the bottom up.

How we approach tasks, whether menial or significant, is interesting and I always wonder what it says about who we really are. For instance, my son always gets naked and puts his socks on first. I find this odd for the obvious reasons and when I asked him about his method his reply was, "I start at the bottom, work my way up, and that way I don't forget any pieces." What stops him from also putting on his shoes is that he tried it once and found it too hard to shove everything through the holes in his underwear (assuming underwear was going to be part of his day). At any rate, he revised his system a bit and it works for him.

I guess we all have methods that work for us and they don't really need to make sense to others, unless what you are doing is affecting someone else. How Thing 2 arrives at getting dressed doesn't really matter. But I don't impose my will on it and that is what really counts. In fact, it's a major milestone in our relationhip and I like to think it will pay off as silly as it sounds. Too much of his own little world is dictated by the big people of his world and the parameters of school. No matter how many rules get thrown his way, Thing 2 always seems to find some little way to tweak it so that it looks like he is following the rules...but barely. He just doesn't like to do things exactly as expected. He has a light in his eye and a ready smile for those who notice and I love to see people who catch it and appreciate it. He will learn all too soon that this won't always fly, but part of growing up is making these judgements and dealing with the consequences.

So now I smile when I know he's dressing. As much as I worry about his rogue behavior, I think, "This boy, my boy, is going to be just fine. He is always going to find a way to make something his own and he is going to be more than fine."

Taking the Long Way Around

This is supposed to be the year of writing, the year of the Book. Tell that to the kids, the husband, the book group, the dog, the part-time job, the schools, and my home. None seems real supportive of my efforts. Progress made: None.

CNN has dissed me but I do have an editor in my address box, I've missed yet another deadline, and the number of original words written since school started is sitting at about 14. Oh well.

I did give a two hour presentation to a group of day care providers on the differences in parenting cultures- Eastern versus Western philosphies. It's a long story as to how that happened for me but suffice to say that is was fun, I got to talk, and they paid me. None of this was part of my original 2011 plan for Year of the Book.

What is happening is the formation of a group called ART. This stands for Andrew's Round Table and we are a group of concerned straight citizens who want to promote dialogue regarding the marriage amendment and what it could mean to Minnesotans. To that end, we have secured a young man by the name of Randy Potts to help us with our quest. Randy just happens to be the gay grandson of the late Oral Roberts. He has a heart-breaking and compelling story that puts yet one more face on the humanity of our mission. And lucky beyond measure, I am charged with the task of finding a venue in Winona for him to share this story, as well as seeing to the other details that go along with planning an event.

I guess I have made some progress....just not in the form of my original plan. This seems to be the way of the world...reality constantly butts into your personal agenda. The trick is rolling with it and soaking up unforeseen gifts and finding the grace in times of great personal challenge.

Randy Potts will be in Winona on October 24th no matter how little progress gets made on My Book. And I care so much that he is coming that it will be worth setting aside my own agenda to give myself over to this experience.

What I thought I would write and what needs to be written may not jive and maybe that's the point. The plan I had versus the one out there for me aren't the same and I am just too slow to recognize it. So my new plan is to not make one and take advantage of all that comes my way.

Still singing

I was sitting on my couch in a little condominium in Madison, Wisconsin nursing my three month old baby girl. I was watching the Today show and trying to make sense of the news break. Before I saw what I saw, I was ignorant and uninformed and a tad too into my own life. I yelled to Big Man, "Hey! Come look at this! A plane just flew into the World Trade Center!" I watched and couldn't believe the coincidence- another plane into another tower. I was dumb and Big Man was grave. I didn't get it then, and in my heart of hearts I don't want to get it now.

As I relive that day with everyone else this weekend, I am trying desperately to recall what life was like before in order to make sense of our after. Ten years have passed and I alternate between scouring the news headlines and burying my head in the sand.

The courage and valor of the firefighters who lived and died is something that stays with me. At one of my son's preschool field trips, they toured a little fire house and all the little kids wanted to know, "Do you do what they do in New York?"

So many lives altered in one day, a thriving, pulsing city stopped on a dime and forced to turn inward and channel the kindness they are renowned for hiding, but they rose to the unbelievable nightmare and from grief and horror, stories, always it is the stories, emerge of hope...and our humanity.

There is much talk of getting over it and indeed we have and must move forward....but how can we get over it when so many were lost to us? Try telling the countless children who lost their moms or dads to get over it. Try telling those who lost their best friends, the loves of their lives to get over it. Try telling the strangers who saw people risk their lives for them to get over it. It's ridiculous. I think it's ok to carry little bits of grief with us. In doing so, we are carrying a constant melody with us, a song that says I love you, I miss you everyday, I am grateful for the time you were here, I am sorry for your loss, I am appreciative of everything you tried to do for us, I miss you, I love you.

Maybe I'm crazy, but I don't think that is song we should never stop singing.

And we're off!

Thing 1 did not want me to take her picture getting on the bus. There were big kids looking out the window. So today, I will have to try again and alter the memory book of the first day of school. This implies I have a memory book rather than a lumpy pile of keepsakes waiting for divine intervention.

Thing 2 is worried about people noticing the warts on his knee (he will be wearing long pants and band-aids) and the shape of his head. "Does it look round or oval?" Umm....round? "I don't want to be called a dufus." Ok. Is there something out there in popular culture I have missed? And which is worse- round or oval? Is there a head shape that screams dufus? And who uses that word, dufus? Not anyone in this house, except for Thing 2 apparently.

My worries are different. Will their teachers be successful in bringing out the best in them? Will the school of hard knocks make them stronger or send them home crying? Will the pressures of testing detract from the joy of learning for both student and teacher?

School is so different from my own grade school days. We demand more of and give less to the people we entrust our children to.

Why is it so easy to forget that we are all on the same team. If I have one wish for everyone this year, it's that we act like it.

A gift

A new friend of mine had one of those weeks where nothings seemed to go right. Some of it was life-changing sorts of stuff, and other things were smaller yet seemed bigger simply because of timing. Oh, and she was also trying to enjoy the last week before her daughter left for her freshmen year of college.


I bring this up only because during the midst of her pain and chaos she brought be an amazing gift, my book. She and her daughter printed out my blog entries from day one, as well as my published articles. There are over 200 entries. She knows that this is the year I am finally allowing myself the time to try and get my writing out on a larger platform and to start that book I keep talking about. She left it on my doorstep and my daughter said, "I don't think you have to start mom. Look at this! You already have a book!" It is three-ring binder that is four inches thick.


I cried.


Not for the tangible evidence of my efforts but for the kindness behind the gift. I knew what was happening behind the scenes in my friend's life. Why this? For me?


I talked to her and she said that it was just too much. She needed to get outside of her persoanl ick and just do something that felt good. She knew about my goals, yet she knew me well enought to know that I probably needed some prodding. Seeing all of the my work in one place would be a great motivator, and it gave her some time to channel her frustrations into action.


It was humbling that I was the recipient of this. My default reaction to acts of kindness directed my way is that I don't deserve it. Truly, though, it was the best, most perfect thing that anyone could have done for me. Why her and why me, I am not going to dwell on.


What I will think about everytime I see that binder is the power behind kindess. We all know trajedy can strike out of nowhere. But the same is true for kindness and yet the two seem linked in ways that can be difficult to understand.


What would happen, though, if our headlines focused more on the kindness? Even the little things like "Girl publishes book six months after friend kicks her mental butt" or "Little boy rescues injured bird by making a splint out of popsicle sticks"? Yes, those headlines do exist, but it seems we really have to dig for them.


I don't want to live in a place where we have to dig for kindness. But thinking about it isn't enough. I've got to make my own headlines.

A deck of cards.

It seems that much of who my kids were meant to be was set from the minute they were born. One child came out with eyes wide open and her outlook on life remains, to this day, the same. I can see how she will float through life with a smile, her innate curiosity ever-present, and her steely determination will keep her moving. The other child took his time emerging. He was slow and the birth was difficult and to this day, it seems he rattles like a ball in an old pin-ball machine. He'll bump into things and get re-directed, but eventually he'll get there and make a joke out of it. Their way of dealing with life has been true since even before they toddled.

From the moment of conception, there is little to be done about our physical attributes and sexual preferences and general temperament. We can spend a lifetime hiding our true longings and fighting against what was given and in the end, we will break ourselves for it.

So why do we make people believe they should be anything different than who they are?

I am a white mom from rural Iowa with two kids. I grew up in an area where it was not uncommon to hear unkind remarks about "those damn Mexians" who came to work in our meat packing plants because they desperately needed money for their own families. I grew up not having a lot of exposure to cultural differences. I grew up watching a sister think there was something wrong with her. There wasn't, but she is gay. I went to college where I met a young Laotian whom I dated for awhile because he was kind and funny. My grandfather said, "Isn't it just as easy to find a white guy?"

It makes me wonder if there is an empathy and acceptance gene as well because how could I know that what he was saying was wrong given the environment I grew up in?

I hate the word tolerance when it comes to discussing people who seem different from us. It makes me think of living with my son who, despite my gentle and not-so-gentle reminders, leaves his socks in whatever room he is in. I tolerate that. But tolerating people? We live and raise and interact and do business and receive services and share ideas with people. And people deserve more than just tolerance. They deserve respect and civil rights and justice.

I keep coming back to the time someone told me, "You liberals just want everything to be fair." I have watched people bury their stillborn babies and I've lost some babies of my own. I've watched people I love battle cancer, die from brain aneurisms, go bankrupt, and be shunned from their own families for perceived wrong-doings. I've witnessed physical maladies wreak havoc on family members so I feel pretty confident in saying life isn't fair.

But getting treated equally means that we share some basic human rights and what happens after that is yours to determine. Sadly, racism and gay-bashing will likely continue because many people choose to remain ill-informed, ignorant, or unwilling to admit that people are who they are.

My children were born with their own unique set of traits. Life will pan out differently for each of them, and one or the other will likely claim that something isn't fair. They will be right.

There is no disputing that everyone gets dealt a different hand, but there seems to be no good reason why we can't play from the same deck.

Legos save lives.

Sometimes the worst place to be is inside your own head. We have all entered an internal labyrinth that leads you to no place you really want to be yet it seems to hard to get out of.
I recommend having a kid around. If you don't have one, borrow one.
I was spending a little too much time in a very dangerous maze of psychological drama when I heard this, "A lego! I swallowed a lego!"
You can't possibly say, "Not now. I am cruising through hell and I quite like it." So....you take a deep breath, and try not to ask the obvious questions like, "Why and how?" and instead offer assurance that death will not occur. Immediately you begin peppering silly and serious questions like,"What color? how big? what flavor? what shape? did it taste good?" You offer the rudimentary digestion law of what goes in must come out. Soon the whole converation runs amok in a good way and this is one time where poop-talk is the best kind of silly.
So, the trip to hell inside your head has abruptly ended and you have forgotten why you even went.
Legos save lives...this is no joke.