True north...or is it south?

Despite the fact that someone once told me my heart points true north, I wouldn't know true north if, by some act of God, I was facing true north. This can surely be catalogued as another one of my father's greatest disappointments in life. Three out of four offspring pass the directions test. I am the flunkee. We grew up listening to, "Now, head south two miles, veer west about a half-mile past the second telephone pole, and immediately after Sobieski's, turn east." This was all fine if you headed south in the first place. If not, the rest was moot. Fortunately for me, Iowa boasts a recognizable paved road within 30 minutes (usually) of even the worst of directional errors. Things are much different in Wyoming ,Colorado, or say, Montana. Two hours is the general rule of thumb for correctional driving. Luckily, I found this out when I was not driving (sorry Big Man) and we had a full (ish) tank of gas.

At any rate, the obvious errors in my internal navigational system appeared long before the Iowa gravel roads started carrying the snappy names they have now. Rural Route 2 is now Story Avenue. Clearly, the universe has a sense of humor.

Since I am coming out as "directionally challenged", I may as well confess that there are not enough appendages on my body to count the number of times I have been in tears in a car by myself attempting to sort myself out. While I am not afraid to ask for directions, it usually has to happen after I can wipe all traces of drama off my red face and I have a clear sense that the person giving the directions truly knows what they are talking about. Any prefaces of "I think" or "I am not sure, but..." will not instill hope into my barely existing confidence. I will mutter"Thanks" and bolt.

Directions for me must be specific to the point of being exactly as things exist on the road while I am driving on it. I don't want options....just directions. My greatest peeve is, "Well, which way would you like to go?" You are assuming I know my options, I care about them, and I will understand the nuances of their differences. I do not. I just want specific directions that get me from point A to point B.

I freely admit to this chip on my directionally challenged shoulder and so to save time, embarrassment and harrassment (by you to me for being so pathetically, directionally challenged), treat me like the hopeless being I am. Pretend you are speaking to a poorly educated eight year old. Give me landmarks (more is better) and be current. It doesn't help to ask me to use a navigational device...it is likely I can't use that either. It is impossible to listen, watch for signs and landmarks, and look at a map all at once.

Stronger people look at these things as a challenge to overcome. I look at it as a waste of tears...I need to shore up for real pain...not mere frustration caused my genetic incompetency.

Better than any Garmin is my live human navigational system currently run by my sister and husband. With the right mix of cheerleader, zen master, and no-nonsense teacher, both have safely navigated me out of major mishaps to the desired location. I have received non-judgemental, loving, and helpful guidance on the side of many a road while my hazards flash, the snot and tears flow, and hiccups subside. Oh, I well-know what they must say to their friends after we are done. But for those moments, I am re-centered, bolstered and re-directed with such care that what they may say or think afterwards does not matter one iota to me.

I should change. I should grow a spine, study maps, toy with Google Mapquest, and install that talking app on my phone. None of these things really gets at the glitch in my own system. I will continue to be late, lost, and properly directed while unable to follow directions. My hope is that people will remain tolerant. After all, my heart remains in the right place.

What's up.

I am working on a piece right now....or I should say I am waiting on a piece right now. I sent it off to a variety of sources for feedback to determine how to proceed. Blog-life has taken a back seat to some other writing that doesn't seem to work here.
It's hard some days to determine if this is the place for a particular thought. It's my blog, I know, but I worry about getting locked in to one particular mode. Yes, I am interested in current events and there are issues I feel great concern for, but in terms of activism and opinion writing, I feel there is a fine line to walk and I find myself wondering what role I want this blog to serve.
So bear with me as I muddle through. I am....percolating.


How is it that twenty four hours can take forever, a week rushes past you in what feels like minutes, the year disappears in the time it takes to blink, and the whole course of your life can change in a split second?


Pehaps the biggest legacy left to me from Andrew's passing is my use of time, my enjoyment of and parsing out of who gets it. I still have a long way to go because NO is a difficult word for me. And saying yes! can bring up so much more than saying no can... but no is ok too. Saying no makes room for other things or provides space for invites larger chunks andanda year ago and I struggle to define time. I am sure it is differentThe pain felt is wide and deep. Your parents, your siblings, your dear friend Jillian, are still grasping at straws and lifelines that might pull them closer to you. You have taken virtual strangers to places they never dreamed of going. Take me, Mr. Wilfahrt. I am a non- relative who has become the poster child sans poster for the gay community of my little Winona hamlet. How this happened I do not know. My lesbian sister talks less about gay rights than I do.

I am letting the dust settle.

Some people would rather be strung by their toenails on a clothesline than deliver a public speech. I am not one of them. I owe much of this to Mr. Hyler, otherwise known as Jer, the bod, to the Eastwood Raider Class of 1987. Mr. Hyler was one of those teachers who had something good to say to everyone and he was able to draw the best out of the shy or most unlikely suspect. He saw humor and intelligence in those of us who might otherwise be overlooked and coaxed and prodded and in some cases, flat-out DEMANDED things from his students that many didn't even know existed within them.
I keep him in mind when I teach. I keep him in mind when I parent.
The thing about both teaching and parenting is that each moment can be so raw. No matter how much "practice" you have in exchanges with kids, age 21 or 8, no two are alike. Frankly, it is uncharted territory. A deft hand, a sense of humor, and a willingness to re-examine are useful tools to have, but none of this works if you are like me: I am an emotional beast and I get my energy from those around me. Ask my kids. At the end of the day, when it seems like we have had a similar conversation 6, 429 times before, I want to sit down and bawl. Or at least slink away to a private, padded cell.
These are times when I imagine Jer in the back of the room with his bucket full of chalk-filled erasers. He is listening to me zip through my speech at a breakneck speed for the 200th time. With a bored look, he lobs an eraser so it barely misses my head but emits a nice chalky poof! This poof is full of yellow dust that settles evenly on top of my brunette head and suddenly I am re-oriented to the moment at hand and I.....s-l-o-w- d-o-w-n long enough to slow down.
With kids, the mirror is always on display. Lately, I just don't want to look in it because there will be dust....everywhere.














One "AWESOME" Dreamer

Thing 1 had this to say about Martin Luther King, Jr.: "AWESOME!"

Thing 2 piped in to elaborate on King's achievements all before the age of 39...and then kindly pointed out that I was 43 and had not been nearly so successful in my own attempts at change. He continued by sharing that King's untimely death left him unable to continue his work and, "At least you're still kicking, mom."

Um...thanks.

I love how my kids hold the mirror in my face to enlarge the flaws and foibles of my life. I suppose they would say I do the same to them... only in reminders to sit up straight (yes, people still say that), chew with your mouth closed, finish your homework, pick up your stuff, turn off the television, and please take the dog out. My biggest fear as a parent has always been that the less desirable habits of my children are merely a reflection of my own. It has come to pass that this isn't always true. Who we are is who we are, and I have to remind myself daily to draw out and capitalize on the good while embracing the "quirks" as part of our individuality.
Martin Luther King, Jr., I hope, would see that I am fighting the good fight right along with him despite the snail's pace of my progress (thanks for the reminder, Thing 2). I don't have legions following in my wake, but what I do have are two sincerely curious children wondering out loud at the world.

"Whaaaat??? A woman could not vote?"

"Huh? A black person had to ride where?"

"Hey! I thought you told us love is love...people can't marry who they want?"

"You told me getting married is a choice... and I choose NOT to get married....but if I did, who cares who I marry?"

Kids will do that to you...force y0u to explain a world that even you don't even get sometimes.

King's dream lives on, I think, because we just don't want to give up on something that seems attainable and profoundly...human. Whether you have to explain the world to a kid or not, how children perceive and interpret the world affects all of us.

Because of my kids, I am left with no other choice but to keep moving toward the light of justice and opportunity for every person. I may be no Martin Luther King, Jr., but a girl, too, can dream.


Another shot in the arm from kin

"Hey guys! I am pretty excited. I am teaching a class at our local university."

"How can that be? You don't know anything."

Thing 2 pauses as if to choose his next words carefully all the while knowing it is too late. He plunges ahead. "Every time I ask you something, you say you don't know."

"Well, sweetie," I smile sweetly. "I will not be discussing the number of universes out there, or why some people believe in God and others the Big Bang Theory. I will teaching people how to speak in public. "

Big pause.

"Well, you got that down."