An egg is not just an egg

It started innocently enough.

"Would you like an egg for breakfast?"


Thing 2 grabs the egg, twirls it in his hands, and then stops. "Where's the chick?"

"What chick?"

"How come there is not chick in the egg? I am not eating a dead chick am I?"

"No, the egg wasn't fertilized. Ahh, damn! Why did I go there?"

"Mom! You just swore and where are you going?"

"Sorry. To get your dad."

I race down the hall and Big Man is chuckling because he has heard the entire exchange.

"You haven't had your coffee yet, huh?"

Thing 2 has followed me, eager to get some real answers. "Dad, what is fertilize? why do you need it to get a chick?"

"Umm..well the dad has to sprinkle dad-dust on the egg.."

"What! You are doctor for god's sake! Dad-dust? Geez... you need a lot more than coffee. Come on kid. Want a bagel instead?"

319 Ellis Avenue

I spent two years living at 319 Ellis Avenue. It was a crackerbox house situated a mere block from the campus at what was then called Mankato State University. What was best about this place, however, was that it was cheap. Legally, six people could reside there. In practice, the number hovered around nine. I say hovered because it seemed to fluctuate with needs of the inhabitants and their friends.

I was an unlikely candidate for 319 Ellis Avenue. I was straight, my family was in tact, and boiling water was not a challenge for me. But my good friend who had one of the illegal rooms took domination over the basement and drew in people she knew. Eventually I brought in one of my oldest friends and my sister, but the rest of the cast evolved.

Diane was someone just coming out. She was the victim of physical abuse and spent much time crying and leaning on friends that were not her roomates. Damien owned a rifle and was proud of the bikini-clad women gracing his posters on the faux panneling of his room. Tom was lively and informative while watching the winter Olympics. He had fashion sense, rhythmn, and knew a good skater when he saw one.

When new people came, we never asked much. Could you pay the rent? Keep your mess to a minimum? Would you please adhere to the kitchen cleaning schedule? This meant more to us than who you shared your private time with.

Eventually, my own sister came out. It was a long and difficult process. All the while, friends were shipped off to Desert Storm and millions of gallons of oil spilled in Alaska. What have we done to people? I remember thinking. There is war and our natural resources are threatened, and here is my sister, my heart, ashamed to admit who she is--someone she has been all along?

That was 21 years ago.

It doesn't seem like we have come that far. Maybe some of the stigma of sexual orientation is fading. Maybe it feels like we are more open simply because more people are "out". But we are still having debates over what constitutes a marriage. What constitutes a marriage is the union of two people.

The wars are still raging, our natural resources continue to be threatened, and people, because of their private life, still get treated like second-class citizens in a country where we claim to be created equal.

Yeah, right.

Mashed Potatoes

I was raised on mashed potatoes and it's apparent that I ate them. But I left northwest Iowa for someplace racier, south central Minnesota, and didn't spend a whole lot of time thinking about them. With every year away my culinary world expanded. I discovered midwest Chinese food and the Gyro and spices beyond salt and pepper. Once on my own in southern Iowa, I saw fit to spend my paycheck on radical things like fresh-from-Mexico vegetables and Thai fish sauce and I learned how to make spring rolls. I could go for long stretches without eating mashed potatoes and my life seemed just fine. Every town I moved to introduced me to people who cooked other things- their grandma's Italian dishes, their mom's turkey burgers (turkey-in a burger?), peppers that were meant to be HOT to add kick and not just a garnish. Olive oil became my cream of mushroom soup and sea salt my onion soup mix. I learned to roast the most offensive vegetable and people would swoon. Kale chips anyone?

Then I had kids and for a time, Thing 1 was game for most everything. Chickpeas in curry did not faze her....until she had Grandma's mashed potatoes. It was like the heavens had opened up and poured fourth all that is right in the world. Lump-free and rich with butter and homemade gravy, it finally dawned on me that I can't make gravy. And truth be told, I don't like making mashed potatoes. I would cagily invite people for holidays who make mashed potatoes and gravy and celebrate their participation in holiday preparations.

Thing 2 came along and the battle cry became louder. "Why don't you make Grandma's world-famous mashed potatoes?" Clearly, their worlds were too small or I had to get busy. I would try. Many times, I skipped the gravy purporting that the amount of butter and cream used to disguise lumps and improve flavor couldn't possibly be made better. Wrong. I was fooling no one. They would eat them but rarely take seconds. Grandma would come or we would go and they would gulp away as if trying to savor the memory for future subpar stand-ins.

But we found ourselved alone on Easter and everyone wanted tradition- ham and mashed potatoes and gravy. "Are you kidding?" they squealed. "You can't have pasta on Easter!" So I went at it again and finally...there was success. I farmed out the gravy to Big Man, and it too was a hit.

I still don't like making mashed potatoes--and the appeal is not completely understood. But their faces were happy and it seems I rose a few notches in their book. "Mom," said Thing 1. "You can really cook." I didn't dignify that comment with a response, but I did soak in their pleasure. I hope the carb buzz lingers since I have no plans for a repeat performance soon.

But we do have some trips to Grandma's planned.

Say what?

A charming lady I know stopped by The Book Shelf to tell me how much she appreciated an article published Sunday in our local paper about my husband's cousin who was killed in Afghanistan while serving in the Army. She then continued to talk to me about that "silly war business." I tried to hold my own because, to quote various members of the Wilfahrt clan,"This is what we do now." But I didn't have a lot to say except that I think it's time to bring our soldiers home. She continued to articulate her thoughts and I joined in for a "Yes," and a "Well, but then..., "and finally I said, "I am actually more interested in using all that money spent on war to do blah, blah, blah" and on I went about any number of meaningful uses for this money. After a bit she said, "Why don't YOU run for president? What your saying just makes so much sense."

Excuse me?

One article from a heartfelt participant in society does not a president make. Can you see me in the joint chiefs-of-staff meeting? After a heated debate on foreign policy and military missions, Hilary turns to me with a look. She arches an eyebrow and waits. I say, "Bring everyone home. Now." I think she might be looking for a little bit more.

But then I ruminated a bit because many of us play this if-I-were-president game. It's not all that crazy. I know two other brunettes who are running. I bet we have a few other things in common besides hair color.

Let's start with names. Lisa, Michelle, and Sarah. Solid names. Not real flashy but full of spunk. Check.

Momhood. Lately, this seems to be a selling point. What they don't have that I do is Thing 2, age 7, and full of spirit. On a personal front, we have our challenges. I would hate to sell him short by campaigning and holding meetings galore and all that travel. And Thing 2 wants to pursue theatre and dance and art. Who would get her to all that stuff? But their kids are fine, right? And they each have way more than 2. I guess I am being a wimp so....


Geographical knowledge.

Hmm. I can't see Alaska or Russia from my kitchen window, but I do have a globe and I know how to use Mapquest. I confess to asking Big Man about most countries with more than 10 letters in their names. He is quite good and I would definitely credit him so.....


Like Michelle, I appreciate the old incandescent lightbulb because it's so much cheaper than these new energy-saving ones, and like Sarah, I admit to reading all sorts of magazines, like People. Neither of these seem like big selling points as a president, but somehow those tidbits remain enticing to people. Hmmm....aren't there bigger fish to fry as a politician?

Truth telling.

Ahhh.....this is where I stumble. I am not a good liar. My face gets red, I can't sleep, and when I get caught I am filled with remorse and rendered immobile for days. A president, or any politician for that matter, has to keep moving and not worry about all the lies, I mean, slip-ups.

Strike one.


Well, here is another stumbling block. I like God. I am all for God. I just don't really want people in my God-business. That whole church and state thing works for me so.....

Strike two.

Public speaking. Now this could work. I can't wink, and I prefer to use direct quotes so as not to appear foolish. I also like to practice. But on the fly, you have to think. Again, it would be hard. I can keep my mouth shut when it seems the better course for the circumstance. Not sure about that one....I'll give myself a check, but maybe those other two should re-think.

Would someone like to forward this to their camps?

Now that I have it all out there, not much seems to be gained from running. I would have to change too much of who I am. You can call me many things, some of them not very nice, I suppose, but I am real.

The biggest perk I see is a book deal. I could make so much more money than others because I feel pretty good about NOT needing a ghost writer. This money would be then sent to places like Outfront.Org, education programs for girls in the middle east, or donated to my local public schools for all sorts of meaningful learning materials and programs for struggling families. And maybe Ben could get an I-pad!

Who am I kidding? Whatever common sense I have wouldn't hold a candle to big money, god-centric ideas, and the wealth of off-the-cuff remarks that will become tomorrow's great headline.

Face it, I am boring.

I will continue the good fight with my pen. You all know what they say about that, right?

Lucky Life

Sometimes it's just too much. I thought we were making progress. I see small shoots of promise. People are digging outside and planting seeds indoors and the kids have their bug traps and fairy nests set in the trees. We are moving forward with hope. But then a winter storm bears down in late April and your heart enters a temporary freeze and it seems the wheels of progress just plain stop. Where is the justice?

But the universe is a funny thing. Sometimes what you want and what you need are so different and then something like this shows up at what feels like an unfortunate time. This poem called "Lucky Life" by Gerald Stern was passed on to me during a time when I felt anything but lucky. It didn't seem like I would be willing to read such a thing, but I did and I am so thankful.

Follow this link and take a few minutes for yourself. They will be good ones, I promise.

All the world's a stage...

Like snow in late April, there are any number of things that can make a person just sort of shake their head in confusion. Yesterday I read about a young woman who carried off a ruse of being a soldier who served in Afghanistan. She was honored at her old high school in Cass Lake. The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Honor Guard was there to give her a tribal blanket and a feather to honor her service as a woman warrior. She had no ties whatsoever to any military branch.

My first instinct when reading about things like this is that there must be some illness involved. I believe too strongly in the goodness within people to think that anyone with a clear mind would do something like this. Who or what messed up her soul? How did the people in her life fail her so completely as to drive her to pretend to be something other than who she was?

I used to like to act. Shedding a new skin can be exhilarating- a free way to investigate a world not your own and a little applause and whooping for your efforts is kind of fun, too. But it can also feel creepy and uncomfortable if it's a role so completely out of who you are, and that's probably why I wasn't that great. My best performances came in roles that were closest to who I am so how much was I really acting?

This will be the time when old high school friends and my family will bring up my junior year in high school when I performed a dramatic cutting from " 'Night Mother". It's high on the drama- a little suicide attempt and bad mother-daughter mojo. The role of the screaming daughter worked for the hormonal, angst ridden teen that I was. It is only now, at 42, that I can look back with kindness at my 16 year old, sincere and driven self who wanted to share this daughter's pain with others. And while we call it "acting", truly that was my tortured soul at the time. I got over it, thank god.

This young woman, however, has a lot more going on than hormonal angst. She was estranged from her family and spent some time in the foster care system. One thing led to another and this idea for getting attention must have felt right and necessary to her somewhere along the line. People close to her were taken with her story and her success. Her own community believed it was possible. This speaks volumes for what we crave in our society--and that we crave it so much it becomes hard to determine what's real and what's not.

However sad it seems, her community appears well on their way to forgiveness. What, they asked, is wrong with being hopeful? Instead, they are turning their attention to many others who have served.

Perhaps this young woman will turn her attention to the facts of her own life, however painful, and those who care enough will help her. The best role she can play now is herself. Realizing who she really is and has been all along is will be a good place to start.

Not quite full circle...but I am getting there

This woman is responsible for getting this blog off the ground. We share a passion for many things including politics, food, asking tough questions, and parenting. We can discuss and debate and remain friends. You can read more about her greatest talents here:

What you won't read is that she in high demand as a public speaker and therefore, she has a much better wardrobe than my own. I still like her. How could I not?

It just keeps playing....

I keep hearing it whether I want to or not. I stumbled upon some video in my archives and there it was again...Taps. It's meant to get your attention, sear your heart so you don't forget, and then out you go into life until you hear it again.

I just don't know what to do with it. I am a struggling fool- fortunate in that I have time to raise my kids and write and take my own advice- do something that matters- but it gets frustrating when all the little steps don't seem to add up to much.

Lately, I have been thinking of Kelley. He is my oldest brother who is about as opposite of Andrew Wilfahrt as could possibly be. He struggled greatly in school, so much so that no amount of parenting could keep him in. He became a victim of some hard knocks and a genetic code which made alcoholism his cross to bear. Over and over he has fought and for the time being, through herculean efforts, he is prevailing. This man of 46 is only now finding a place in the world. A place that has him in "job training" through Goodwill Industries, a place where he is struggling to remember to pay his phone bill on time, a place where a farm boy suddenly depends on city transportation or his legs to get him to his meetings.

While Andrew and Kelley have only been minor players in my life, they have made a big impact on my heart. I feel ashamed to say my own brother has been so minor to me--by choice and circumstance.

The Taps keeps playing because I need to keep hearing it, I guess. "Yes," it says," Andrew is gone, but Kelley is here...."

Common sense versus education

Between the two of us, Big Man and I have 2 advanced degrees and one can even call themselves a doctor. Hmmph. This means something to some people and might even get us a job or two, but in other areas, well, it doesn't always seem to negate the shortest route to success. Some might even suggest common sense might be a missing ingredient.

Cases in point:

A recent trip found us unable to rent a car since both of our licenses were expired.

A door jam removal that should have taken an hour became a day long project.

Did you read my blog about spring clean-up and squirt bottles of gasoline?

Garbage removal happens at the same time on the same day every week and still we miss it at least two times in one month.

Tax day is upon us and we are done. Today. But no one has called the accountant to make them aware of this fact.

Frequently, one of us is missing keys despite multiple sets.

Another one of us leaves pagers at home while on call to torture those living in the environs. This includes an African water frog who gets amped up by the noise and decides his call must compete with the call of a pager. This makes for the perfect writing atmosphere.

Rarely are forms filled out on time for school-related events. Checks must be run to school, calls must be made, and reminders get sent without asking since everyone has been trained so well in our deficiencies.

It does not stink to be us, but I do know it must be quite amusing to people who get to see us in action. People like my mom who witnessed the many errors of our ways during a recent visit, the contractor (whom I should have made sign some code of silence concerning our habits), and even our kids who must have journals full of entries that start with, " Did you see what they tried to do today?"

We'll claim a paycheck or two. I just hope we can remember where we put it.


To grease the wheels of creativity, we usually have these things laying around: empty card board boxes, colors and markers, recycled containers of different sizes and shapes, tape of all kinds, nail guns, various working power tools, squirt bottles of gasoline, and an ax. seems I went off the rails a bit toward the end. The line between inspiration and danger is is the line between little kid and big.

I just found all of these things out in the open in a recent spring clean- up and wondered, but not for long, why my little kids so often get into things they aren't supposed to and why people prefer my kids go to their house for play dates.

Big Man, I mean, Big Kid has some 'splainin' to do....

What would you do?

More women than not would give up an entire year of their life if they could be thin for the rest of their remaining life.

Like 98% of American women, I struggle with body image, but this, to me, is nuts. There are times when it seems a wonder that any of us make it out the door with a smile given what we are faced with-- how to eat, excercise, meditate, what to wear to HIDE our faults, tricks to banish hunger, curb cravings, etc. Information abounds on how to improve ourselves, but I have yet to read a headline that says,"Hey girl! You are perfect!"

And here's another little secret--I know thin people who aren't happy.

I would give up one year of my life to not have one more single thought regarding my less-than-perfect physical appearance. In return, all that mental energy could be focused on changing something truly meaningful in the world- like bringing peace to ravaged countries, educating girls around the globe, or maybe, taking the time to write a book.

I might sound a little more bitter than I really am. I have friends who daily motivate me to push myself in areas where I don't feel real comfortable- mainly exercise. I am grateful for this because it does make me feel good.

But 365 days of a life for perceived thinness does not seem like a fair trade. Obesity is no joke. I certainly get that. But with so much focus on the external we forget about the most important part of any person- the interior . That's where the real pain is...and also the real beauty.

What would you do?

Who counts?

Maybe you've paid attention to press given to emergency airplane landings occuring recently. Pilots can be heard stating the number of "souls on board". This number is meant to include every living person on board- ticketed or not- so that a child riding on a parent's lap and crew members are counted as well. The phrase hails from the maritime world and has since eeked it's way into aviation.

I have always liked the word soul and as inferred above, it is living and breathing. True enough. But after a person passes, isn't their soul still alive? I have always thought so. There are times I swear I could feel my grandpa chuckling at something silly I've done. I've been to parties where the air's chemistry seems altered because of an indefinable presence. I've heard people discuss someone who has passed but apparently wants to be among a group that their spirit is palpable.

So I like to think of souls as living, breathing things-- physically present or not. Perhaps just floating out there swooping in when needed for comfort, a nudge in the right direction, hovering nearby for unseen protection, or just a little reminder that their spirit lives on long after their body has left.

I know I want to be recognized and felt long after my body is gone. Or maybe I am just too much of a squeaky wheel and can't stand the thought of not being heard or remembered. Or maybe it's just my whacky coping mechanism for losses I can't understand. No matter. For me it's real. That's the part that really counts.

This is good for whom?

Take any magazine with the word "family" in it and there will be this suggestion: Make time for dinner at the table with everyone present at least 3-4 times per week. Sit down. Pratice the art of conversation. Kindly suggest some manners and just be together with no (apparent) distractions to pave the way for family bonding.

This oft-repeated advice aslo seems to suggest common sense, but lately....I've been wondering about this advice. The bonding part seems to be a struggle for us.

Here is a glimpse of our latest "conversation."

Me: "So the dentist told me I need to stop chewing gum. It's making my jaw click."

Thing 1: "What?"

Me: "The dentist told me I need to stop chewing gum because my jaw is starting to click."

Thing 1: " What?"

Me: "My jaw is clicking."

Thing 1: "Why?"

Big man: "She just said it's because she chews gum."

Thing 1: "What's clicking?"

Big man: "Her jaw!'

Thing 2: "Why are we talking about your jaw?"

Soon Big Man is laughing and and I am snorting. What other choice is there in a time like this?

Thing 2: " I was wasn't paying attention. I was feeling distracted."

Me: "By what? There is nothing else happening here!"

Thing 1: "I still don't get why your jaw clicks. Can you make it stop?"

This time Big man snorts and I laugh. The kids shake their heads, still lost and confused in this land of "family bonding."

There is always tomorrow, but I am not making any promises.

Baby steps

Grief is a beast that stalks us- it is ugly and unpredictable and downright unmanageable. If you have never met the Grief Beast, consider yourself lucky. Does anyone get that lucky?

What never fails to amaze me is the resilliency of our species. Tsunamis and hurricanes and wars and unspeakable acts shred our hearts, but it seems we rise up and head back to work while mulling the ways in which we might hope to mend.

Some smart soul senses this enormous pain and plots a small recovery. Teachers (like the the most awesome Matthew Schultz) and local media and the internet work their magic and soon people everywhere have decided that yes! we will check out this web cam for days on end to witness little eagles being born. Finally! we all seem to gasp. Here is something sweet and real and innocent and of this earth. This innocence is of our planet! Every year little eagles are born but for some reason, this year is the year we need to look. Our souls are tapped, depleted, strung out from so much pain. Please, we seem to say, let's look for something that makes us weep for joy.

Little baby eagles....thank you.