Are you there....

Are you there, God? It's me, Lisa. I have a tween. I was once a tween though I don't remember being one. I remember being a teen, though, and here is a highlight:  I once flounced (and flounce is a word that can only be used when describing dramatic teen females) away from my dad when he made the attempt to show me how to check my oil and tires since it was clear I did not pay attention in driver's ed. That is a different story, but I owe my passing grade and first licence to Kevin Reinking and Jason Holcomb. Thanks, guys. 


We lived on a farm and my dad and the other males were motor heads. Even my sister was a bit of a motor head. It doesn't matter that I then defined motor head as someone who knew how to check their oil and tires and pump their own gas. What mattered was I didn't want to do it. As I said, I flounced dramatically into the house screaming (because you must scream while you flounce--otherwise, the effect is ruined),  "I can't believe you want me to do this! None of my friends have to do this!" There may or not have been a few tears and a splotchy red face. Mine, not my dad's. You see, God. I recognized injustice at an early age.

But, God, now that I have a tween I am finally seeing the error of my youthful ways and fear for my future.Yesterday, we asked my daughter to choose our family activity. There are loads of options in the fair city of Winona. And my dear tween is wont to lurk in her room with Taylor Swift and a Twilight book and, well, we have dreams for her. Yesterday, we just wanted her to see the sun. So we gave her the power  and control for our family event. The unthinkable even occured. Her brother invited her to actively play with him. In a stunning move they did not broadcast on the Olympics coverage, we all waited with bated breath for her response. With a shrug, she said, "No thanks." We were crushed but persisted like the Olympiads that we are. 

"It's your call, babe. We can go for a bike ride, to the pool, the lake, whatever you want."

Her chin started to wobble, the eyes became shiny, and her face fell.  Huh? I was thinking to myself. What did I say?

"What is wrong, honey?"


Ok, I think to myself.  That hurts? is painful? makes you cry?  I don't get it. She sits for fifteen minutes saying nothing while we are trying to get on with our day.  The tear (only one) slides down her cheek as she announces, "Let's bike."

A collective sigh is released and out she goes to find her helmet. I quickly send up a prayer asking that Big Man NOT ask her to check her tires.

I am confused, God. I don't get her even though I recall my own dramatic self. Car maintenance while dressed to the nines in jelly shoes and matching comb in the back pocket of your new jeans is one thing, but choosing what to do outdoors on a pleasant summer day does not seem to be a tortuous task.

Please advise God.  She is only 11.  She will not have jelly shoes or a car EVER at this rate. I have heard that no matter what I do,  it will be wrong. The physical aspects of puberty seem pretty straight forward, but the emotional aspects are apparently going to do us in.

Thanks for your help.


Summer Update

Things I am working on:

Not going crazy by kids bickering

Working out the in the morning

Reducing piles

Not yelling

Planning meals around current produce on hand

Writing one hour per day no matter what

Loving my dog even after she is naughty

Swimming....hate it, but we spend a lot of time at the pool so I have to do something. So far, the sidestroke is it for me.

Thinking, "Yes I can!" immediately after I think, "Nope, I can't"

Banishing soda (only 2 small cans of diet coke left in my house)

Trying to enjoy meal time with my kids 

Not holding grudges

Talking to my husband at night instead of retreating to our corners after the kids are asleep (finally!) This is good. He's pretty fun.

Seems like a long list but I go at these things as they occur. Non-negotiables are writing and exercise. After that, it's a crap shoot.

I am working on a piece now about the feast and famine of vegetables in my life. Right now, I feel like beets and kale are visitors who have outstayed their welcome.  Kale chips, beet salad-raw and roasted, pickled beets, braised kale, kale salad, beets and kale, kale and beets!  Yikes!  Please don't send recipes. I really have them all!  I am trying to keep this in mind...

Things I am looking forward to before my kids go back to school:

I go to the Woodbury County Fair in Moville, Ia next week. I have a funny story about my history with that for next week. If we are really lucky, I might even dig up a picture for proof.

Seeing high school classmates to commemorate 25 years since graduation.

A trip to Madeleine Island  for the Women's OpEd. Project.

Hosting a MN United Party and speaking at other house parties.

Meeting my new class off Intro. to Public Speaking students in August.

"Dates" with each kid- lunch and school supplies shopping. Who can resist the smell of new notebooks and pencils?

I hope your summer is filled with veggies you have not yet grown weary of and that you an claim progress in something that brings you joy.  

It's not working

My attempts at screen time limitations have not gone well.  If it's not one thing, it's another. Turn off the cable then they discover long lost movies under their bed or realize the library's rental selection is not too bad. After I hid the I-pod, they found games on my smart phone I didn't know existed. It seems the media world has conspired against me.  I have read and long believed that kids need to get bored- that is when creativity seeps in. So...I was hoping boredom might lure them into building, drawing, getting outside. Instead, they whine, maybe read a bit, pool resources to re-activate the Wii,  which was also off (due to dead batteries). I am not anti-technology. I just think summer should be a time to lift your head up and get outside and be creative and active.  What works best is finding other kids to play with, but most have such busy summer schedules that it is hard to find people to play with. And so, I am back to camps and arranging play dates and sucking it up while my offspring sloth about watching River Monsters and Annie for the 23rd time. I kick them out twice a day and they always return claiming ten minutes was an hour and that surely they should have another (perhaps the 7th?) popsicle.They are made of fruit, you know.

It might be hard to see that I love my children after reading this. The fact is, I am just not very good with them. I don't want to play Pokemon and  have zero interest in technology beyond reading my news and writing. I think back to my childhood and my limited choices on the farm. My parents did not worry about my social and creative life at all. Kid's tv was on at 4:00 p.m. and perhaps there were a few family friendly shows on at 6:30. I read, wrote, did chores, went outside though I never was an outdoor girl, and rode my bike to town (3 miles to Cushing, 4 miles to Correctionville) or across the section on a dirt (not even gravel!) to meet a friend.  Was this dreamy? I know I didn't think so, but it was simple.

I feel like I must put on a shield every day ready to fight some sort of lurking evil seeking to chip away at the mental and physical health of my kids.  I try to model though I am not the picture of perfection. But they know about fruits and veggies and they see me meeting friends for walks and know I return while they are sleeping after my early morning work-outs. Our house has more books than movies and at least three of us are incessant readers. So there is that.

This is me mentally tossing up my hands and hoping for the best for their futures....and mine.

I am not dead.

Neither is my sister-in-law. Though she could have been.  She was brave enough to take the doomed maiden voyage down Big Man's homemade zip line. He has been working and tinkering on this for months. He has been doing complex math equations with fervor and consulting websites and studying weight and gravity with gusto. Anyone who has expressed interest, concern, mere curiosity, or simply had a pulse within  the two mile radius of this project has had input. Some of them were even engineers.  

Alas, the brake system failed because of high speed and a steep incline. 

Anne, Big Man's older sister, whoops and laughs in the best of times. It turns out she does the same in the worst of times. For this we are grateful.  It also turns out that Big Man DOES express emotion. It turns out his face can contort in fear, his body can move quickly when trying to break what might appear to be a hard crash. It turns out glasses can break (Ann's), bodies bruise (again, poor Ann), and spirits and shoulders sag (Big Man's) when a dream is dashed in the span of thirty seconds.  

The zip line was immediately disassembled out of fear of errant, curious, thrill-seeking children trying what they must not. Reckless behavior, even well-intentioned and heavily monitored, is reserved for only big people. Apparently.

I write from the stories told. I could not bear witness to any of this. Since that cold winter night when a kernel of a dream began I have watched and contributed little beyond, "Are you sure? How do you KNOW?"  These, I admit, are not exactly supportive phrases.  But I did nothing to stop the project.

Family gatherings are many things, but thrilling doesn't usually top the list of descriptors.  Until recently.

At any rate, we have all survived a week together. Much of it was fun, much of it was sweet, and much of it was just want we wanted. But this one little part, the one Big Man has yet to comment upon four days later, is still just kind of sitting there.  I am sure family members will eye roll, giggle uncomfortably, and murmur phrases that mention God. Who knows? But I will say this with equal parts pride and fear, there will be another dream....there always is.

Katherine Lanpher, someone who unknowingly serves as mentor to me, shared something on Facebook that is so compelling that I just can't let it be. It is an obituary and an examination of a life well-lived and jam packed full of love.

It leaves me thinking on this Independence Day that we really do have the freedom to live our lives as fully and abundantly as possible no matter what role we may play in the world at large. It leaves me thinking that too many of us get caught up in the should haves and could haves, we  hold on too tightly to perceived wrongdoings, we dwell too much on regrets, and forget that there is only one today. It is trite yet so profoundly true. 

I admit that I do this little song and dance myself. But mine has a different twist-- it seems I want something bigger, something broader, I want to make a larger splash, and then I see something like this and I think....tiny ripples matter just as much. Little moments handled with finesse and grace and compassion and humor can leave a significant impact on the person who is sharing that moment with you. The point is that you seek out as many of those moments as you possibly can because more is better in generosity of the heart.

This interview and obituary remind me of a dear friend I met in Shenandoah, Iowa.  Her name is Toni Bounds and she has a big heart and a big laugh and many friends who probably all claim her as one of their dearest--because that is just the kind of person she is. Long after I moved, I talked to her on a weekly basis. Then it became monthly. After my children arrived on the scene, it has totally been hit-or-miss, mostly due to me. This doesn't mean I don't think of her, or hear her laugh when I walk at 5:00 am as she and I did on many a-morning before school. Toni has the same spirit as this woman does and I feel lucky to count her as my friend.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did. I hope you can find a nugget or two that inspires you to kick it up just a notch in your own world, I hope it inspires within you a reason not to hold back your love, your spirit, your generosity. I hope it inspires you to think of what you want people to say about you after you are gone.

Happy 4th, my friends. I am so thankful for all of you.

Shelagh was here- an ordinary, magical life

A quick one

My tween daughter and I were cruising down the highway towards Wisconsin. She was in the front passenger seat giving her a similar view to mine. There was a hold-up in the right lane. We had to stop and this is just a snipped of the exchange we had:

"Oh my God! What is happening?" she yelled.
"Uh, you know as much as me hon. We are looking at the same thing."
"What are we going to do?" she said with anxiety creeping into her voice.
"Sit here? Yes. We will sit here until we get directed to move again."
"When will that be? Oh my God. What is going on?"
"Lucy, I know as much as you."
"Mom! How can they do this?"

Do you get the vibe of this conversation? I'd like to say it ended after that brief exchange, but it did not. I asked her to get out her i-pod, but she glared at me.
"I left it at home so you wouldn't yell at me for tuning you out."
Oh. Well, did I say that?  It seems likely.  But how am I supposed to know she was actually listening to me when most evidence suggests otherwise?
This parenting gig....just one minefield after another.