We know more than we think we do.

Minnesota Viking Chris Kluwe recently made national headlines when he spoke out against the marriage amendment being proposed on the November ballot in Minnesota. He joined the ranks of Oprah and Clint Eastwood in using their celebrity status to endorse their cause or candidate. This has caused some people who might not otherwise do so pay attention to the issues in the world around them.

An acquaintance of mine had been talking to her husband for months about the upcoming vote on the marriage amendment in November. “We have to VOTE NO,” she’s been saying.  “We just don’t need to further define marriage.”  Her husband has been listening, she thought, but he had failed to commit.  After Kluwe spoke, he made his decision to vote no. While I am thankful to add one more vote against the amendment, this story leaves me frustrated.

I get how significant it is to have an NFL player voice their support of the LGBT community. I understand that having an outspoken straight male from the national sports scene will have a positive impact on how our culture views gay rights as my anecdote suggests.  I get it….and yet I struggle with it at the same time. 

I simply to do not want to believe that we have become a society that requires crass descriptions and graphic images and celebrity names to force our engagement and color our decisions in the issues at hand. A professional athlete’s opinion should not matter more than that of our spouse or a friend.

We are smarter and more intuitive than we give ourselves credit for- we only need to pay closer attention.  As parents, we know when something is right for our kids. As adults, we sense when someone is feeding us a line. As citizens, we know our state is a better place to work and live when every person feels like they matter.

Tim Tiebow can pray where he wants and in doing so, he is encouraging others to not be afraid of showing their faith.  Lady Gaga can take pictures of her less-than-perfect body, and this will encourage our girls to talk about their own body image insecurities. If Kris Klewe moves one more person to think more seriously about marriage equality, I am happy for that. These are all good things.  

I just don’t want celebrities to become a replacement for the opinions of significant people whose lives directly affect ours.  More importantly, we can’t ignore that internal compass that guides us toward our core values. True North is the direction it will always lead us if we listen, shining longer and brighter than any celebrity making a national headline.

It's not really about them....

Any parent knows that a birthday is not really about the kid. It's about the fact that YOU did it!  You survived another year, you successfully (or not) squeaked through twelve long months taking two steps forward and three back guiding, nurturing, occasionally wringing your hands, and occasionally rocking back on your heels in satisfaction, as if to say, "Oh...they did get that."

And so it goes until when?  Will it ever stop? I can't imagine.

My baby is 9 today and it is no small feat for either of us. I love him within an inch of my life.  And yet....he has ripped my heart out more than once, stomped on it, and left me wondering how any hurdle could get bigger and then it does.

But he has fed my soul in a way I never thought possible. He has seen to center of things that seem beyond his years. Of people I have known a long time, he accurately assesses personalities after brief meetings. He reads body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice and has commented on those things for as long as I can remember. And even if you may not think so, he is an intent listener. Sometimes, this leads people to believe he is sad or sullen. More often than not he is just processing. Many times the result of this processing comes back to me when I least expect it. Once when he was around five years of age we were driving past a church and he asked, "Why do some people believe in God, and others the Big Bang theory?"  As an adult, it is easy to connect the hours spent reading about the dinosaur age and his time spent in a Lutheran preschool, but it startled me and left me feeling woefully inadequate as a parent at the time.  As early as kindergarten, he noted the absence of science in the curriculum and the need for rules and sitting which, in his words, "Doesn't help me learn much." These were among the early clues that my son is an observer and a thinker.

Every parent thinks, knows, believes their child is special. I am no different. What I wish for every parent is to see this and broaden their idea of what special really means.

Mine marches to the beat of his own drum. Conformity isn't really is his thing.  I know he gets the big picture, and I know that he's right. I don't really want him to be like everyone else. That game on the playground that seems to be a big deal in third grade is actually pretty nasty so the choices are to hang out on your own or join in. This fact seems to be harder on me than him. And it's easier if you understand and care about all the football jerseys worn on Fridays or Mondays and join the basketball team with the coach everyone just loves because you get left out of many conversations. But my guy remains silent, no doubt taking it in, but not joining in nor requesting additional information about the wild world of sports just because of everyone else.

His birthday reminds me that I have more work to do....on me. I need to nurture more of letting him be who he is, celebrating that he is just fine, and stop borrowing trouble. The parenting gig can feel like some crazy fun house mirror and the warped view is hard to determine....is it theirs or yours?

I try to keep an open mind and listen and love and hug. For today, I am grateful that he still holds my hand and lets me kiss him on the cheek every night. He accepts my "I love you, Bug-a-boo" with an "I love you, too, mom".  

I'd say that this year, at least one of us has had a birthday wish come true. 


In this game of life, I struggle most of all with myself.  I am in my head too much, get in my way too often. I have goals with no clear path of how to get there, and I spend too much time beating myself up over what isn't done rather than for what has been.
Big man is also in his head, but it is way more fun there. He obsesses over the perfect optical illusion for the haunted house (Yes....there will be one) or what role he might play in the most recent spy novel he is reading.  People marvel at that fact that he reads with his job taking up so much of his time. When he is not creating some funky piece of art that is billed as a "family project" or building a homemade cider press out of Menard's clearance items, he reads almost as incessantly as I do because there are ideas lurking in books. 
The difference between us is he thinks, "Why not?" and I think, "How?" I want the unknowns answered before I start much of anything.  He just jumps in, my renaissance man, without much fear and with faith that no matter what happens, it's no big deal. And in the end, that sort of attitude is the biggest deal because it allows you an ease that doesn't weigh you down with the particulars. It enables the toughest part of anything to happen...the getting started part.
So if you have been wondering what I have been up to, the short answer is, "I've been getting in my way."  
I do feel myself moving, but feel free to give me a push to speed up the process.

The (writing) life

I met a new friend yesterday, and it seems like she going to breathe some new life into my writing world. She found my blog through mutual friends, we became Facebook "friends" and I finally said, "Enough with this! Let's meet!" and so we did.

She is a delight and an inspiration. She is raising two children on her own by choice,  she runs half-marathons, and she just bubbles with respect for the writing/creative process. She cares not one whit about who reads her stuff, but she is deeply invested in the process. I think her sparkle is what I need because I am just not a sparkler.  We are going to exchange our writing and meet to discuss on what I hope is a regular basis.

I was also invited into a chat group for an advanced fiction writing class being taught by a woman I admire. I know what she is up to. Being privy to these conversations, even though I am not there, is feeding me despite remaining a mostly silent participant.

I like how the universe works. If you pay attention, you will find that people and events seems to appear at the times when you most need them. Some would say this is God's hand, and while I am not convinced of that, I do know and trust that it is something bigger than me. The best I can do is pay attention and trust that all is as it should be.  

Yikes!  I sound a bit new-agey for an Iowa farm girl!   Hard work is the mantra of my kin. 'Tis true enough. However, I also think you can bypass some pain and find that just what you need is often closer than you think if you are just open enough to see it.

Thanks, Barb and Diana. I am paying attention.

No such thing!

In a mantra I have taken to heart this summer, "There is no such thing as fun for the WHOLE family", Big Man and I have abandoned the hope of ever pleasing everyone. With two kids this should not be as ridiculously difficult as it seems to be. The tween's sense of humor does not match that of a third grade boy. From song choice to movies to general family entertainment, it is always a sure bet that someone is unhappy.

But, we had fun this weekend. It was brief. It lasted an hour on a gorgeous September afternoon and it involved some swings and two nerf swords and a lot of giggling. That's it. The kids pumped their legs and Big Man and I used the swords to lop off parts of their bodies.

"Off with your feet! Off with your head!" we'd scream when a sword touched some skin.

Giggling ensued so, of course, we kept at it.

And that was it. It was hilarious and fun for everyone.

It's early September so we won't get to have fun for at least another month. It will take us that long to find another crowd pleaser.  Big Man will make Thing 2 laugh, sing silly songs with Thing 1, and I will tell tales to Thing 2 and share tween humor with my girl.  While they will keep butting heads, I will set my sights low while waiting for the fun to sneak up on us once more.

The Politics of Facebook....

How many will shut FB down for the next two months? It's tempting for those of us who get caught up in election cycles.  If we can't handle Fakebook jabs, I can only imagine how difficult it must it must be in the real world of politics.

Not everyone agrees with me nor do I agree with everyone. But, I do think it's a fun little social experiment on myself to gage my reactions every time a "like" icon pops up by one of my 'friends' who have identified their candidate of choice.  At first it startled me. I found myself surprised at the direction some of my peers were leaning. 

But in the end, I don't care who you will for vote for as much as WHY you are voting for them. I don't need a stump speech. I passed my high school Civics class and clearly get the difference between our two major political parties.  And this is where my frustration lies with Facebook politics. Sharing snarky photos or so called "inspirational quotes" of people who are either dead or not actively involved in the political process doesn't really inform me about why someone chooses a candidate.  I personally don't care what Betty White or Clint Eastwood have to say about our political candidates because as funny, biting, and entertaining as they may be, their voices do little to inform me about how the general public is feeling.  But somehow we have come to this place in our culture where those voices seem to matter more than our own.

Have the people of this great land let our opinions and concerns get drowned out by caricatures and countless ill-intentioned sound-bites? 

I wonder.

And then I look at myself and try to figure out what I have done on a personal and local level. Have I consulted with my representatives? Written letters to my Senators? Sadly, the answer is no with one exception.  That would be regarding the marriage amendment that will be placed on our ballot. I worked like a dog writing legislators begging them not place the amendment on the ballot. I wrote Democrats and Republicans alike to no avail. I did not storm the capital because it wasn't realistic for my life at the time, but I WANTED TO.  

I am deeply involved in that fight and I like it because the simple fact is that gay, transgender, and bisexual people are everywhere. They are Democrats and Republicans and Hispanic and black and Catholic and Jewish and Islam.  People deserving fair treatment seems to be palatable to many except for those tied too fiercely to dogma.

But our political system draws ire like no other. I know it's fighting season, but I don't like it.  Instead of all the energy blasting each other, it seems like time could be much better spent listening and trying  to focus on common ground. For people so clearly tired of a flawed system, it seems the little energy we have left for solutions is spent on frivolous matters like the clothing allowances of the spouses of the candidates. I fail to see how that matters to the issues at hand.

Here are just a few things on my mind:

As a conservative woman, how do you advance pro-woman causes?  I was lucky enough to spend some time with some thoughtful conservative women who really feel this concern and they are at a loss. They feel uncertain about their vote.  The overall small government philosophy speaks to them, but the treatment of Sandra Fluke and all that it represents about the Republican party left them aghast and they are struggling in an earnest way.  

The war! Have we forgotten the war? Who is talking about it? What are we doing? Not enough and it seems each candidate is saying as little as possible.  Bin Laden is dead, but the war is not.

I find the issues of the day interesting and challenging and while I may not agree, I don't need to be right. I just need be heard. I know too many people who get mad, shut down, or tune out, and that is when I find the real problems begin.

So for now my little plea is to stay connected...even if only on FB.  If you look past the quips, you might actually learn something and if you feel compelled to respond, do so with care and good intentions. Whether you agree with the "we're all in this together" philosophy or not, we are. We are friends and neighbors and work mates and family and coaches and teachers and business partners and parents. 

The stakes are just too high to tune out.