More than wishful thinking.

We are all shopping and chopping and flying and driving and working and studying and praying and worrying and hopinghopinghoping for a better day tomorrow.

I am sitting in my old rocking chair trying hard not to let the news overwhelm me. I am thinking of Ferguson and Michael Brown and Officer Wilson and my friends who live in and around St. Louis. I am thinking about all the parents who have said painful good-byes to their children and I am thinking how much healing we have to do in this country.

Tomorrow I will sit at a table with my sister and her partner in her new home that she worked so hard to attain. I will meet her partner's family and my kids will wrestle with their father and terrorize the pets and I will smile and nod and bring myself back to the moment I am in. 

I am finally beginning to realize at this point in my life that our job is to take in the moments. I now look at them like energy- the storing up of light to fuel the darker days. 

I saw a documentary once about kids in India- impoverished, living in what many in my life would describe as absolute squalor and yet these kids were happy! Their eyes were bright, their smiles wide and what I noticed more than anything was that they were alive. They played with garbage as if it was a new toy. They sang and danced and ran and the universal whooping of happy kids was not mistaken.

So I know that the where and what of our lives is not nearly as important as the how.

And that is why I feel like we all have to get pretty serious about the HOW. How are we going to move forward in the aftermath of Ferguson? Every single time we have a national tragedy there is heartfelt prose and little action. And what I have finally realized is that we can no longer look outside ourselves for answers.

I have asked myself some tough questions. I am white. I am privileged. I live in a white community. I am economically secure. So what do I have to offer? What can I do to push my own boundaries, to be included in a conversation that matters because clearly people are not being heard.

When I was in Africa alone, I did not feel scared simply because it did not occur to me to be scared. Sure, it felt weird to be white in a sea of really beautiful black skin yet had harm come my way I would have been shocked because I have always walked around not expecting anyone to harm me. I do not know what it is like to live in a constant state of fear for my personal safety . And yet in this country I am baffled by people who live in America who live this way all of the time.  I am baffled and I am sad that I am baffled because clearly I have missed something pretty big.

We get to be thankful tomorrow. We get to love our family and take in glow of candles on the table and the clamor of giggling kids and the scents and the smells of a delicious meal as we huddle with our little families around the Thanksgiving table. And we also get to say to ourselves, "Not everyone has this. What can I do?"

I found THIS and it looks pretty interesting. I am going to check it out. I am going to start a meeting. I am going to try to talk to people different than me, I am going to do it because not doing it seems unthinkable. This was started because a woman was fed up with the lack of genuine conversation and debate within the political arena.  She, like me, firmly believes there just has to be a better way and I believe that the parameters she has created for conversation would be great to use as we navigate our way into talking about Ferguson as well. 

Plus, red boots!  

I am also going to talk to my kids about their privileged life and think of ways to push their boundaries as well. I think all of us need to do quite a bit more thinking outside ourselves.

Peaceful Thanksgiving to all of you. Store up so you can show up. That's my plan. What is yours?

Let it be

You made it!I made it! Go get yourself a cookie or a good book or a glass of wine...heck, all 3 if that is what it takes to help you unwind from the business of living. I have fruit to arrange on big white platters for The Nutcracker Tea Party fundraiser coming up this weekend. I have carpools to drive so Thing 1 can tap and serve at the tea party and practice for her roles in The Nutcracker.It's not going to be a free and easy weekend. 


I can read. At 9:30 p.m. snuggled up in bed I can read. It's what I do every night so tonight will be no different, but I hope you have a pocket of time to check out some of my favorite reads from the week. So much food for thought. And some fun too.

We all spend time on the internet. We think we are wasting time, but this guy BEGS TO DIFFER.I would totally take this class and since it came from The New Yorker, I can banish all guilt about my internet life,right?

But no matter how you navigate your internet life, chances are some of you have to navigate married life. Here are two very different ways to look at marriage. First, this from The Atlantic. I am happy to note we did take a dirt cheap honeymoon (points for a honeymoon) and that our wedding cost significantly less that $30,000 (points for being cheap). But we invited more than 100 people and my only regret is that we didn't invite more. But, once again, we were cheap. And honestly, we don't talk a lot about how we look except to say that we like each other and really strive to wear the love goggles. Or maybe they are kindness goggles as suggested in the next article. THIS study takes a closer look inside lasting marriages and the results are not surprising. It reminds me that as much as I can find snark amusing, it isn't helpful in marriage and we really must be conscious all the time of turning toward our partner. All relationships are work,but the ones that matter the most are hardest and the simple act of consistent kindness has a big payoff. I cannot tell you how glad I am to have read this because even when we know, it is good to be reminded. 

This also provided me with an important reminder of just how to be with my kids, or anyone for that matter. We don't always need to multitask. We can set the phone down, we can close the lid of our computer, we can look someone (our child!) in the eye and simply listen. It's a small yet really big thing.

It may come as no surprise that I am an extrovert. Much hullabaloo had been made in cyber space about recognizing and valuing the power of quiet in the world. I am all for that, but we extroverts deserve our place in the spotlight. And because we want attention, we ask for it. I don't know about you, but is spotting one of us really that hard???

Finally, if you've not heard of The Oatmeal, allow me to introduce you. THIS is one of the funniest cartoon stories I have read and if you like it, there is much more to discover. Simply go here and enjoy. You are welcome!

The ways that we remember.

Sunday, November 9th

Good christ, I think. A Veteran's Day sale?  How lame, tacky, gauche, rude, simply disturbing. I was ruffling through the Sunday fliers and these sales, they rankle me. I let it go.

Tuesday, Veteran's Day

"Hey mom! Do you have a picture of Andrew?  I want him to be in our slide show."

Of course, the slide show is TODAY and it would have been more useful for Thing 2 to bring this up even yesterday.  I said as much but he shrugged and then sat there.

"I didn't know him, but I am still sad for his loss. Kandahar, right? He was in Kandahar. If someone asks, I want to get it right."

"Yes," I tell him, "it was Kandahar."

And then I think if we all did the same, ask simple clarifying questions, we could get so much more right in this world. I have always been a bit of a dreamer and here is yet another thing I let go.

This is a big moment in my family, both kids engaging in a conversation about our family's military history.  Soon Thing 1 and Thing 2 are tossing around the family stories of who has served, who earned awards, who died, and how weird it is to have fundraisers for Veterans and why boy scouts send popcorn overseas. I mention that I always send popcorn overseas.

"How can we help them with popcorn?" asks Thing 2.

This is a good question.

He thinks some more and then says, "Well, there are parades and we make boxes to send overseas and then there are hospitals named Veteran's Hospital. How much more help do they need?"

He's not being rude or disrespectful. Quite the opposite. He is turning over what he sees and hears. From his eleven year old vantage point in middle America, we have parades and we have a specific area in our town park dedicated to Veterans. We make slide shows and we collect food and toiletries we send to service people around the world. There are hospitals just for Veterans and we say thank you to those we see in uniform.  A former neighbor is now a 19 year old Marine and we explained what it means to go to "boot camp" and why are are grateful.  And stores offer sales and discounts. A Veteran's life doesn't seem so bad.


I segue into a brief conversation about unemployment rates and mental and physical health needs, but I can see I am losing him so I stop.

I mention his cousin in Canada has the day off from school.The whole country shuts down on Veteran's Day.Their appreciation of those who died while serving and of those who have or are currently serving appears just a bit deeper and wider than ours for the respectful attention they give this day.There is reverence in the silence maintained during little parades throughout Canadian villages and I am certain each child is well-schooled on the purpose of this day.

I feel like we try to teach the same, but commercialism seems to paint a garish picture for those seemingly untouched by military life.


My former neighbor was beaming when I saw him unloading bunches of radishes in the produce aisle that he manages in the local Hy-Vee.

"How was it?" I asked. I knew he had just returned from San Diego where he watched his second son graduate from Marine boot camp.

"It was awesome. I am so proud. But, you know, he still seems like a kid. I can't quite get my brain around it. He's grown, he's changed, but his mom and I? We still see a little boy."

I am quiet. I don't know what to say.

"Congratulations," I offer. I hope it he knows it's as much for him and his wife as it is for his son's achievements. They must let go with pride and fear. Weirdly, I suddenly wonder if he paid attention to the store flier about the Veteran's Day sale. How does he feel about meat being an extra 15% off ? I don't ask.

I send up a prayer asking that his son have a long and meaningful career. I hope he lives to become a Veteran. That would be a luxury. The image of a Purple Heart for bravery floats through my mind's eye. I hear those Taps from that cold and windy March day and I see people crying and I feel Andrew's spirit and I look at this father, his pride so large he seems almost unable to contain it.

I say good-bye and I recycle the flier and I hope what we can offer his son, after many years of service, is more than a discount on meat. I hope that his son's service becomes an integral part of our story that ends with one about how our country takes care of those who care for us.

Didn't I mention I was a dreamer?

Let it be Friday!

Do you guys remember my Friday pants blog? It's time to get comfy. 

I think this guy has a nice pair.

I am going to try something new. I read a lot on the internet and some of it is good and some of it not. I am going to share a a few of my favorite things I have run across in the past few weeks or so. Check them out and let me know what you think. Think of this as your reading pile for the weekend. You are welcome:)

First, a good read.  I don't watch Girls, but I know of Lena Dunham. What strikes me most about this book is that though she is 18 years younger, I could relate to her concerns and fears. She discusses sexuality in great detail, which is a refreshing change of pace coming from a generation where we fought over Judy Blume's Forever.

 Some people won't like it, understand it, and will simply be appalled by it. But I liked the frank way she discusses her sexual life while being gentle and tender toward her family. Both are qualities I greatly admire in a person and a writer.

Like many who voted 6 years ago, I was full of hope. And truth be told, I still am. I will come out as a person who just really chooses to believe in the idea that people, even politicians, do care. And so, with that and all the criticism Obama has gotten, I stumbled across two of these articles. First, a pretty detailed look at the Obama presidency so far from conservative Andrew Sullivan and second, how kind Canadians view how we treat our president. They are much better able to articulate what I have been feeling and seeing. Finally, this just made me look at all of it in a whole new way.

Turning away from politics, I also found THIS video really profound. Women spend way too much time looking back and longing for what was or planning ahead to what we could have if we just worked hard enough. Eckhart Tolle is not wrong at all in his idea that real power resides in NOW. This award winning video tackles how so many of us carry our bodies in life. The take home message for me is to enjoy the one you have in this moment.

I also have to give a nod to a woman I only really know through Facebook. She is author Debra Monroe and she has become a virtual mentor in that I read what she writes and follow her intelligent discussions with some of her writing colleagues. She has been most kind to me when I reach out which is astounding since we have never met. She had this beautiful hybrid prose/poem published and it makes me most excited about her upcoming book called "An Unsentimental Education."   Though I no longer work at The Book Shelf, you can bet I will use her Wisconsin roots as a means of getting her to take a detour our way.

If you don't think you like poetry, please check out Mary Oliver. She is simply amazing. My favorite so far is this book and here is one to get you hooked. I try to read a few each morning and they always get me off to a good start.

"I Go Down to the Shore"

I go down to the shore in the morning
and depending on the hour the waves
are rolling in or moving out,
and I say, oh, I am miserable,
what shall - 
what should I do? And the sea says
in its lovely voice:
Excuse me, I have work to do.

Finally, THIS cracked me up because I am child of the '80s and an adult Swifty.  Also, I can't tell you how many times I have had to shake it off this week. Sans the shiney spandex and poofey hair, it's a good little mantra to carry you through your day.

I am fending off a cold, looking forward to seeing Thing 1 tap in Shrek (the local high school musical) and planning a tiny surprise for Thing 2 (brag alert) who earned his way to the honor roll in his first quarter of middle school. This might not seem like a big deal, but transitions for him are hard. Several teachers noted they could see this and there is room for improvement, but quite frankly, he did it. An Despite his organizational struggles he cares enough to try and stay at it. I think we need to celebrate.

I hope you find something to celebrate, too.  Happy Friday!

Election Time!

I love voting. There hasn't been a single election cycle that has passed when I don't think of Maya Angelou saying to a crowd of thousands in Lincoln, Nebraska twenty-three years ago, "Your debt has been paid. Now go. Do. And do it better." She was talking specifically to women, young African Americans, and anyone who had ever been marginalized. Through the hard work of their predecessors, these same people were allowed to rise. To Angelou, not honoring their hard work through thoughtful action was disgraceful.

I know people are frustrated with politicians. They are disillusioned, disappointed, tired, jaded, exasperated, fed up.  Election night six years ago seemed so full of possibility. So many people from all sides saw a bright shining light of hope. It felt real and pure and unlike anything people in my generation had experienced. And then it came crashing down with the economy. The finger pointing and name calling started and everyone lost sight, more interested in being right than really working together.

And yet I have enough friends who have significantly different political viewpoints than me, but we are able to be friends. We can talk about important things that matter to us. And guess what? We are more alike than we are different. When I stay open and look for the common ground, these conversations do not become tense. On the contrary, they become some of the best and most real conversations I have ever had. 

Which is why I will vote anyway choosing to believe politicians aren't all that different from me. I will believe they care, and I will believe this time can be better. Though it's often hard to determine which dictates, your actions or your beliefs because the two are intertwined, I will teach my kids the secret to staying true is acting upon your core beliefs while staying open to possibilities you can't quite see yet. 

Voting is one action is that leaves little doubt. It says your voice matters because it does. 

And how could anyone let Dr. Maya Angelou down?  I'm not going to chance it.

Be heard.