Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Friends Are Friends Forever

I was watching my son play with his favorite friend-his big brother Ian.  His brother is his best friend and the one he always wants to be like.

Lately I have been growing friendships too.  There is the one friendship from college which went sideways for no reasons other than time and distance.  We found each other again on facebook.  Soon we'll be face to face again.

There is the friendship with an incredibly soulful family.  They are hearts with legs.  They are precious without being sticky sweet.  Powerful without being overwhelming.  Our kids initially brought us together.  It is my sincere hope we are together long after we have sent kids to college or down the aisle.

There is one friendship which has stood the test of time.  They knew us before and stuck around long enough for there to be an after.  These are the people I have shared this about, "They know all our stuff and love us anyway."  They have seen the good, the bad and the ugly.  They were the people to whom we first 'came out' about my struggle with post-partum depression.  They are the first people we call when there is news-doesn't matter if it's good or bad.

They are leaders.  They are busy.  It's easy, in the ground warfare that best describes our lives of late, to forget that friendship.  To let the relationship be clouded by circumstance, presumption and miscommunication. 

It usually goes like this.  A few somethings are said or unsaid.  Then there is a strong communication from one side or the other.  A strongly worded e-mail goes back and forth.  Then there is the call.  On the call it starts out chilly but ends up in warmth of prayer.

Today was one of those.  It ended up, as it usually does, in prayer soaked by repentance.  On the way home I had a realization.  The complicated and high stakes circumstances which led us into this difficult but necessary conversation will soon be past.  The complicated and high stakes relationship we have with these friends are, and always will be, part of our future.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mommy Musings

Preschool Ponderings
Every morning I have to wipe off my cheek.  It's the sticky, often sweet, remnants of my three year old's kisses goodbye.  He deposits two or three or four each morning when I drop him off at the Learning Lamp.

He has his friends, CJ is a favorite.  He has his teacher. Miss Francine is always uttered with a little smile and lots of love.  He plays until his clothes are wet with sweat.  He naps until the little cot makes a mark on his cheeks.

He does all this, without me in the room.  Sometimes there is a wave of melancholy when I realize he is indeed a big boy.  It is in those times I wipe my cheek for a different reasons.

Animal House
I live in a house full of men.  My dad, my sons, my dog (and probably my hermit crabs too) are all male.  That means a couple things.  First, there is never anything to eat in the house.  There is food, lots of it sometimes.  However, there is never anything that will fill the cavernous, gaping whole in their guts.

Second, passing gas is an art form.  My father's favorite thing to do whilst chasing boys in the yard would be to gather them in a huddle, stick out their hind parts and pretend to 'wheesh'.  I desperately attempt to instill manners.  "Wheeshes" (my nice word for farts) are not funny.  They are to be done in bathrooms.  They are to be excused.  It's a losing battle for me.  {Okay, in the interest of full disclosure, I do have a 'fart machine' loaded onto my phone as a nuclear option when stuck in something with children who desperately need entertained...and it is kinda funny.}

Finally, men are all about the pecking order.  My dad picks on the seven year old who then picks on the three year old who then picks on the dog.  Me?  I am left as referee, cheerleader or rocking in a corner sucking my thumb-depending on the day.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

No Children Were Harmed In The Making of This Commercial

The following is a true account to the best of my recollection.  If I could make this stuff up, I would.  However, reality is far, far, far more entertaining.

"Moooooommmmy!" Caden runs across the playground into my awaiting arms.  Sweaty, smiling and warmed from the sun, I am enthralled at the wonderfulness of my sweetie three year old.

Little did I know what was to come.

{Cue foreboding music and clouds rolling across the sun.}

"I firsty Mommy. I firsty.  I firsty.  I waaaaannnntttt a drink!" as I buckle him in his big, boy seat in the back of the Mommy SUV.

"We'll get a drink when we get home."  Lick my own lips.   Hmm, maybe a drink isn't a bad idea.  I'm kinda tired.  We pass a Starbucks on the way.....

"Kids, we are going to stop at Starbucks.  Mommy needs some caffeine and you can get a drink."

Little screeches of, "I firsty," followed by gentle mothering reminders that Starbucks was only a block away.

I proudly get my sweet sons, who now are holding hands to cross the parking lot, as we walk into the Starbucks.

Caden rushes to the cooler case and begins to pick up every beverage in sight.  Because I am a mother who wants to raise self-aware children who can make choices and own their own choices I ask,
"Do you want chocolate milk or juice?  You can have one."

"I want chockit milk."


"No!  I want juice!"

"Are you sure?"


"Please go sit with brother while I get our drinks."

Caden sits and sucks down half the juice.  He sets the bottle down, inhales and declares in his loudest, most authoritative three year old voice, "I WANT CHOCKIT MILK!"

Whoa.  Where did that come from?  I quickly walk over.  In my best mother technique I make eye contact and calmly but firmly say, "Caden, you said you wanted juice to drink.  You are not getting chocolate milk."

{Cue ominous, Flight of the Valkyries music.}

2 seconds later....

The following is in a voice which is a cross between a banshee on fire with napalm and nails on a chalkboard, "IIIIIIIIIIII    WAAAAAAANNNNNNTTTTTT   CHOOOOOOCCCCCCKKKKKIIIIIITTTTTT MMMMMMMILLLLLLLLKKKKKKKK!!!!!"

Again, I cling to the myth that calm, authoritative mothering voice actually works, "Caden.  Please stop screaming.  You chose juice instead of chocolate milk.  Caden, stop screaming.  Caden stop yelling. Caden stop screeching!  Caaaaadeeen!!!"

It is then that I snapped.  It was one of those slow motion moments when you want to spank but you know it's both a public place and probably not a good idea.  Instead a quiet, powerful calm washed over me.

I signal the frightened barista, who is trying very hard not to cover his ears, that I would be right back.  I scoop said screaming, kicking, clawing creature up by the waist, shepherd his mortified, wide eyed brother and head to the car.  I dodge kicking Star Wars tennis shoes and calmly buckle him into his seat.

I proudly walk back into Starbucks to pick up my drinks.  To the wide eyed and astonished patrons who stare at me as I start for the door, I turn and say, "No children were harmed in the making of this commercial for....birth control."

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Pre School

My older son did not attend pre-school.  He had 'school' at the home day care he attended. The baby, my baby, of necessity, will start preschool at the ripe old age of three tomorrow morning.  Both kids will be in school for the first time in my mothering life.

They have been in the care of other people from 10 weeks and 6 months each.  Leaving them with someone else while I go off to do something or other isn't new. 

There is a finality to school.  It's a sort of 'parking in place'.  It's a milestone.  It's the place where one looks back and says, "Something started there."

I don't go to or raise my kids in a church with any special ceremonies or sacrements to mark growing older.  I miss the idea that when you do a particular 'something' you are somehow more mature.  I remember never feeling more beautiful or grown-uppy than in the splendor of my first holy communion dress and veil.  I remember the confirmation retreat where I received a letter from my mother sharing all her hopes and dreams for me.  These rites of passage marked a place in my faith, my soul and my life.

My kids don't have those.  School is the only thing marking the passage of time.   

Tomorrow, they will both be big boys with backpacks going off to conquer brand new worlds.  Worlds without me in them.

I want to mark the day, somehow.  Maybe we'll go to Chuck E. Cheese and earn more meaningless crap for the toy bins.  Maybe we'll eat breakfast for dinner.  Or maybe I'll write a blog and print it in a book for them to read someday.

There was once a famous book called, Everything I Ever Learned I Learned In Kindergarten.  Here's my short list to share with my two educationally bound little fellas.

Everything I Ever Learned Began in First Grade and Pre-School
A List Dedicated to My Ian and My Caden-The Coolest, Smartest, Funniest, Awesomest Kids I Know

1.  Painting and art time is cool.  It lets you know creativity, in any form, is messy and always best done in an old, comfy shirt.
2.  The best thing to learn first is that you will always have something else to learn.
3.  Other people's lunches always taste better (unless it's that kid whose mother wears birkenstocks and recycles...I'm pretty sure his won't taste as good).
4.  Color your papers the way you want to, it's one of the few times when you get to color your world.  In the future, other things will color your world-jobs, faith, money, people's expectations.
5.  Friends come and go, but mommy's will never leave.
6.  The glue smells yummy but tastes awful.
7.  If someone calls you a name, it's only because they feel that way about themselves.
8.  Remember to hug your mom when you get home, because she missed you more than you will ever know.
9.  School is now your job.  Do your best and you'll be rewarded.  Do it not so good and you'll stay until you do your best-because I said so and because I'm the mom and I have already been through it.
10.  Remember, school is only a part of your life, it is not your life.  God, family, school-in that order.
And finally, know you are loved, cherished and enjoyed by Mommy, Daddy, Father God and all those whose hearts you have captured.

Happy first day baby Caden.  Happy first grade Ian.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Peace Out with the Hermit Crabs

I recently sent my husband to another state to work his dream job.  It's 5+ hours away.  In short, I am now a single mom. 

This has brought with it some major adjustments.  It means I have had to learn to not call out for help when a pull up explodes with poop or when the kids run in opposite directions.

It also means that I do not unplug often.  As an overcomer of depression, I know that 'unplugging' and taking care of one's heart are critical.  If I go down, the ship goes down.  The other night, this became painfully obvious.

It was one of those nights with epic tantrums and nearly dead pets.  Hermie, our beloved hermit crab, had shed his shell and was walking around the cage naked.  There are few things as gross looking as a hermit crab with no shell...ewwww.  My son was upset and insisted we go to the pet store to get Hermie a bigger shell he would like more.  An hour later, laden with a new tank and 'Jason' (Hermie's new crabby brother) we came home late for dinner. 

You can be late for many things in our family, but not for a pasta dinner.  My dad had cooked it, dished it out and was sitting down to eat within minutes of our arrival home.  The baby, now a robust three year old, has taken this moment in our familial journey to test the 'pout to get what I want' approach. Unfortunately, the pout is more often than not accompanied by a large wail and crocodile tears. This night he barely made it through dinner and it didn't look promising for him to survive the evening.

The rest was a blur of wailing, answering random kid questions, "Mom what is the biggest state in the world?" and getting ready for the next day.  After they were in bed (kids and Pappy), I found myself wandering around the downstairs.  I had that gnawing feeling that indeed I had stuff to do, but couldn't remember what it was or even where to start.

I sat down on the porch in front of the new fish/hermit crab habitat.  I watched as they walked side by side.  One flipped the other over then tried to help him sit up.  They touched with antenna as if to say,"Hey, I know you. You look just like me."

I found myself at peace for the first time in the day.  Peace out with the hermit crabs.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

In Gram's Attic

It has been exactly 30 days since my last post.  There has been a lot of life in my life.  I appreciate anyone who still checks in.  Have much to blog and am glad to have a moment to virtually sit down with you and share what is memorable to this mama.

I moved 11 times from birth to age 18.  I have moved 7 times since attending college.  Long ago I resigned myself to the fact that any remembrance of my childhood was long since tossed.  It is why I have chosen to keep pieces and bits for my sons.  I want to have the books, folders and a box or two of school projects long gone brittle with age. 

With my mother's death followed so closely by Gram's passing, I have found myself with the un-enviable task of going through their pieces and bits of memorable stuff.  My mother kept every card I sent her.  She kept all the pictures I sent, not in the frames so often provided, in the envelopes in which they arrived.  She didn't put out the pictures, rather kept them in drawers. 

Gram was even more sparing in her amassing of memorable stuff.  So when my Uncle called to say I could come fetch what remained of Mom's from Gram's attic, I had no expectations on what I would discover.  To be honest, I just wanted Gram's cast iron cookwear, long seasoned and tasty in it's browny slick cookingness.  The cookwear was nowhere to be found.  What I found was far more delicious.

In boxes in the corner was my childhood.  Papers from elementary school.  Report cards.  Baby blankets and dolls.  Small reminders that at one time I existed and I liked shiny blankets from Korea.

I couldn't sort through it.  I couldn't sift for very long.  The memories threatened to choke me more than the rotted insulation it was all covered with. 

So, it is done.  Mom's house is on the market.  Gram's house soon will be.  The bits and pieces of their lives have all been sorted and spread out among children, grandchildren and the dumpster.

I am thankful to have found my childhood in Gram's attic.  Now I can continue to unpack the boxes of my mothering adulthood. 

Sunday, July 18, 2010

One Thing I Know

One thing I know is the night light plugged in by the ceiling turns on at 7:15 p.m in room D146 at the Golden Living nursing home.

I know that sweetie Anna, Gram's roommate, is concerned I will see her 'tut tut' whilst she shuffles from bathroom to bed.

I know that every 10-15 minutes a staff person walks by, peeks in or comes in to pat, check and or gauge patients.

I know the physical therapist doesn't mind when he is confused with an Iranian when he looks marginally Italian. 

One thing I know is that I will never go to Golden Living again.  I have no reason to-Gram isn't there anymore.  She isn't anywhere anymore.

I saw her Thursday night.  She was, as she had been for weeks, in and out of lucidity and awareness.  That night, however, was the first I saw her be startled or afraid.  She would fall asleep and then wake up, eyes wide, as if something or someone had dropped something near her.  I was the only thing near her.  The only thing in the natural.

Friday I stayed home.  I was concerned as the nurses informed me Gram had a highly contagious infection.  One of which I could expose my family to if I didn't sanitize it away from my hands, my clothes and my shoes.  I struggled with the desire to be with her as much as possible and protecting my children.  I stayed home, battling depression, the only antidote being playing Star Wars games with my sweet boys and crying myself to sleep.

Early Saturday morning my Uncle called with the news which was still surprising in spite of it's certainty.  I was thankful I had so many hours with her at the end.  I was thankful she was no longer alone, afraid and suffering. 

As I left the previous Thursday, Anna asked me why I didn't stay longer.  I shouted, as Anna is quite hearing impaired, "She's sleeping now.  I also have to get home to my little guys."  Anna snuggled in, her tut tut now fully encased in her green flannel blanket, said this,"That's right, they are more important."

More important than my dying Grandmother? My mind reeled.  More important than making up for years of lost time and bitterness and hurt?  More important than...

One thing I know, after the past 6 months of endings, is my boys are more important.  For they are the new beginning.  In them, in my mothering, in our family, with God's help, we can fully eradicate the generational dysfunction between Mothers and children. 

One other thing I know?  I will miss Grandma Ruth's soft hands, her cranky comments (all too often accurate), her homemade bread, her wiry hair and personality.   I will miss the idea of her and of my mother.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Precious and Preferred

In a previous blog, Ruth (see I have written of my Grandmother.  The relationships between the women in my family have never been easy, until now.

Ruth is in a nursing home now.  She fell out of bed and was found, two days later, on the floor.  Dehydrated, delirious and with a broken rib, she was immediately placed in the Critical Care Unit for several days.

She has pneumonia and is bed bound.  Her new home is Golden Living.  Is it Golden Living?  Maybe.  The nurses love her and often stop in just because.  She can't see very well and hears even less (they keep losing her hearing aids). 

Before (read: when Mom was alive and the environment emotionally toxic) I barely saw Grandma.  Recently I have wanted to see her more, but I haven't.  Life, busy-ness, and just stuff have kept me away.  Or did I not go because I didn't 'have to'?  When life is overwhelming we only do what we MUST, what we HAVE TO, what is critical.  Or we do what is easiest.  It was just easier not to see her so much.  Easier for me.

Now, I plan my day around popping in to see her.  I want to have those moments.  I didn't get to spend time with my Mom when she was leaving this life.  I am committed to doing so with Gram.

Last night, as she rested, I was praying for her.  Though her mind may not be aware of who I am or where she is, her spirit hears.  I prayed, among many things, that she would know how loved she is.  Loved by God.  Loved by us.  I prayed she would know how precious she is to all of us and to Him. 

In that still, small voice, I heard that not only is she precious to God, but she is preferred.  She is preferred because she is just as important Jesus.  From a theological perspective, I can't explain it well.  I can only borrow a quote from John Bevere's book, Extraordinary.  If she, and all of us, wasn't  just as valuable to God as Jesus, he wouldn't have died on the cross.   She, and all of us, are preferred because out of all creation, the amazing animals, plants, and life, God chose us to create in His own image. 

In the stuffy room, as I held her swollen, wrinkled and soft hand, I was given a revelation about her and myself.  Surprisingly I was given a precious gift from this little preferred woman.  I can't wait to go see her this afternoon. 

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Grateful and Curiously Bored

July 4th at NaNas is amazing.  The entire township sky is filled with fireworks and smoke and lights and sounds.  I sat on the deck, stretched comfortably in a chaise lounge, marveling at this celebration of American independence.

I also marveled at my boys independence.  It began earlier in the day at the annual family picnic.  Ian, in his skater American flag t-shirt, arrived at the picnic and quickly went to the swing set.  He was swinging back and forth and taking stock of the fun to be had among the cousins.  Within minutes he was kicking a soccer ball with a random cousin in the field.  Me?  I sat in the shade and watched, grateful and curiously bored.

Caden, my three year old, resplendent in his flag t-shirt and coordinating madras shorts, walked around looking at everyone.  His shoulders were slumped forward and he kept asking for his, "Rissa."  Rissa is a teenage cousin, Marissa, who has been the center of Caden's cousin Universe since birth.  With her arrival he too was gone--chasing her and randomly stopping to sip from his sippy cup.  Me?  Still sitting in the shade, sweating through my flag t-shirt and sticking to the bench.  Grateful and curiously bored.

Later that night, as I reclined in the chaise, I could see the baby in NaNas lap.  Hiding from the booming fireworks, he sat cuddling, gnoshing on the chocolate cake he was being spoon fed.  Ian was running the neighborhood with the girls next door.  I could see him a block away, as he glowed with the two foot long glow stick around his neck. 

Each day I must hover a little less.  Each day they move further into their own lives.  I am grateful for confident sons who are part of these safe loving communities.  I am grateful there are those who like to play with my amazing lovies.  What will I do now that I have less of the caretaking to do?  I need to learn how to play or I will spend too much time being curiously bored.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

I am blessed to have an amazing childcare provider with wonderful kids.  Her son and daughter come to do evening sitting for us once in awhile.

Recently I was talking to Wit-wee (as Caden calls her).  I was wishing her a good vacation and telling her how much we would miss her.  I know Caden will.  I know I will.

Surprisingly, I said this.  "If I had a daughter this is what I would tell her on the way to a vacation without Mom and Dad.  Don't fall in love.  Come home and make sure to laugh a 100 times a day." 

At first I felt like the idiot I sounded like.  Then a little ache spread in my heart.  "If I had a daughter...."

I distinctly remember the ultrasound when I discovered that Caden was indeed a boy.  I had a little ache in my heart then too.  I kind of wanted to have a boy and a girl.  It would have mirrored my brother and I. 

If I had a would things be different?  I wouldn't know how to play air hockey as good.  I also wouldn't know the best way to wrestle someone to the ground.  I would have missed the mythology of the X-men and the male angst so thoroughly portrayed in Spiderman. 

Sugar and spice and everything would be kinda nice.  But I'll take my two little fellas any day.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Business in the Front/Party in the Back

(Thank you to those who patiently keep checking back for my blog.  It's been a busy couple weeks.  I spent time settling my mother's estate and hanging out with my awesome brother.  I'm back!)

I live in a small, post-industrial town in western PA.  We have now lived here full time for nearly two (!) years.  Here's a couple things I have come to learn and love about our little neck of the Laurel Highlands.

Business in the front and party in the back.  It means the front and sides of the hair are cut short, very short.  The back is long, stringy and hanging listlessly.  I LOOOOOVE a good mullet.  It's not just the societal dichotomy (business vs. party).  It's the absolute hilarity of trying to take someone seriously whilst staring them in the mullet.  My absolute fave?  A WOMAN with a mullet.  Anywhere else in the country wo-mullets (women with mullets) have girlfriends, not here.  Where I live, a woman with a mullet often has as an accessory a power tool and/or skinny, downtrodden husband.

Obsession with Pork Based Products
Originating with those ever so thrifty Amish, there is a pork based product which defies explanation-scrapple.  It's a block of grey mush fried and served with maple syrup.  It is as the name implies-the
scraps of pork left after sausage, bacon or other pork related goodness is created.  The scraps are ground together and made into blocks.  Dad ordered it with his bacon and egg breakfast the other day.  I swear it jiggled on the plate.

The following sign was posted at a fancy casino restaurant.  Note the last item.

The side of beef, surely the serving size of the prime rib, isn't enough.  The Father's day brunch isn't complete without pork kielbasa off the grill! 

Pantyhose in All It's Glory
Pantyhose is good, sorta.  I prefer tights, black and only in the winter.  However, in my beloved western PA pantyhose are the universal symbol of being 'dressed up'. 

During a recent trip to the casino in Pittsburgh (where my father wanted to spend his special day), he warned me what happens after 5 o'clock.  Apparently, right at the stroke of 5 men in crisp suits (obviously not worn during the day) show up to sit at the slots.  Behind them stand dolled up dames (invariably younger) looking bored at best and bitter at worst. 

I witnessed it first hand.  However, with one of the dames was her equally unhappy mother.  She impressed me with her black pantyhose in the middle of a sweltering June evening.  What did Mommie Boredest pair it with?  White flip flops, naturally!

I have to close now.  It's time to go to Giant Eagle to pick up some kielbasa for a picnic this weekend.  I'll be wearing my flip flops, sans pantyhose.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

10 Days and 10 Ways

10 days since I last had the time, energy and spirit to write.  Here's some things I learned since we last visited. 

1.  I appreciate my brother more than ever. 
He flew 'home' to help pack, sell and store my mother's lifetime of stuff.  He lifted 100 times his weight and answered 100's of silly kid questions.  He had no space to call his own for three weeks.  He only complained once.  Once.  I complain more getting from the bed to bathroom in the morning than he did in 3 weeks.

2.  I appreciate my husband more than ever.
Last night, in the hangover of the busy-ness of the last three weeks, I needed quiet time.  I didn't want or need to talk to anyone.  He understood and left me alone.  I read and recharged.  Tonight I'm going to make him watch a dance show with me!

3.  I appreciate my dad more than ever.
In packing my mom's house, we were packing his life too.  Not once did he disagree or complain or ask for anything.  In fact, when we offered 'stuff' to him, he made sure we didn't want it for ourselves.

4.  I miss my mom.
I was making an old family recipe.  It's "Peach Dessert" and I couldn't find my card.  I walked to the phone to call her to ask her how many boxes of jello go in each layer.  She wasn't there.  She never will be again.

5. I need to have a good cry.
I am a champion 'coper'.  I can cope right until my face falls off.  I have learned to be more authentic and experience my emotions.  However, the tears dammed up in my soul are so deep I am afraid to let them go.  Last night, while taking my brother to the airport, a few spilled over.  It occurred while we listened/sang to, "A Year in the Life" from the musical Rent.  How do you measure a year in the life?

6.  T-ball is a v-e-r-y loooooooooong game.

7.  I can do my job.
More on that later.

8.  It's summer and nothing tastes better than bbq chicken.
Which is exactly what we are eating tonight!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Renting Space In My Head

Just heard an amazing quote from Admiral Thad Allen, "I am careful who I let rent space in my head."  He is the federal government's chief on the oil catastrophe in the Gulf.  This was the Admiral's response to the CNN reporter on how he deals with the criticism he deals with on a daily basis.

Wow.  Made me wonder who I allow to rent space in my head.  Made me think what I let squat in the real estate of my soul.

Today was day 147 of packing up my mother's stuff.  It was the day I had to decide what to do with all the cards she never responded to and the pictures she never took out of the envelopes.  I threw the unanswered letters and cards away.  I kept the photos of my sweet babies.

I am still rehabilitating a shoulder that has been healed once already.  I keep re injuring it.  I keep mistaking painlessness as strength.  The absence of pain is not wholeness.  Today, I had a free afternoon with no family, no agenda.  There's stuff to be packed and arranged.  There is vacuuming and cleaning to be done.  All of which would require me to use and abuse my shoulder.  Instead I took a nap.

I gave the disappointment and rejection from my mother an eviction notice.  I served notice on abusing myself and choose to invest in rest.  I am not going to allow my painful past with my mother to sign a lease into my future.  I am going to purchase a small place all my own.

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Moment or Two or Three

Had several moments today.

The first occurred in the middle of a difficult phone conversation.  It was difficult in that I had to share the demise of a project.  A project I and so many others put in considerable personal, intellectual and professional capital.  I had to deliver the bad news a prospective contract was DOA.

I had to deliver the bad news to someone I deeply admire.  This woman represents so many of the spiritual, professional and personal qualities I want in my own life.  In short, she is who I would most like to be when I 'grow up'. 

In the conversation she shared how she got to be such a mothering, mentoring rock star.  Layered within her testimony was such encouragement and wisdom.   I was inspired as she shared her heart, so much so I actually took notes.  I also cried.  I cried because her experiences mirrored mine.  In that moment I saw a glimpse of what was possible in my life.  A rare moment indeed.

The second moment came on the commute home.  I called home and did my customary pleading through the phone for someone, anyone to pick up.  My 6 year old answered.  He announced his dad was busy but he would love to have a conversation with me.  He would love to talk to me.  To me. 

He wanted to talk to me-the woman who still remembers every failure, every mistake, every shout and lost temper.  Hopefully he has forgotten.    There are moments of excruciating love from my children where I am reminded how blessed I am to be a mother.

The third and final moment came in the kitchen.  My boys and I were watching my favorite dance show (So You Think You Can Dance).  During commercial we did medicine/vitamins.  The boys danced across the kitchen.  I told them how wonderful they were moving.  At that moment they believed they were Baryshnikovs in Buzz Lightyear jammies.  In that moment, I believed it too.

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Sitting on a Pile of Panty Hose

Memorial Day is a day to remember.  Remembering our service men and women.  Remembering those that have gone on before us.  Remembering what makes our country great.  Remembering. 

This was a weekend full of remembering.  We held the 'mother of all yard sales' (no pun intended) to sell my mother's stuff.  While we packed and sold and donated, we remembered.  We remembered the stickers placed on everything the Army moved for our family (15+ moves).  We remembered Mom's turtle collection extended beyond the 300+ on display and into the scores of earrings, pins and necklaces.  We remembered Mom was crafty, in the multitude of started and abandoned embroidery and crochet projects.  We remembered how she made much of our childhood clothes as we sold piles of swatches of fabric and 20 year old patterns.

Sunday we remembered to spend time together doing nothing.  On Friday night, my 6 year old asked when we were all going to stop working and have family time.  We were always so busy and he didn't get to play baseball with Uncle Michael.  We got the message.

Monday began with a mass in the St. Anthony cemetery to remember those fallen in battle.  Taps was played and a 21 gun salute opened the service.  The National Anthem, God Bless America, and the Battle Hymn of the Republic made up the song lists.  It was quintessentially American, spiritual and amazing. 

In parking the car at the cemetery, I spilled my coffee all over the back seat of Dad's car.  That's how I ended up sitting on a pile of pantyhose.  They were the only thing handy for sopping up caffeinated, Starbucks goodness in his back seat.  I was later totally weirded out to learn his girlfriend-who-is-only-the-person-he-spends-time-with-and-not-really-his-girlfriend had donated the pantyhose for tieing up tomato plants.

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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Yard Sale

In my neck of the woods, hosting and/or attending a yard sale is a mix of art and contact sports.  Let me explain.

It's 6:00 a.m.  It's that time in the morning when the mist makes everything cold while promising a roasting hot day.  We are laying out my mother's life-or rather her 'stuff' across the driveway and the neighbors lawn for a yard sale. 

The hundreds of gifts she received over the years was artfully displayed on card tables.   Christmas stuff over here.  57+ coffee mugs over there.

Every curtain and piece of linen our family had since before I was born was laid out on tarps or organized in colorfully labelled boxes.

The 20 or so glass boxes for holding the piles of doo-dads from around her house were lined up.  Beside the doo-dads was the mountain of stationary she never opened or used.

Embroidery, crochet, and sewing 'notions' of which I have no notion, were set out.  Some lady bought the white sewing box, not because she sewed, rather she worked at the company that designed and made the boxes in the '60s.

By 6:30 the boys had wrangled the 10 ton furniture into a pseudo display on the corner of the street.  By 6:32 "Crazy Legs" was making an offer on most of the furniture. 

By 6:33 some lady was riffling through the jewelry.  She told me what she was paying for some wooden eggs.  I didn't even look at the price, she was just too scary to contend with.

By 8:00 a.m. we had raked in $132.  Yep.  $132.  Did I mention the sale wasn't supposed to start UNTIL 8:00 a.m.  Oy.

The day was marked by stretches of boredom followed by long minutes of people wheeling and dealing on stuff we didn't want and they didn't really need.  By 2:00 we sold everything at 'half off' the already unbelievably low price of-50 cents.

We packed what was left, about 1/3 of what was laid out, and carted it to Goodwill.  We left with a receipt indicating we had given 6 bags of clothes, 7 pieces of furniture and 14 bags of home goods. 

Two truck loads of stuff, a life of 62 years and all we were left with was a receipt. 

Today, sunburned and exhausted, we are moving slow.  Only the kids are in their normal speed, buzzing around us.  We have a yard sale hangover.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

The Finish Line

My head is pounding.  I am exhausted.  My husband is a shell of a man from being virtually a single Mr. Mom for the past two weeks.  But wait.  What is this I see?  Can it be?  Is it true?


I completed the big proposal thingy I was working on.  The late nights, the unending research, is over!

Now what?  Time for a little introspection.

There was a time in my life when I operated at this tempo every day.  When every moment of every minute had a purpose.  If I wasn't going here, I was coming from there.  Picking up and dropping off -with work sandwiched in between.  So many of my earlier videos of my first born include shots of an exhausted me, late in the night, still in my work clothes.  My life was squeezed out in droplets like the wringing of a sponge.  How did I ever do it?

I didn't really.  I didn't with any sense of purpose or connection.  I just did.  I just did a lot.

I still do a lot.  A lot less.  Does it mean I am lazier? Some days.  Less focused or productive? Sometimes.  Less good or whole or validated? Never.

There is an aspect to my temperament that is never quite satisfied.  I am always looking for the new challenge.  The new thing.  Perhaps that's one reason why mothering fascinates me.  Everyday and in every way it's a challenge and new.

Once the choleric dissatisfaction formed an alliance with my self image and voted my peace right off the island!  My identity was wrapped up in what I could do and how much of it I did.  I was constantly standing with my back against the wall, straining on tip toes to reach that line of 'achievement' always seemingly out of reach.

Now I have made peace with the dissatisfaction and given it a little condo next to my ambition.  They are in the 'burbs of my identity now.  Instead I am learning how to squeeze sloppy hugs from little sticky fellas in between management capability narratives.  I examine 'hurted' backs and make recommendations on heating pads to six year olds while figuring how to express a national learning institute in 25 pages or less.

I still am striving towards the finish line.  I've just purposed not to run myself into the ground to get there.  I won't crawl over.  I'll walk.  In my own sweet time.  In my own sweet way.

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Star Wars Is On

I didn't meet my goal of blogging twice a week.  One probably shouldn't have relaunched one's blog when one is working late into the night on a grant contract.  That being said, by the way, here's what happened this evening.

I'm chugging away doing research on my proposal, finding the last nuggets of information to fill the holes in my narrative.  From the living room I hear, "Mommy! Star Wars is on!"

"Okay buddy."

"Mooooooooommmmmmmmmmmyyyyyyy! Star Wars is ON!"

The door bursts open and my little guy enters.  His hair is still wet from his bath, his little Thomas the train jammies are bunched around his calves.  He walks over and says, "Mom, Star Wars is on!  Come on!"  He grabs my hand and starts tugging.

The project is tugging on me, but this pint sized bundle of cuteness is tugging even harder.  As we walk downstairs, he says,"Mommy, Daddy loves you.  Star Wars is on."  Step, step, step.  "Mommy, Ian loves you.  Come on it's Star Wars!"  As we snuggle into the couch, "Mommy, Caden loves you!  Wook its a wo-bot!"

Caden does love me and wanted me to share the couch and the magic of Star Wars cartoons.  I couldn't tell you what the cartoon was about.  I can tell you how my son felt in my arms as we played the, "I love you game."

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Two Quick Weekend Tidbits

Busy weekend.  It began with a morning of unpacking, packing and sorting at Mom's house.  My bff Shel joined me in the fray.  In a random box of the 100th cross stitch kit was a speech I did when I was 15.  It addressed the challenge of being an American citizen.  I won a scholarship from it. 

It was awful.  Truly awful.  The conclusion was a ginormously long run on sentence that never ended and didn't have any real point other than to end the speech which was typed (yikes typed!) on paper turning brown with age.

Finding it reminded me of the journey I am on with my Mom.  I am finding the little treasures amidst the confusing and disorienting clutter of her life.  Emotionally exhausting and exhilarating at the same time.

I love to drive the riding lawn mower.  It is so satisfying to cut the grass while chugging along on the red bomber.  However, I am recovering and healing from a cervical muscle strain.  While I believe I am healed and healing, I keep ripping it up again. 

I asked my occupational therapist what I could and couldn't do.  He told me I can't do anything.  Literally, nothing.  I shouldn't pick up my baby or take wet laundry out of the washer.  I shouldn't, shouldn't, shouldn't.  But I did, I mowed the lawn.

I did it like a one armed drunk monkey on a moped, but I did it.  And it looks great.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Working It Out

One thing I knew about mothering, eons before I actually landed in a delivery room, was that I would never be a traditional stay at home mom.  I didn't realize, until post delivery and in the subsequent 6'ish years I've been a mom, how complicated not-traditional can be.

I am working on a great contract/project.  It's in addition to my 32 hour a week job.  It is a professional stretch, exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time.  It also necessitates me working in the evening, or most commonly known as, kid time.

Tonight my very dramatic 6 1/2 year old slumped into the bedroom where I was hiding.  He melted beside me and said, "You've been working aaaaaalllll night!  When are you going to be done?!?!?!"  The guilt washed over me like dirty dish water.  Though I was to discover he was only disturbing me in the vain hope of sneaking more cartoons, it still had the potential to emotionally gut me like a fish.

A constant emotional tug of war is in every mother's heart.  Whether their work is solely in the four walls or out, they are never 'done'.  Children, especially those delicious creatures who have yet to embrace the rugged independence of adolescence, need time, lots of time.  And there are only so many minutes in every day.

The bald fact is this: I am missing time with my kids to do this 'job'.  The other bald fact?  It's going to add two extra paychecks to our account.  Does one equal the other? Nope.

When my two year old crawled into my lap to say good night, I felt the fillet knife coming out.  However, I also remembered something a pediatrician once told me.  In every family, everyone must make compromises.  Learning how to do this and stay together and emotionally intact is the key. 

As I cuddled with my little squishy and his chattering skinny older brother, I worried I am losing importance in their lives.  I worried they would feel work is more important than they are.  I felt I am missing out on precious moments. 

The reality is I wouldn't hear complaints of how l-o-o-o-o-ng I was working if I wasn't important (even if it's that I am always the one who can find the t.v. remote).  They know work isn't more important than them or they wouldn't run in to hide beneath me and my keyboard.  The precious moments I missed tonight?  Yelling out random windows at the wild cat in the back yard.  I could hear them.   I didn't need to yell with them.

Do I still feel guilty?  Yep.  Am I gutted out by it?  Nope.  Because I have just realized that they, like me, are working it out.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pork Butts and a New Life Please

I stood in the gale force winds, shaking from the forty degree temps holding my prize, or rather prizes.  Two pork butts.  Ginormous hams being auctioned to raise money for my son's school.  And I was holding them.

Every year JCS has an Arts and Crafts Festival and Auction.  It is to raise a small portion of the unrestricted funds the school needs to operate.  My husband and I, dutiful Kindergarten parents we are, signed up to help.  He sat on a warm cooler and passed out poultry for four hours.  I stood in the wind, shaking and was stared at for four hours.

I have never been part of an auction before (save for that time on a business trip when I snuck in to an Auctioneers Association dinner to see if they talked that way all the time....they don't by the way).  So when told I had to step up to the platform and display whatever thingamabob or gift certificate being sold I jumped in with gusto.  However, I quickly learned dramatic license has no real place when auctioning car washes or a pie hutch.  Until the pork butts.

As I waited my turn to display some gorgeous quilt or weekend camping or four hours of house cleaning, I people watched.  As a writer, I tend to observe folks and pick up their unique quirks, tucking them away in my pocket like a 3x5 card full of future content.  There was the Mennonite couple, crisp in their dark blue clothes (tuck).  In the back was the handsome Dad wrapping his arms around his shivering son (tuck).  And (tuck) there was the two NaNas in a bidding war over the Peacock quilt, barely lifting their numbers or nodding their heads to bid.

I also looked to my son's teacher, Mrs. Spory, an angel of education.  Sitting beside her husband Mel, who lead the 5K run earlier in the day, smiling at the succession of people coming up to speak, thank or just share space with her.  Huddled in the 'plant booth' were Harry and Lucinda, hardworking folks who sacrificed greatly to have their two children attend this little private, Christian haven of education.  It was they who first introduced us to the school.  In the crowd successful business owners bid high on purpose, turning around seconds later to re-donate the thingy back to their beloved school.

I walked up, barely holding on to the ginormous packets o'pork in each arm.  I began to giggle, laugh and cry all at the same time.  How far I was from my beloved Beltway with it's Starbucks on every corner, ridiculous rents paid for by even more ridiculous salaries.  I was laughing because, well, I was holding two pig's butts (smoked, salted and packaged neatly in cellophane to be sure).  I laughed because while I have quite a ways to go before I fully understand or feel like a local, I realized I really like this new life we are living.

I like the simplicity of people for whom faith isn't a lovely ideal to be practiced on holidays.  Rather it's real and active and the framer of daily life and relationships.  I like people who commit so much and sacrifice for their families in the search for the American dream. 

And I really like pork butts.  Preferably in the form of ham pot pie, a staple at the Arts and Crafts fair.

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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Dance Baby Dance!

I am on crutches. The natural result of cute wedges, chasing children and a small hole in the yard. Of course it was in middle of Easter dinner at my mother-in-law's house. Everyone was super sweet and I was in and out of the emergent care center within an hour.

I am immobile and caring for a 2 1/2 year old who is NEVER still. I was alone with my little fella yesterday, as my 6 year old and hubby were at Pirates opening day. The drive home was excruciating and I couldn't wait for naptime.

My Caden is the gentlest little giant I have ever met. His smile, his laughter, his very life is BIG.

When he saw me with my 'boo boo' he asked me if it "hurted". If he saw me walking with no "crushes" he would hold my hand and try to help.

I don't know where this big hearted, gentle giant came from. However, I am thankful he is aware and gentle when he needs to be.

Last night, after jammies, we sat down to watch a little t.v. While flipping channels, we came across the t.v. show "Dancing with the Stars". I'll be honest, I hate it. I am a "So You Think You Can Dance" devotee. Caden LOVED it!

The second it was on he said, "I do it!" and began to dance around the living room. On commercials he would crawl in my lap to cuddle only to leap out to dance at the first sign of music.

Here was my rough and tumble little giant tip toeing and and twirling and giggling with all his might. I was loving watching my baby dance. I thought to the day when I will watch him dance away to his prom. I thought of the time I'll be standing on the side and see him dance with the love of his life at his wedding. I thought of when he may hold the hands of his little girl to twirl in his grown up living room.

On a waltz he walked over and said, "Dance wiff me. Come on Mooooooooom!". I couldn't resist. I took my little sweetie's hands in mine and limped around in circles. It wasn't pretty but it was all for me. It was all our moment. It was a moment I'll cherish forever.

I hope you always dance, my Caden. I hope you'll always dance with someone who loves you. Thank you.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010


My mother's mother is Ruth Ophelia Brandle. She has such a big name for such a diminutive lady. The top of her salt and pepper head barely reaches my shoulders.

Grandma turned 90 on Saturday. She was born on March 27, 1920. The year she was born ushered in Prohibition. Ironic, in that she eventually married an alcoholic. In 1920, the Ford Model T was the best selling (and almost only selling vehicle) in America. Now, it's a foreign car maker at the top of the list, not that it matters as Gram never learned to drive (though she does love a long ride on a smooth motorcycle-Harley if you please). American women were finally given the right to vote in the 1920 election for President upon the ratification of the 20th Amendment. I don't believe she has ever voted in her life and frankly wouldn't now if you asked her. Politicians are like a**holes, she would say, everybody's got one and we all know they are full of sh*t. Did I mention she can cuss like a longshoreman when given the chance?

In her 90 years she has seen the invention and encroachment of television into every aspect of our lives. There isn't much good on t.v. now, she says. Though that Discovery Channel has some very nice shows. She has witnessed humanity at it's best conquering the vast expanse of the moon. She has witnessed it at it's worst, with too many wars to name.

She has been the sole caretaker for and eventually buried a husband, a mother and a daughter. She buried two of her four sons. She endured real poverty, and not just the kind that won't allow you to go to McDonalds. Poverty where you fill your children's bellies with bread soaked in coffee as there is nothing else in the house.

Grandma Ruth broke all her fingers in a ringer washer. Too poor for medical treatment, they fused together into a half claw. Convenient for kneading the thousands of loaves of bread she has baked. Painful on cold days. It was that twisted hand that made me cry tonight. No, she didn't hit me, though I am sure she has smacked more than one errant child.

I wept in the simplicity of her hand being held in the two year old, smallness of my son's hand. "Come on, Gram," he said, as if it were everyday they shared a meal at a restaurant. She has only met him once, at 3 months. Tonight, they chatted like old friends. She kept saying, "I can't believe he took to me so quick. Ain't that somethin'?"

That is something. But what?

Since my mother's passing I have been trying to sort out what it means to still be here. To be in a family I don't know, and am still unsure if I want to know. To be the granddaughter of this woman who has cursed me and said terrible things about me and mine.

Tonight I am asking what does it mean to this 90 year old woman to still be here? Is it to reclaim time with great-grandchildren lost with her own children and grandchildren? Is it to forgive sins real and imagined? What is it?

In the bible, Ruth was a dutiful daughter who stayed with her bitter mother in law through poverty and death and hardships. Ruth said, "Urge me not to leave you or to turn back from following you; for where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people and your God my God." In Ruth's service and faithfulness, she is rewarded by regaining her lost inheritance and more. From the ashes of death and poverty, Ruth gained a life again for her mother in law and herself.

Will my Ruth gain an inheritance for so much she has lost? Am I the dutiful daughter in law who will walk through death and emotional poverty to gain a new life for the both of us? Is this the chance for restoration?

I think so.

Unlike with my own mother, I know time is short with Grandma Ruth. In the wake of my own mother's leaving there remains a curious bringing together. Gram is coming for Easter dinner on Saturday. I asked her to make candied sweet potatoes. She does them better than anyone. It's not a grand emotional gesture. It's just a meal. But it is one meal we probably would be spending separately, had my mother been alive.

Gram doesn't have a computer, and never will read this blog. She probably thinks a blog is something to be cleaned up.

What she will know is that she is loved and wanted and appreciated. In every way I will, like Ruth in the Bible, go out and gather the grains of goodness and share them with her. I can because I have been given so much by God. How can I not share this extravagant love, healing and forgiveness I have been given? How can I not?

My dearest Grandmother Ruth, entreat me now not to leave you. For your people are now my people and where you go I will go. And know your prayers are answered as your God is very much my God.

Happy birthday Gram.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Political Awakening and Funeral of Idealism

A long time conservative and Republican, my husband dipped a toe into the political pond last night. It was, to quote some author more eloquent than me, the best of times and it was the worst of times.

It was the best of times because I got to see the love of my life step into a political life I, and those around him, knew he was born to embrace. I watched my love walk into a room filled with tension and outright hostility, hold his head high and give the first of many successful political speeches.

He said the words eloquently and with conviction. During the question and answer period he spoke with passion and connected to the audience. When asked a question laden with land mines, he navigated it with the savvy only one born to this work could demonstrate. I wanted to cry, but I didn't. I wanted to clap, but I didn't. I did the 'political wifey' thing and sat, with smiles and nods. I was thankful to God for this weird opportunity and so proud to be his wife. It was the best of times.

Later, as the political process played out, it became the worst of times. This weird opportunity was a nominating and voting process for a seat held for 37 years by the opposing party. It is a historical time as the eyes of the nation are on our little District.

Theoretically, conferees were to come to hear the candidates speak and then make up their minds as to who should be the candidate in the special election. I thought it odd that some of those decision makers already wore stickers from one of the candidates before he had a chance to speak. I thought it even more odd when one of the candidates used lines nearly identical to my husband's speech. It was even odder when another candidate's son was asked to leave the room because he was considered part of the 'staff'. It took me a minute, but I realized I was watching a very orchestrated bit of political theatre masquerading as a 'fair and open process'.

All the speeches were good with none being great. The two who came up for votes couldn't have had more different speeches. One reiterated the tea party talking points. No spending. Common sense. Yay America. The other connected his character, his experience and his record of getting things done to deep and abiding conservative principles from which he would cut spending, etc. One was a pep rally, the other was substance. For me, it was clear cut who would represent our District from a position of strength and experience.

The pep rally, USA cheerleader won.

It was pre-determined. It was orchestrated. It wasn't about the candidates, but rather deeper and more entrenched politics of personality and power.

My husband awoke this morning, bleary eyed with a political hangover, he said two things. #1: He felt like he finally fit into his own political skin and couldn't imagine not doing this again and again. #2: In the face of this orchestrated evisceration of a good man, his idealism was dead.

I have a hangover too. I am reexamining my own political convictions and alignments. Perhaps too I had a political reawakening and funeral of idealism.

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Wook At Me!

"Mom. Come on. Come wiff me," says my little, sturdy, earnest 2 and a half year old. "Hermie the crap is 'tuck!" (Hermie the crab is stuck.)

The last thing I wanted to do then and most of the time, is walk upstairs to stare at a shell in the corner of a plastic terrarium. Yet I did. Because he asked.

"Mom, look at me! I'm (top of the lungs voice) IRONMAN! Bleeew! Boooom!" says my six year old as he runs through the living room-wearing a slightly too small Ironman costume and neon orange swim goggles.

On my lap, "Mom. Wook. Wook at my boo boo. Ian hit you. Naughty Ian." (Translation: Mother, please examine my surface laceration. Ian injured me whilst I stood on his head with my snow boots. He is such a card and should be punished.)

My kids don't ask strangers to Wook at them. They ask me, my husband, my Dad, NaNa and Pap. They ask us to look because it matters that we see them. It matters that we are looking. In those frantic, and more often than not, inconvenient times, they need our eyes to meet theirs.

I was 'wooking' at the baby the other night and I really saw him. My baby is slowly disappearing. Angles are replacing my angel's once puffy cheeks. His eyes take in so much more than he can express. His little grin can go from calculated ("If I make her giggle, she might not notice I am slurping the last of her coke.") to sweet ("M-O-M-M-Y-'S H-O-M-E!!!!").

As I am working through a sometimes daily struggle to keep ahead of the emotional tsunami, I realize I am screaming, "Look at me!" too. I need my eyes to meet those that are important. Those that care. Those that have seen much and forgiven more.

I need to look into the eyes of God. It only makes sense that if He is our Heavenly Father that we can. The Bible says so. Religion isn't too averse to the idea. Taking it from idea to reality ain't so easy. I've had moments of excruciating intimacy where I felt enveloped in a truly supernatural love and warmth. Those incidences are rare, precious and few.

Nope, I am looking for a daily, eye to eye experience. I have come to realize that is the one thing I haven't had/tried/done. I also realize it's a key to my future. I realize the power of just one glance to radically and irrevocably change my life.

I am reminded in the giggles of my children, in the smile of my husband when I walk into a room, in the quiet, hushed moment in worship that God is looking for me too.

Today, if I was sitting across from you, I would look you in the eye and say, "You matter. You are important." I would smile, pat your arm, serve you some pie and close with this. It's not just me saying it, but Father God, "Here's looking at you kid!"

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

New Glasses=New Vision

So hear I am wearing my new glasses. Do you like 'em?

Glasses have been a part of my life ever since I discovered books were a window into a glorious reality. I spent most of my life with my nose in a book and thus, my eyes are now in need of assistance.

I had contacts for awhile and then I fell into 'lensy' love. I didn't just like, I loved, my glasses. I had two pairs, to match what I was wearing, naturally. One was red, the other blue. They were so big, they often left a line on my cheek while covering a portion of my forehead. Those babies were glorious. Absolutely glorious. I matched my red and white striped polo shirt and my red, lens beauties for my senior portraits (and red nail polish...of course). I was a stylin' and profilin'.

In college, I wore them because I couldn't always afford contacts. I told myself, it made me look older and more authoritative to the students I would soon be teaching. The truth was, I outspent my budget and couldn't always get them.

The blue and red beauties are long gone. I've been in contacts for years and years. My glasses prior to my new ones were a rimless disaster which the baby tied into an origami knot within minutes. They were so sad they actually had one slice of the lens melted at the top. Oy.

Recently I had a budget and splurged on some new glasses. They are artsy, pseudo-rimless and have a fancy shmancy design on the side. I feel sorta hip. I feel like I should take my Joan Didion book (thanks fiend) and read it while sipping an organic latte'.

Or I could blog about the little miracle going on with my baby blues. Over the past few appointments a little trend has emerged. My vision is getting better. I am seeing more clearly. I am getting new vision.

In my life, as in my eyes, I am getting new vision. I can see my emotions more clearly, though I still see a journey to walk down. I can see my sweetie boys running past and too quickly into a future of independence.

I'll close with a verse from one of my favorite cheesy songs. Sing if you will. No one is looking.

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone. All of the dark feelings have disappeared. There is the rainbow I've been praying for. It's gonna be a bright (bright) bright, sunshiney day!

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day

Taking a break from the mourning, the estate settling and the usual busy-ness of life, my husband and I had a date for Valentine's day. We began the date by seeing Hollywood's newest offering, suitably entitled VALENTINES DAY. It was an anemic and uncommitted and cliched version of love. The ubiquitous hybrid cars, bitter, gorgeous thirty somethings, the cheating husbands, the cute kid and the goofy flower guy. Throw in a gay football player and a phone sex girl and voila' you have a modern romance movie. For my hubby and I, not so much.

My favorite squishy love movie, in case you were curious, is LOVE ACTUALLY, followed by the original AFFAIR TO REMEMBER, with an honorable mention/tie FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL/that one with Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant where she's the actress and he's the book shop owner-brain burp on that one).

In the classic movie HIS, MINE AND OURS, Henry Fonda delivers a monologue to his step-daughter about love. He his escorting his wife, a fabulous Lucille Ball, down the stairs, as she huffs dramatically in labor. He explains this is what love is all about. I'll paraphrase. It's about babies, messes, noise and work. It's accidents and fights and dishes and dirt. It isn't the romanticized version out of the novels or t.v. or anemic movies.

In the not-so-good movie we saw today, there was another classic line. When a character (the obligatory latino in this fully diverse cast-it was like watching a multicultural checklist onscreen, "Check. There's the shy asian with wisdom. Stereotyped and accounted for. Check. Here's the witty and poor latino who makes jokes about coming to theeees country. Check...." Sorry, I digressed.

The line was how do you know when it's true love? How do you know it's going to work out? The answer. He knew because he married his best friend. I know because I married mine.

Squishiness warning: what you are about to read has all the solidity of marshmallow fluff.

The first time I met my husband he was sitting on Lisa Leeper's bed. He had on a Pirates baseball cap, a leather jacket and jeans. He was the cutest guy I had seen in a long, long time. He was a football player in high school and was in great shape. In sweat pants he was astounding. Not only did he look good, but he was smart. Really smart.

I, on the other hand, was an insecure, brainiac, theatre geek. I was too big, too loud and too smart. While I longed/lusted/liked him from a distance, I never considered such a great/amazing/cute guy would ever be interested in me.

We wandered in the same circles. We shared the same friends. We became friends.

I was rejected by two other guys as he became the center of attention for what came to be known as the Ron Robertson fan club (a group of girls in the dorm who fawned over the guy every second). One night, he and I made a pact to pretend to flirt so that the other girls would give him a break. It worked. Later, we ended up spending the night on a couch in a friends dorm room. Nothing like being two inches from each other overnight as an introduction.

What is astounding to me, as I look back, is his same-ness. He is the same guy I fell in love with over 20 years ago. He still takes my breath away. While I have become and broken and become again, he is still who he is and will always be.

Who will he always be? My Valentine. Mine.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Wii Bit of Respite

Funerals, estates and ceremonies, oh my! It's been a very big, busy, painful week. And it's only the beginning.

Last night, however, we had a Wii bit of healing. I got the video game Wii Fit Plus with a balance board. Dad, my brother and I spent time playing.

I didn't grow up in America. Mostly I grew up in Germany, as my father served in the Army. We didn't have much t.v. Often we had only 4 hours, the bulk of which was news. To keep us from going insane, Mom and Dad bought an Atari videogame. It was the original, bleep bloop kind moving slowly across the screen. We would have family tournaments for hours. We had family rivalries around certain games. I wasn't very good at anything. My brother rocked out on Pong and Space Invaders. It was a time of togetherness, of love and of fun.

Here we were, 30 years later. Our mother, my father's wife, was gone. The grieving only just beginning. Yet, we gathered together to play in the same way our family has always done.

I still wasn't very good. I got lost on a new level of the Bike game and ended up 'riding' a bike over 7 miles. My brother smoked my records on nearly everything while Dad sat on the couch and laughed at our antics. It was the first time we laughed in a very long time.

It was a surprising Wii bit of healing.

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Saturday, February 6, 2010

Insides Outside

My insides are now on the outside. I have blogged at length of my complicated relationship with my mother. I have come to realize there were two women. The private/inside was my mom. The public/outside was Kathy.

The series of events that characterizes mourning in our American, western PA community is bewildering and exhausting. It's a series of must dos and expectations. I am thankful for Ryan our amazing funeral director (a tall, handsome young man who looked like he should be coaching football, not grieving families).

There we stood, my brother and I, dressed in black. We clutched each other's arms. He rubbed my hand until it was red and raw. I didn't notice. We took a deep breath faced the Others.

The Others were the seemingly hundreds of people who shared life with my mother. I found myself holding sobbing women who drove over an hour to pay their respects. Many had memories of sharing holidays and meals and time and life with Kathy. They tearfully talked of Kathy's caring and giving heart.

At one point I began to add up the holidays she spent in Others homes. The same holidays that she was 'too tired' or the weather was 'too bad' or 'too...' something to spend it with me and my family. Yet it was these Others that had glowing memories of Kathy playing with their grandchildren and eating at their table, while mine and my brother's remained empty.

The whole series of viewings and endless Catholic services slowly turned me inside out. The life I wanted to share with my Mom, the life I longed for in my heart was lived outside with these Others.

Though we didn't verbalize it, my brother and I made a decision. This week was about the public Kathy. It was to allow the Others to grieve and express and thank. We would grieve later, in private.

Below is the text of the eulogy I read as part of the funeral mass. I wanted to share something personal about her. I couldn't think of much. Instead, I relied heavily on what the Others had shared and a little literary license.

I am slowly putting the insides back where they belong. Sharing this is a first step.

Funerals are always a curious mix of loss and celebration. We all have lost someone who touched our lives in a myriad of ways. Last night many of you shared how important Kathy was to you and for that we are profoundly grateful.
For some of you, Kathy was a colleague and a coworker. The ‘go to’ woman who had her finger on the pulse of Richland Elementary School.
For some of you, Kathy was a friend. Someone you knew ‘before’. You knew her before she was a grown up, a woman and an adult. You knew her as the one who played on the porch or played kick the can.
For some of you, Kathy was a friend in the faith. Someone you worshipped beside and with. Someone who sang songs to God. Someone who worked in the kitchen downstairs for festivals.
For some of you, Kathy was a friend during a difficult time. She was someone who brought soup or cared for someone who was ill. She was the person who brought a little comfort in your time of need.
For some of you, Kathy was all these things and so much more. She was an extension of your families, eating at your table, playing with your grand kids.
For my Grandmother Ruth, Kathy was a daughter. Her only daughter. Two women in a house full of men. She was a lifeline and a caretaker and someone to pass the day with.
For my brother and I, Kathy was simply mom. Our relationship was never simple and sometimes not so easy. However, she always was and always will be our mom.
As a mother myself, I have learned a new respect for My Mom. Did you know Kathy took two children under the age of 4 and traveled internationally? She once drove down the East Coast, into Texas and back again on her own. She was the bravest mother I ever knew.
Growing up she was also ‘mom’ to all my friends. She was the one who managed to work full time, and still be the chaperone for every trip.
Yesterday, when I was looking in her calendar, I found fundraising tickets from two different school groups. She still was the Mom who never met a fundraiser she didn’t like.
She was very much like the turtles she collected. She could have a hard outer shell, underneath which beat a very tender and soft heart. She never was flashy and always made it to the finish line in good time.
Turtles can live for 100 years. Today, and I think for days to come, we would have wished for Kathy to have shared that trait.
She has left our lives. Her influence and care will never leave our hearts. I hope you know how much you all meant to her.
Richland Elementary School was her center, her reason to get up in the morning. She knew details about the children’s lives. She cared for them as if they were her own. She watched over staff, both old and new, to see what she could do to help them or keep them from messing things up too much. She would want me to thank you for being there in her times of need. She would want me to thank you for listening to stories of her grandsons over and over again with a smile. She would want me to thank Mr. Moran and Patti for giving her dignity and care following her last moments.
Grandma, she loved you very much. She wanted nothing more than to make your life easier, as she carried your burdens along with her own.
Michael and I want to thank you Mom, for being brave in these last months. Brave to reach out when it was hard. Brave to accept new beginnings and a new life. We thought we had time. Obviously, we did not.
She would be embarrassed by all the things said last night and today. She would have been overwhelmed by the attention. She would have preferred to hide in her shell and just be.
So, in closing, I would ask you a favor to honor her memory. As Michael and I ran out of time to hug our mother, take time today to hug those important to you. Call that parent you haven’t spoken to in too long. Reach out to that friend, child or co-worker. Do it today, as we have no promise of tomorrow.
And one final thing, every time you see a turtle. Think of the little lady with the big heart. Think of your friend. Ruth’s daughter and my mom, Kathy.
Thank you.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Call

It's usually a phone call that changes the landscape of your life. Suddenly and without warning a statement or two over the line is 'the moment'. The last moment when things made sense and the new, confusing and bewildering life begins.

Tuesday morning I got the call. Tuesdays are my Mondays so I was moving very slow. I was getting ready when the phone rang. It was Mom's number. I was so pleased as it marked the first time she had ever called me in years.

"Is this Kimberly Robertson?" the surprisingly male voice asked.

Do I want to be?

"Yes, this is she." Sit on the bed. Remember to breathe.

"I am sorry to have to say this, but your mother is dead."

A screeching of brakes in my mind. What?

There was more to the conversation. I can't recall what. I called my husband and father repeating the sentence, "Mom is dead."

I screamed and had to clutch the side of the bed. A sudden shaking and cold overcame me. Then the baby came up. "You got boo boo Mommy?"

I do. In my heart.

Since yesterday Gosh was it only yesterday morning? I've made seemingly hundreds of calls on the phone. I made other calls too. I've made the call on how to handle the 'arrangements'. I've made the call on what casket, outfit and other minute details.

I've called on God and taken Him up on His offer that His grace is sufficient for me. I've called the Holy Spirit to do His job as comforter. I've called on Jesus to be the Savior of my cracked soul. They have answered the call splendidly and in ways I will be sure to share later.

The call changed the landscape of my life forever. The woman of whom I have only recently begun to reconcile with is dead. Her life, her legacy, her memory is what is important now.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Going Through the Gate

A little historical/sociological exposition...stick with me, it'll all make sense (I hope). Disclaimer: I am a writer, not a historian. My hubby is the one who likes to watch the history channel-by choice. So any 'facts' are through my slightly tilted lens!

Back in the day, in a galaxy far far away, or a time long long ago, people didn't live all sprawled out everywhere. The center of the action was in cities. The bible talks about the cities in terms of walls and gates. Certain gates where for certain 'traffic'. To get to the next area of the city for commerce, worship or life, one had to go through gates.

The aramaic word for gate in the bible is most closely associated with the idea of a squeezing, narrow place. The gates in the cities weren't wide, letting any old nomadic riff raff through. Rather, they were narrow and required a 'paring down' of stuff to only the important things towards doing business on the other side of the gate.

Still with me? Good.

Gates are a good metaphor for those 'squeezing' places in our lives. It is the place when we are right at the end of our selves, our resources. Gates are the place were we have 'pared down' anything extraneous or distracting. We are right at the place of breaking through to the other side. On the other side is new opportunity, support or healing. The other side is, well, greener.

A friend shared in church on Sunday something about gates that still is messing me up-in a good way.

He said that even if he is maimed and crawling, HE AND HIS ARE GETTING THROUGH THE GATE. He and his have gone through no less than a complete paring down in every area. YET, he stood up, before God, the church and whoever and made that proclamation.

I have decided this morning to make a similar declaration. My husband and I are facing another paring down, this one is close to the bone. No matter the circumstances, or cost-I AND MINE WILL GET THROUGH THE GATE.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Fit Mommy Fun Mommy

Wii Fit Plus is AMAZING!!!!! Video games has never been my forte. Even when they were the bleep-bloop, slow, one-dimensional kind, I was awful. The 'boys' (i.e. Daddy, Pappy and Ian) usually play, trash talk and harangue one another on a regular basis while bowling on Wii. I am on baby control duty. They play. I facilitate. Today that all changed.

I was given Wii Fit for Christmas. It sat, in the basement, taunting me.

After a night of good conversation and pie, I wondered why I didn't just go for it. It's a game. A video game. It isn't politics or a screenplay or a baby.

So, I hooked it up. With only my six year old and two year old as witnesses, I jumped on the balance board. Did I turn into a video game genius? Was I a secret Wii savant? Nope. However, the baby laughed so hard at my penguin chomping at fish that he fell off the couch. My son couldn't wait to play. With me.

Too often I am the caregiver, the almighty organizer of all things domestic. Fun is oftentimes an elusive commodity for me. Not today. And probably not tomorrow. I am committed to making my little Mii character a little less pudgy (The animated character-Mii-is representative of your real BMI and weight-oy). I am also committed to watching and laughing as my little guys flap their wings and giggle at animated penguins. I am committed to being a fit and fun mommy.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Language Liberties

At one point in my life I could cuss like a longshoreman. I come from a long line of women who can turn a phrase nastier than the Hudson in the summer. Then I had kids. I don't, so much, anymore.

As a writer, I pay attention to words and the crafting of a phrase. I make my kids respond appropriately and with real words. "Yeah," isn't a favorite, and neither is, "Uh uh."

There are times, however, when cuteness trumps appropriateness. Take for instance Hermie the Crap.

For Christmas, we promised our oldest a replacement for his first hermit crab. Appropriately named Hermie, the first crab only lasted a week or two before I discovered the 'body' (or rather the legs popped off and I ran screaming to get Ron).

This time we were going to do things right. We read the book. We prepped the cage. We spent $40 getting a habitat ready for this creature. We welcomed Hermie the Crap into our home.

Hermie the Crap (as the baby calls him), was at first a 'buggie'. Now he is just, Hermie the Crap. Under his breath I heard the baby mumble, "Hermie the Crap....eeeew."

I should correct him. I should help him to say Cra-B. But it is so just darn funny that we have all taken to calling the weird, shell moving thingy-Hermie the Crap.

It came back to haunt us. While visiting our friends, it was mentioned that Caden talked so much about crap while in the church nursery. My husband and I laughed out loud. Apparently, Caden was excited to share about his newest pal-Hermie the Crap.

Hermie the Crap. Love it. Love taking language liberties with cutie, sweetie two and half year olds.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Straightened Out

This morning, hair straightener in hand, I was sobbing. Weeping, not at the state of my greys and the dire need for a haircut/color, but at the footage unfolding on my t.v.

Haiti is enduring the aftermath of a deadly earthquake. I have been avoiding the 24/7 news coverage. I can't watch. I can't watch and know I can't do anything. I can't see babies bloodied and bruised and not long to soothe their wounds and sing away their tears. This morning, though, I tuned in.

Alli and Jamie McMutrie refused to leave their devastated Port Au Prince orphanage until all the children were sent to their adoptive countries. They stayed with over a hundred children in a concrete driveway. With intervention from the Governor and UPMC and others, they were able to bring the children to the U.S. 54 landed today with Alli. Jamie stayed behind to make sure the other children were sent to their adoptive nations.

The young woman, disheveled, exhausted and overwhelmed by the media attention and the tragedies of the past days was an inspiration. She's young. Very young. Her life has already made a difference in the lives of these babies. And she has so much more time to do so much more, as I am sure she will.

I wept because I wanted a home large enough to bring in one of those beautiful, brown skinned angels. I wept because I wanted to help people like the McMutrie sisters have all they need to do all they can. I wept because I was feeling a little sorry for myself.

I was straightened out this morning, as I straightened out my hair. I didn't lose everything in an earthquake and have to live in a driveway. I didn't live in a country built on corruption and keeping it's citizens in poverty and ignorance for the sole purpose of control.

My family is intact, even if my bank account isn't. My home is intact, even if I don't own it. My faith is intact, even when I don't serve the One who put it there.

I may not be able fly 54 orphans to safety and a new home. But I can skip a treat or two and put a buck or two in the offering. And I certainly am able to straighten out my attitude.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

First Love?

Deep breath. Here's how it went down tonight.

"Mom, I bowled a 233 on Wii!"

"Great job bubby!"

"But I can't call girlfriends about it."

Sound of screeching brakes-in my head of course.

"What do you mean? Call girlfriends?"

"You didn't tell me at what age I have to be when I can call my girlfriend."


"Do you have a girlfriend?"


"What's her name?"

"Bella. Come on Mom you know her."

Keep breathing. Stay calm. He's only 6 1/2.

"We haven't kissed yet."

O-h m-y g-o-o-d-n-e-s-s.

Calm voice. "I don't think kissing is really appropriate at your age."

"Mom, can I have another cookie?"

I had another cookie or two while I mulled this over. Whoa.

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Winter Quick Bits

The following is a pictorial essay offered to fend off the snow madness I am currently experiencing. At least while wearing wool socks 24/7 I can't see how desperately I need a pedi, the dog smell has faded from my woobie and the new pellet stove is wicked warm.

Men in Steeler Snow Gear

In my neck of the frozen tundra, Stiller gear (i.e. Steeler football emblazoned clothing) is oft considered haute couture. However, I didn't realize how handsome men are in cold weather gear. Here's dad and the hubby after freeing us out of the latest snow squall.

All Season Porches

Dad installed a wood pellet stove on the uninsulated back porch. The idea was to create a space for the children to play whilst the adults luxuriate in toy free space in the living room. What has resulted is an all season porch with a pile of toys in one end and a 'man cave' in the other. As Pappy headed to bed tonight, he asked my 6 year old what the one rule was, "No toys in the man cave." As it gets upwards of 85 on the porch, the heat escapes through the uninsulated ceiling creating the most spectacular icicles.

Snow Blower Facial

My son thought it was a good idea to follow my brother around the yard while he snow plowed a track for the dog to go to potty. Yes, we snow plow a track for him. He's a miniature dachshund so when the snow reaches a certain amount he takes his genital life in his paws. Ian followed Michael until he realizes that snow in the face actually hurts after awhile. Hurt is an understatement, snow burns. Hugs and moisturizer were provided.

Snowy Kid Memories

We can only get out for a few short minutes at a time. It's below zero with the wind chill and, frankly, I am a cold wuss. Apparently, so is my little fella. He wasn't pleased to be in the snow. Thankfully, soon his natural cheerful, adventuresome self came out.

Recipe for Snow Cream

Big roasting pan.
Two little guys with mixing spoons.
2 c. milk
1/2 c. sugar
2 t. vanilla
Lotsa snow.

Mix milk and vanilla. Dissolve the sugar fully in the vanilla milk. Trudge outside and fill the pan with snow. Mix and mix some more. Clean up what the baby sloshed all over the floor. Mix and then eat. Surprisingly it is really really good!

Recipe for Snowy Memories

There were weird snowprints leading up to the front door and back. I talked it over with the sitter, and she mentioned the neighbors saw bear. Dad confirmed there is bear in these here parts. A bear. In my front yard. Really? Turns out to really be a large rabbit that lives in the bushes.

My six year old looked out the window watching snowflakes. He commented on how every snowflake was different. We talked about how fun that is and how fun that Father God makes no two people alike either. MLK would be proud.

It's only January, so the winter quick bits we have had will continue. I'm glad. Now, scoot over and make room under the woobie, I'm cold.

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