October 14, 2010

The Noble Battle

This week, my brave father-in-law surrendered to his dignified battle with pancreatic cancer. Over the years, he and I had an uneasy alliance, bonding over our love of our family. During the past weeks as I recounted positive stories about him for the kids, I realized I have a lot of nice things to say about him. He was a family man to the very end. I am so grateful for the way he was always there for his family.

When I married my spouse, I was so happy to become part of such a great family. One day when I parked my car at their house, my then boyfriend and I went somewhere. I came back to find it washed and vacuumed. Another time, when my apartment flooded, and I had no family nearby, my (didn't know it yet) future in-laws came over with towels, and buckets and shop vacs and helped me clean my place as well as offer me a place to stay because I was dating their son, no other reason.

As with any in-law relationship, there are times over the past 20 years when our respective histories clashed. I'm sure we both spent some time biting our tongues. The things I wished to say seem so insignificant now. I spent a day last week with his lifelong friends, as we gathered and kept vigil. He passed at home and hospice said he was comfortable.  His hospice social worker was so special, she said, I came in here and he wanted nothing to do with me, and I liked him immediately. She had the heart to give a scared and angry man a place to vent. I love her for that. A true angel.

I learned that he called several times a week about his assorted pension and retirement accounts to ensure they were on track and that his wife would be cared for. If the amount varied as much as a dollar, he was back on the phone, getting everything straight.

I learned that as angry as a person can make you in a day, they still have so many redeeming qualities that anger is never worth it. His lifelong buddy calls him an asshole to his face, even on his deathbed, and walked out of the room with tears, choked with emotion. Seeing an almost 70 year old man that touched by the impending loss of his friend just grabbed me. Then his buddy shared a story.

One evening, my mother in law couldn't get my father in law up from the toilet. After several repeated attempts to lift him, finally, embarrassed, called his buddy. His buddy, who has had two hip replacements came over. This stocky man had my father in law put his hands on his shoulders and like a non-fun conga line, lifted him that way. As he was lifting him, my father in law told his buddy, don't you dare turn around.

We laughed hysterically. I thought about the sort of person who has friends for an entire life. I listened to these buddies who grew up together tell crazy stories about how they would run back and forth to each others houses and time it so they could eat dinner twice. I smiled to imagine the mischievous, fun loving boy he was.

This is a friendship of a man who will lift his buddy off a toilet... and laugh about it not with shame but love later. This is a man who never was happier to be a grandfather. I never saw a man light up more than when he met our firstborn. He guarded her with all his gruff knightly qualities. He loved his grandchildren with a passion unmatched.

And now my very private father in law who probably would be aghast if he knew how I was sharing his life stories, is  gone. I kissed him on his forehead and said, "thank you for loving us as much as you did". Then I squeezed his hand and told him there was a cold one waiting for him and it would taste good again.  I like to think he's sitting comfortably waiting for us to join him for that cold one.

What I have learned is that life is not long enough for anger. It's worth it to bite your tongue and if you call someone an asshole, it needs to be with a smile. And whatever you do, if you're lifting that asshole off a toilet with your back to him, hands on your shoulders, do NOT turn around!

September 23, 2010

Running on Full

I began to run relatively seriously about a year ago. My daughter grumbled one morning when I was encouraging her to get up and go to her cross country practice, telling me that if it was so easy, I should do it myself.

I knew then it wouldn't be easy, but I still decided to give it a shot. What better example could I set than to do the very thing I was encouraging her to do. When I was a boss at the grocery store, I had the same philosophy. I could ask anyone to do any task, provided they had seen I was also willing to do it.

I've had a lot of ups and downs and moments of lost motivation. An ache or a pain, inclement weather, weather that is too nice, you name it, I've found a reason to skip my run. But too many skipped runs and any progress made rapidly is lost. It's rather generous to call what I do running. I'm a person in my 40s, was never athletic and I am somewhat overweight.  But I find inspiration not in the person who wins races, but instead in the last one to finish. I watch these people overcome much more than I am overcoming to run and am uplifted. There is a gentleman who regularly participates in 5Ks, to the tune of 2300+ races. He is 84 years old, wearing two knee braces and it takes him nearly 45 minutes to finish. It is impossible to see him at a race and not smile.

Yet, my motivation still waxes and wanes. Today, I decided to return to my favorite running trail, for a long walk, not a run, so that I could capture in film what motivates me to run every day.


A beautiful misty morning beckons me and a  handsome young male agrees to keep me company.

Experimental Farm
Einstein Urig
The journey of a thousand miles (or four) begins with a single step.

 When I first started to run, I set goals along the path.

Mill Creek Bike Trail

Run until I reach the apple tree.  Ponder how many have fallen since the day before. Marvel that they are red, no longer green.

Each day, I add a new landmark. Some are rather obvious, like running to the tennis club, where I silently scoff at the folks who buy memberships to run around, when I am doing it for free. 

canfield swim club
Then I begin to pay closer attention to my surroundings. I weave stories in my mind about the people who frequent the path, from pieces of evidence that are left behind.

I imagine a funeral for a beloved pet. Then I spy a little makeshift bridge over the ditch, from a suburban backyard. An escape to the somewhat tamed wild. 

Each step along the path keeps my mind engaged while my feet are moving.  I feel like I am visiting old friends and keeping up with them. I am territorial about my path and notice each leaf that falls. I am thrilled they began to change colors a little earlier this year.

Overcome with joy, I see my goal, Lucky 7. Halfway finished.

I am more mindful on my return trip. I see blue jays, yellow finches, cardinals, woodpeckers, groundhogs, squirrels, and chipmunks. Unfortunately, my canine companion sees them first and they are committed to memory, but not film.

I start to ache, but in a good way. I look longingly at the dilapidated chairs outside a tire store along the path. I keep walking.
The town granary is bustling from the harvest and I breathe in deeply, smelling long forgotten scents of animal feed from my days as a 4H member raising livestock.

I continue my walk, as the sun shines and the mist is gone.  A daisy peeks at me from the path. He loves me, he loves me not... Oh I don't want to know she says, and stops.

On the horizon is my starting point. I want to run, I wish I could run, unencumbered by my camera around my neck and my dog on his leash. I wish to feel the gentle breeze racing over my cheeks and the sweat cleansing my pores. I want my heart to pound with life, drowning out the sounds of anything but my own breathing and heartbeat.

Tomorrow, I cannot wait to run past my friends until I can pause and see them again.

And that, my friends, is how I stay motivated to run.

How do you stay motivated?

September 11, 2010

September 8, 2010

International Literacy Day // Bloggers Unite

International Literacy Day // Bloggers Unite

Imagine a world where you couldn't read?  To state the obvious, if you can read this blog, reading is probably something you take for granted. We readers don't realize the way the world operates for non readers.

About five years ago, I volunteered in my child's first grade classroom, one hour a week, reading with the children. At that age, there are several levels of readers, some children simply understand how letters work together and others it's nothing more than black squiggles on the page.

I met a little boy that year who was determined to overcome the squiggles and make them into words. His fists would ball up and his eyes would squint and he'd laboriously sound out each word. It was painful for the rest of the students to try to follow along. Inevitably, someone would blurt out the word he was trying to read and his brow would furrow in frustration. One day he muttered dejectedly, eyes welled with tears of embarrassment, "I know I can do this." And by the end of the year, indeed he could. I was so proud to watch him learn to read.

I wonder what happens to people who get stalled in life and either are never given the chance to make sense of the squiggles or learn how to "do this." Literacy projects around the world help those folks who've never learned to read or aren't normally given the chance to read. Reading is the gift of information, a gateway to society.

I know we can do this, too. Would you please help?

September 1, 2010

Dog's Day

I am very proud to share my honorable mention in a flash writing contest. The contest was conducted by Michael J. Solender of Not From Here, Are You? fame. Each entry is exactly 101 words long and contains the words "heat" and "summer". I proudly present the chap book, Dog Days of Summer, 2010.

Thank you!

August 5, 2010

One Hundred Things Green

For my friends and readers who don't know, I have another blog, a green living blog. This is my "slice of life" space, but the other one is a little more practical.

Earlier this year, I ran into someone who has been somewhat of a mentor to me. He asked me if I was planning to streamline my blogging anytime soon. At THAT time, I had four blogs. Now I have 2.5. I say .5 because one of them is really just a collection of recipes that we want to keep track of and share. (in fact if you have some that utilize SuperFoods, let me know, we'll post them!)

Anyway, I have attempted to streamline my blogging addiction. However, over on my green blog today is a post I think my loyal friends will enjoy. It's a collection of 100 pieces of trivia about my life, thusfar.

I'd love if you could pop over there and share a few pieces of trivia about your life.

One Hundred Things Green

July 29, 2010

Grandpa Stories

I was mopping the floor today and my kids and I got to talking about families and friends. My little one was talking about how I'm a little OCD about keeping certain things clean, but that I'm not quite like Grandpa.

She quickly added, "But Grandpa was in the Army." I said "Actually, Navy, but definitely military."

"That must be why he's so tough", she said.

I smiled, "But he's a marshmallow for you and your sister."

"What do you mean a marshmallow?"

"I mean for you girls, he is soft and sweet. You are his little angels. There isn't anything he wouldn't do for you two."

I regaled the stories of how when her older sister was about 3 months old we went to dinner. The big sister was fussy and wanted to be held and carried. Grandpa wouldn't eat, but opted to carry his baby girl around the whole night so she wouldn't fuss.

Another time, when the second one was born, I had a class I needed to attend. My husband was busy and I had enlisted my inlaws to watch the kids for a few hours, tops. My mother in law had an emergency, and my father in law said, don't worry, I'll watch them. This is the man who was working so much he couldn't really watch his own babies but was thrilled to watch his grandchildren. They screamed and cried the entire two hours, but he endured, and laughs about it today.

I'm telling all this so we remember the great stories of love. He's quite ill. His time is short. Cancer. I won't disrespect his privacy by talking about it, but rather ask my readers and friends for prayers. He is very loved and right now he is hurting.

Please pray.  That's where the power lies. Amen and amen.

June 25, 2010

The Journey Begins with a Single Step

When I write about different issues on my green blog, I feel the need to personally up the ante, so to speak, in my own life. One area that I consistently fail is the driving one. I do combine errands, but I rarely walk anywhere.

I live in a typical suburban town that is designed for cars, not bikes or walkers. While I only am a mile and a half from the nearest shopping center (with grocery, hardware, movie rental,  closeout, ATM and gift store). I never have felt safe navigating the terrain to the store by foot or bike. There are no sidewalks, there are ditches, curves, and vehicles traveling at unsafe speeds. There is not a crosswalk, so instead crossing the road feels like a game of Frogger.  And yet, it's only a mile and a half away. Each time I turned the key to run to the store, I felt guilty.

We make excuses why we don't walk anywhere. We pay money to join gyms or buy exercise equipment, but we hop in the car the minute we run out of something. We bemoan our lack of time, but we spend time driving to and from an exercise class.

I decided to stop making excuses and start walking. My children got free movie rentals from the local video store for  every A on their final report card. I told them we could redeem the movies if we walked to the store. They balked. These are the same offspring that I drive 5 miles each way to cross country practice. (I only drive one way, I've found folks to carpool with). The irony that I drive 10 miles total for them to run 2-3 is not lost on me. Nonetheless, if they can run for sport, they can walk for practical reasons.

The first day, we put the dog's leash on, and started walking. After about a half mile, we realized we didn't have a bag if he went to the bathroom. Yikes. Naturally he did, in the middle of some residential lawn. I walked up and down the road looking for litter that would be an appropriate container for his mess and found a fast food hamburger box. I am sure there wasn't too much difference between the original contents and the final ones.

We were more prepared the second day. We had figured out the safest path, with the lowest weeds in the ditches. I also noticed an inordinate amount of aluminum cans, so with the second bag, I picked them up. Tomorrow I plan to pick up the rest of the litter. I keep my eyes peeled for juice bags and water bottle lids, because I have special causes where they can be recycled.

There is a mindfulness that happens on these 1.5 mile walks there and back. A sense of nature and communing with it. There is a chance to notice how fast the rest of the world seems to move. The way everyone seems to hurry. I wonder what they are racing to. I wonder why they are so short of time. And my thighs ache. I sweat. I trudge on. Like a frog trying to avoid being roadkill, I dodge traffic and insanity.

I like walking to our errands. I want to propose a "car free day" to the world. What if... what if we all gave up a singular day without our cars? What if instead of boycotting one oil company or another, driving 5 miles an hour slower, or combining errands, what if, we gave up our cars for a day? Could you? Would you? How would it affect your life and what would you do to adjust?

June 16, 2010

Beached Vacation

Now that school is finally out, our family is looking forward to a summer of relaxation and fun. Most years, that has included a vacation to the ocean. Going to the beach, however, not necessarily.

How can a family spend a week at the ocean and but not the beach? The key word is that it's a vacation, a time to relax. There were days with babies when there was absolutely nothing relaxing about a day at the beach.

(any similarity between this story and my own family is sheer coincidence, really)

Garmin nĂ¼vi 1690 Sat NavFirst comes the preparation. Sunscreen, hats, long sleeved gear, umbrella, stroller, blanket, buckets, shovels, snacks, cooler, and a partridge in a pear tree. Then the campaign to take take the favorite stuffed teddy bear to the beach. Mom says no and child pouts, but eventually acquiesces with the promise of building a sandcastle.

Parent delusionally sticks something to read in the overflowing beach bag. Husband gets an invitation to go golfing with the guys. Wife says,  "It's your vacation too, go enjoy." This is a code expression for "I'm going shopping when you get back, by myself." The code does not specify that such shopping will involve procuring groceries.

Husband out the door, wife starts to load the double stroller like a pack mule to push to the beach. The beach this family goes to does not have parking, as it's in a private small beach community. Older child whines about having to walk because the back seat of the stroller is filled with stuff. Mom promises ice cream.

Strollers do not roll, but rather sink into the sand, becoming more a strong mom test than ease of transport. Space on the beach is finally claimed, victoriously sticking the umbrella into the sand,  professing temporary ownership of that square.

Unpacking of stroller, beach bag and warnings not to step on the blanket in a futile attempt to have one sand-free zone commences. Reapply sunscreen. Baby wants to nurse. Tell older child to dig in the sand. Wipe sunscreen off chest and flop out a breast as all semblance of modesty is gone. Baby is distracted and possibly exposes mom to indecent exposure charges, but nobody is looking at this mom who once sported a bikini in her tankini with a skirted bottom. She's sweating and the baby is slippery in her arms.

Baby finishes nursing and needs a diaper change. Older child has walked all over the blanket and it's a sandy mess with no place to change the diaper. Does sand cause diaper rash? Too bad. Put sandy diaper on baby and lay baby in stroller with sunshield up.  Ahhh, a cool breeze. Ten seconds of bliss until the breeze kicks up and unstakes the umbrella and sends it sailing into other colonies of umbrellas. Mom yells "Stay put", and takes off chasing the umbrella, apologizing for flailing sand as she runs, realizes her suit wasn't adjusted and one breast becomes exposed during the umbrella chase. Catching up with runaway umbrella and snuggling it over bare breast in an attempt at modesty.

Bring umbrella back to the blanket and jam it into the sand with such vigor it's not going anywhere. Older child wants to go in the water. Baby is crying so mom picks up baby and tries to put hat on baby to protect her scalp. Checks suit for coverage. Walks to water with older child. Cold water hits feet and child wails how cold it is. Mom says, "You just need to get used to it."

Older, just barely potty trained child starts the I-need-to-go-potty squirm. Omniscient mom asks if that is the case. Child says no. Mom knows better. Inquires again. Child says yes. No restrooms on the beach. Mom looks back to the house. It's a long walk. Debates the damage done if child pees in the ocean. Tells child to walk up to her waist in the water and just go through her swimsuit. The child that for nearly 3 years wet herself all day looks quizzically at mom and says, "Gross." After much cajoling, child agrees. Wades out into waist high water, complaining about how cold it is and then... to the mom's horror, begins the grunt face.

"NOOOOO" mom yells, "STOP!"

"But you said..."

"NO, I meant only tinkle, not poopy".

Mom is mortified to realize she is still yelling. Baby's hat flies off. Mom holds baby on hip, chases hat and keeps telling the older child to get out of the water, "Now!"

Older child comes out of the water. Mom examines backside of child and sighs with relief that there is no telltale lump and says, "C'mon let's go back to the house."

They grab shoes, and start walking back to house, realize they left the key at the blanket halfway, get key, and walk back to the beach house.

Later that day, husband returns from golfing.

"Did you have a good day at the beach?" he asks innocently.

Husband then discovers a golf club shaped lump in the back of his shorts as wife runs out the door to go to the store.

(thank you to my friend Kristine for the inspiration to write this tale)

June 4, 2010

Why I Relay

Several years ago, the disease known as cancer crawled into our life and like an unwanted, unwelcome telemarketer, continues to call. I became involved with the Relay for Life the spring after it took a young mother friend of mine.  It seemed a fitting tribute to a woman who was one of my first friends in a new neighborhood, to celebrate her life while raising awareness and funds.

Relay for LifeI HOPED that would be the only time that annoying telemarketer rang our phone. Unfortunately, it was just the beginning. Within the next year, several more diagnosis of cancer came to our circle. I wanted to tell them they had the wrong number, or ignore it through call screening, but the phone rang off the hook. We watched several relatives fight a good fight, but still eventually lose the battle with cancer.

Uncle J. was a singer. In his last months of vitality, he recorded himself singing with beauty and joy, to be played at his funeral. It was a haunting and poignant moment to hear his strong tenor through the funeral parlor, reminding us to live with gusto.

Uncle E., lives on in his beautiful grandson. It seems patently unfair that the man who loved babies more than any adult man I ever met would never know his own grandchildren, but I know he smiles with pride and probably holds them in ways we cannot even fathom.

Uncle H., was hauling moving boxes around always ready to lend a hand to anyone in the family when a hand was needed. But that was one box he couldn't move out of his life.

Aunt K., was one of the most special people who ever touched my life. She had a spirit and verve like nobody I ever met. She fought her battle with a dignity that I envy. I can remember sitting on my patio telling her I wasn't drinking the water in town anymore, and she said, me either, get me a cold beer. Then she joked how she was so grateful she didn't have to shave her legs that summer. She had a smile to light up a room and it lives in her children.

M., was another young mother friend we knew. One evening at a party, she left early saying she just hadn't been feeling well lately, but was heading to the doctor the following week. She was diagnosed with cancer and fought with dignity. I ran into her at the store about a month before she died and she said, "We'll have to all get together soon." I never expected it would be at her funeral.

For the survivors, keep the faith. You have our love and prayers.

J., you have treated our family as your own and your beauty and love carries you daily. Thank you for being our Nana.

D., you're another lady who could teach the world about silent strength. You have handled and survived your cancer with a courage that fills me with admiration. I'm so proud to call you Mom.

B., we pray for your strength daily and are so proud of your fortitude. You've taught us all what strength under fire means. I'm honored to call you Dad.

This is why I relay. My world is filled with stories of fighters and survivors. Our life is peppered with people who showed us how to live with dignity. Having such strength in my world inspires and fills me with HOPE. I want to celebrate that HOPE.

Thank you family and friends for allowing us the opportunity to give back in some small way.

If you want to help sponsor our walk, I've included the link to our local Relay. If you'd like to participate in one, here is a national search for one local to your community. The money raised helps the American Cancer Society continue their valuable research to stop that insidious call in its tracks. Together, we can make a difference.

May 26, 2010

Diamonds up to her knuckles

Recently, I cleaned out my kids' old "dress up" box, filled with boas and princess gowns and scads of faux jewels. We boxed the jewelry for some out of state little girl cousins and sent it off. My cousin was so grateful and said though, the girls fight over the huge *diamond* ring. It brought to mind a story from a friend that has always touched me.

Throughout my 20s, I was in retail, at a grocery store. One of the cashiers was an elderly widow. She could have retired several years earlier, but said she had no idea how she'd fill her time. She was one of the sweetest women I ever knew and always looked forward to the days we both were scheduled.

We were in the break room one day and I admired her ring. She always wore a diamond cocktail ring, one that was completely inappropriate for cashiering, but I knew there must be a story behind it.

Joan smiled looking at the at least one inch band of diamonds that encased her ring finger. She said, "It was a gift from my husband before he died."

She went on to explain. She and her husband grew up together in the same neighborhood. He was a few years older than her and she followed him around everywhere. She had a crush on Joe from the time she was six. Since he was older, he finished school and went into the Army.

Before he left, he said, "Joan, please wait for me. When I come back, I'm going to give you diamonds up to your knuckles."

Sure enough, she waited, he returned, and they married. They couldn't afford diamonds up to her knuckles, much less an engagement ring, but Joan never cared. They made a wonderful life for themselves. They weren't able to have children, but they had good friends and nieces and nephews, their home was always filled with love. He worked in a factory and she worked at the store.

They were both getting ready to retire when Joe was diagnosed with cancer. She took a leave of absence and cared for him. That year on Christmas, from his sick bed, he told her to go into a certain drawer. In that drawer was the ring. She was touched but also admitted she was a little worried about how expensive it was. His illness was eating away at their savings. She didn't want to add to his stress with her worry, so she said nothing. She didn't want to wear it in case she had to return it. It stayed in the drawer with the receipt. Every so often he would come out of his delirium and ask about the ring and she brushed it off saying she was doing chores or whatever and took it off. He never saw her wear the ring.

He died about a month later. The day of his funeral, she took the ring out of the box and put it on. She said she felt horrible that she didn't enjoy it when he was alive but there was nothing that was going to stop her from remembering his love. She never took the ring off from that day on.

Joan glanced back at her ring and said, "He never had to give me diamonds up to my knuckles, I'd give it back if I could have him."

The ring sparkled in that dreary break room and her eyes shined with a lifelong love and devotion to her Joe. She knew, she didn't need a ring to have the most precious gem in the world.

May 7, 2010

Foot Removal 101

We’ve all done it. We’ve opened our mouth and inserted our foot. While the intent may have been innocent humor, the result is still the same. Someone was hurt by a thoughtless remark.

I used to work at a grocery store. I will never forget the first time I rammed my foot into my mouth so deep, I’m surprised I don’t have sneaker treads on the back of my throat. I was on hold with a bank to see if there were funds for a check. The person on the other end of the phone didn’t seem particularly bright or astute. As I sat waiting on the phone, rapidly losing patience, I turned to my co-worker and whispered, “I’ve got a real retard on the other end.”

My co-worker had a child with Down’s syndrome.

Another time I was talking to someone about how I had picked up relish at the grocery store three trips in a row, forgetting that I had picked it up the previous week. I made the self-deprecating remark that I had early onset of Alzheimer’s.

The neighbor I said it to had a parent with Dementia.

This week, I made a remark about being unable to control what my fingers did when I typed and called it keyboard Tourette’s.

The friend who read that comment has a child with Tourette’s Syndrome.

Each time I have made these thoughtless remarks, I never know how to unsay them. Instead, I want to thank the folks who pointed it out to me. It’s never easy to admit being wrong, but it’s a lot easier than continuing to offend. I think it’s a valuable lesson to remember that when we make jokes, if it is at anyone else’s expense, it ceases to be funny. It's a brutal reminder to really think before we speak.

My sincere apologies as well as a thank you for the wake up call. My shoe isn’t very tasty, and I really would like to remove it from my diet.

April 30, 2010

Gracefully Aging

Last night, during one of the warmer nights of the season, I offered to take the kids for ice cream after dinner. The local ice cream shop is operated by a family we know, so any excuse to go there is a good one.

When we got there, the drive through line was about 10 vehicles deep so we decided to go in. I'm really not quite sure I ever want my life to move so rapidly that I cannot pause to order ice cream.

We placed our orders as I glanced around the parlor. I noticed an elderly lady, thick knit cardigan on, polishing the last of a sundae. I was impressed that she could finish an entire Peanut Buster Parfait, but there was a slight stab in my heart that she was there alone. I didn't want to stare, but I couldn't help but glance at her table from time to time.

Within a moment or two, her elderly companion joined her and she handed him the last bit of the sundae which he finished with gusto. Then he slowly stood up and picked up her jacket, holding it delicately to put over her sweater laden shoulders. They threw out their single sundae and headed to the car.

What seemed to be an ordinary moment caught my attention. You see, that is where beauty lies. Not in the extraordinary, but in the ordinary. First, I felt silly for being surprised to see elderly at an ice cream parlor. I don't know why people would like ice cream any less as they age. In fact, it's a treat that has no age discrimination. Second, I got a craving for the same sundae she had. Third, I was charmed by the simple chivalry in his behavior and their slow routined pace to their car, where they were met by a small fluffy dog.

I didn't mean to stare. I really didn't. I hope they didn't notice. I just couldn't help but feel in awe of the simple, basic, everyday love and affection they shared.

I ordered the same sundae, incidentally.

April 21, 2010

Dear Lord

An opinion piece about a new facebook group that opposes President Barack Obama. Dear Lord.

April 16, 2010

Prom as a Rite of Passage

It's been an interesting week in the Fresh home. Our firstborn who is a freshman in high school was asked to the Prom.

Watching her wings open conjures all sorts of parental angst. The logical side of our brain knows it's time to let her open her wings, the emotional side knows that with wing opening comes more dangers. We want to cite the dangers of flying, but also know that it's how she must learn to soar and that flying always begins with a few false starts.

The question probably most accurately isn't whether if she is ready to fly, but rather are we ready to let her fly?  Someone reminded me today that a lot of girls never even get asked to their dances. I traveled back over a quarter century.


It was my senior year. I wanted to go to the prom in the worst way. It was the mid 80s and I envisioned a pink, ruffled, crinolined skirt, off the shoulder Scarlett O'Hara-esque look. I wanted to know what this rite of passage was all about. What I lacked, however, was a date. It began to feel hopeless when a twist of fate put a situation before me. A friend of mine broke up with the boy she was going to the prom with about two weeks before the dance. I knew he already had ordered his tuxedo and it was non-refundable. Stalking like a desperate female, I saw opportunity and decided to pounce.

I had always been quite shy in high school. I preferred the world of books to the world of dating and my grades reflected as much. I don't know what inspired me, but I decided to ask this boy to the prom. I hardly knew him, but figured I could appeal to his practical side. Gathering every ounce of courage I had, I asked if I could talk to him after lunch. With a bit of stammering, I asked if he'd be interested in salvaging his tux deposit by going to the prom with me.

He smiled shyly and said yes. Then he suggested we probably ought to get to know each other before prom and we went to a coffee house one evening to visit. He was a perfect gentleman. The night of prom arrived and we spent the evening surrounded by mutual friends. We danced and laughed, it was a perfect evening. I was so proud of my date for being brave when he glanced across the room and saw his ex-girlfriend with her new beau. After the prom, I had forgotten to put a key into my itty bitty evening bag, and I had to call the local firetruck to bring a ladder to climb into my house to change clothing for the afterprom. That had to be qute the image in the crinoline, me climbing a firetruck ladder to shimmy through my brother's bedroom window.

OH, but it was a memorable weekend and I'm so grateful to the boy who said yes. I'll never forget it. Belated thanks!

Two interesting asides: My prom date and my then future spouse share a first name. The future spouse's high school was holding their prom in the other half of the banquet hall. Years later, our wedding reception was held in the same room as my prom. I opted out of the Scarlett O'Hara look for that night, mercifully.


As parents, we decided on a conditional yes.

To be safe while she's reaching new heights, she has to wear a helmet.

That ought to do it. I wonder if it should match her shoes or her dress.

(photo: the author, though the dress wasn't as pink as I remembered and the crinoline was lumpy) I still wouldn't trade it.

March 22, 2010

Go Fish

Growing up on a farm in a small town, I was asked by my sophisticated city cousins and friends, "Don't you ever get bored?" Alternatively, "What do you do for fun?"

My grandparents had a small lake and a rowboat and many summer evenings after Grandma had cleaned up the dinner dishes, she would grab her tackle box and walk down to the lake. She would take the rowboat to the middle of the water. As the ripples gently lapped the side of her boat, the sun cast a fiery glow on the placid water as it set behind the pine grove. Grandma would cast out her line. The red and white bobber would float gracefully on the surface of the water and Grandma would just watch for a nibble. We lived nearby and sometimes we would go visit in the evening. I loved when we got there before Grandma went out in the water, but if I did not, I would wait patiently on the dock until Grandma was done.

The times I was able to go out on the boat with her, I would chatter up a storm. Grandma would just smile and keep watching the bobber. One day she told me how fish would not bite if there is talking. I understood. This was a time to be quiet. Most of the time we never even caught any fish, but we never felt cheated. Rowing the boat back to the shore, cleaning up the tackle box and walking through the field back to the house, I learned the importance of silence in my life.

Today, when the noise in my world threatens to overwhelm me, I pause and reflect. When I find myself running from one lesson to another, to the grocery store and then to the cleaners, I mentally row out on my grandparent's lake and cast out my line. I still rarely catch any fish. However, it never has been about the fish.

I row back in renewed and fresh.

Thank you, Grandma.

When I was a young married adult, my grandparents split their farm into saleable lots. My spouse and I thought about buying the lake, but without the path to and from the house, it felt less than authentic. It was more important to let someone else create a new magic on the lake. I pray they did.

I dedicate this story to my grandmother, Gertrude, who would have been 96 today. She was one of the most incredible women my life ever touched.

She didn’t end her life on the farm with the lake, but I doubt she ever needed the lake to know the importance of fishing. Thank you, always, Grandma. We love you and will always hold you close. You are our matriarch.

March 19, 2010

Hermit crabs and other assorted family pets

Is there any request harder to resist as a parent than, “Can we get a pet?” The nurturer in us wants our children to learn the responsibility of caring for a living creature; the overworked parent in us is unprepared to take on yet another responsibility.

Couple that with a spouse who simply has no desire to have an animal in the house and the path to pet ownership is a difficult one. The pet faction in our house is affirmative by 75 percent. However, that 25 percent negative vote is a strong one. Majority does not rule when the 25 percent is adamantly negative.

My children have gone to great lengths in an attempt to sway the decision. I can never forget the play they performed where the younger one crawled around barking and panting in a makeshift costume comprised of paper puppy ears and socks on her hands. The older one pretended to care for her, of course taking a little too much joy in yanking her sister around by a collar. The demonstration being that they were well aware of the intricacies of pet care, not that the older child likes yanking the younger one around.

I became an accomplice with my daughters last winter. I began with bird feeders scattered throughout the yard, progressing to butterfly gardening in the spring and feeding a stray cat in the early summer. Finally, it became apparent that I too was part of the conspiracy to have a non-human living creature become part of our household. We’d take clandestine trips to the pet store and window shop, spending a few moments holding and petting assorted pets.

It reached a fever pitch when I finally persuaded my husband to at least consider a fish tank. A weak compromise at best, as there is a certain art to keeping fish alive. After about six flushed fish, we realized that the chemistry involved in aquarium ownership is far too complicated for our family. The carnivore fish-eating snail in the tank did not help matters any. Eventually, and we learned far more about the circle of life than ever intended. Many tears and fish funerals later, we decided that a snail was not an exciting pet, sending us back to the pet store for possible alternatives.

There we spied the perfect pet. A hermit crab. No water or chemicals to balance, no fur to shed, no waste to scoop, no noise. But a pet nonetheless. Thus, Hermy became a member of our family. Hermy is a rather shy fellow but occasionally he will get out and crawl around, munching his assorted foods. We discovered that Hermy likes fish flakes, which is quite a blessing since we had a plethora of those, and no living fish. After about two months and a pet that was still living, we decided Hermy needed a companion. We brought home Raindrop, another hermit crab. Raindrop makes Hermy seem like a party animal, as she primarily burrows into the corner and we never see her move. We’ve brought home two more hermit crabs and learned again about the circle of life via their deaths, yet Hermy and Raindrop persist.

I was a little sad for my girls that their hermit crabs weren’t traditional pets. Hermy and Raindrop will never play fetch or snuggle on a lap. In fact, Hermy pinched my daughter one day and I thought she her heart was going to break in half. How could her pet that she loved bite her?

With many kisses and reassurances from me, as well as a really colorful bandage, my daughter came to forgive Hermy and loved him even more. She’d cautiously warn anyone who wanted to hold Hermy that he gets scared and may bite. She protected Hermy like a mother bear with a cub.

I still feel my children are a little shortchanged in the pet department. About the only time we ever see our crabs move is immediately after their baths and then they crawl around for a few moments. Then I hear the gleeful giggles as Hermy and Raindrop scamper down the hall. I know they love their pets.

One day I commented that our hermit crabs don’t do very much. Very seriously, my 5 year old looked at me and said, “Mommy, they are nocturnal aminals”, (yes that was the pronunciation, though nocturnal was said correctly). With amazement I raised an eyebrow asking, “Nocturnal?”. Matter-of-factly she continued, “That means they are active at night.” Still in bewilderment I asked, “Where did you learn that word?” My 8 year old piped in, “I told her all about nocturnal aminals,” she continued, “like bats and owls too.” As my amazement at my little biologists faded, I realized that not only are they happy with their pets, but they are learning more about unconditional love than I ever imagined.

Last night, when I went up to bed, I heard a rustling in the cage. I crouched next to the hermit crabs and saw them crawling around and playfully chasing each other. I wanted to wake my daughters immediately and tell them that Hermy and Raindrop did something. But then I realized my girls already knew that. They already knew that our crabs were nocturnal and had told me so. My girls wouldn’t need to see what the crabs were doing to believe that they did it. They went by what they knew and believed.

The faith and patience of children. The littlest amongst us teach us the greatest lessons. I’ve learned from my children how to better be a parent. They accept their pets for what they are and what they do and love them unconditionally no matter what expectations they may have had. They’ve learned that it isn’t about what their pets can do for them; it is about what they can do for their pets. Each day they have a new food that they’ve read hermit crabs may enjoy. We have the best-fed hermit crabs on the planet. Today they sampled some cat food, left from feeding the stray cats, of course! They love knowing that they keep two miniature creatures alive and thriving. The rewards are limited, yet vast. And isn’t that what it’s all about?

At one time, our family had seven happy hermit crabs. They were charming. My favorites were Forrest and his Jenny, because we bought them at the same time. We have since become dog people, but I still miss not having to pick up after hermit crabs. Nor did they need brushing, walking, or intense affection. Neither did they bark incessantly when I was trying to talk to someone important on the phone. But I still wouldn't trade our misnamed dog, Einstein, for anything. Except maybe another hermit crab.

March 18, 2010

Best. Day. Ever.

Yesterday, I posed the question on my Facebook page, asking my friends to describe their "best day ever".

Considering the average age of my friends, I was asking them to choose one day out of approximately 15,000 days.  Heck, I was asking myself to do as much.

My friends were generous and thoughtful in their replies. One friend was so silly I literally snorted as I read his reply. We all have touchstones with a great day, the day we'd like to replay/relive/reenact. The majority of my friends cited their wedding day, with a close second as the birth of their child or grandchild.

Without doubt, such days are special beacons of light in my own life. But if I'm being brutally honest, while special, I cannot claim them as "best days". My wedding day was shadowed by nerves about a life changing choice, bickering divorced parents, and a gown that rubbed my shoulders raw from the tulle that made the sleeves puff. The birth of my first child was fraught with fear, because she was 5 weeks early and had trouble breathing. I won't even mention the pain of natural childbirth. I don't denigrate such examples to take away from the fact that both days were glorious and wonderful days in my life, but rather to suggest they weren't my "best. day. ever."

No, my dearest readers, I rather would like to tell you about a day in my life that hasn't been topped yet. I hold out faith that the best is yet to come, but when I look back, this particular day is about as close to perfect as I can remember. I wish I was writing then and had taken notes, perhaps with the ill guided belief that I could possibly duplicate such a day. I am not hopelessly mired in the past. This is just a day I will never forget and can honestly say, everything about that day was perfect.

I humbly present : my own personal Best. Day. Ever.

I was in college and we were on one of the last ever family vacations at the Jersey shore. I had made friends with some locals. My friend MC arranged for us to come up and spend a day at his parents' house so we could head into NYC to see our first ever Broadway show.

My brother, my best friend, and myself were all guests of his family. We slept at his house (where we could walk to the top of his street and overlook the skyline of NYC) and got up that day and went into Manhattan. We had a hearty breakfast that can only be prepared by a mom. (love you Mrs. C, still all these years later!) We rode the bus into The Port Authority. We spent the day exploring the city, our two streetwise friends trying not to laugh at their Ohio bumpkin guests. We went down 42nd street, where I was baffled by the man standing outside an adult theater bawking like a chicken. My streetwise friend explained he was actually selling crack. Crack crack craaaaaaaaaawk.  Yeah, I was naive.

We shopped in Greenwich Village, where my other friend told us Ric Ocasek from The Cars complimented her earrings. We laughed, ate dinner, and headed off to the show. Did I mention that our tickets were free as the result of a friend of the "mom who cooked us breakfast" making a phone call. Does it get cooler than that?

We saw the show Dreamgirls. Yeah. That one. The show that later became a movie and the vehicle for Jennifer Hudson's fame. But this was way back. This was Dreamgirls in 1987. It was spectacular. The original production before anyone knew how huge it could be. It was incredible.

After the show, our seasoned, somewhat blase tour guide suggested we do "that tourist thing" of a ride around Central Park on a horse drawn carriage.

We paid the man and did the "tourist thing" much to the indulgence of our native friends. It was ... unforgettable.

We rode the bus back to my friend's parents' home. Our day ended as beautifully as it began.

I still consider this day magic, over 20 years later, because I am still friends with everyone involved. It was a spectacular, love filled day with friends who will never forget each other.

Jackie, Mike, Doug. Thanks for being there.
I love you, always.

I look forward to making the best better, I never settle, but still remember the day everything was perfect.

March 16, 2010

What I do not like about certain talk show hosts

I have decided not to use his name, because the talk show host I reference already approaches demi-god (demagogue) status in popularity. I prefer not to build on that. I’ve used his name several times on my Facebook page in an attempt to understand his appeal, and few of his fans have accepted my invitation to explain his appeal.

The best/only answers I received are “he is funny”, “why does he make liberals so mad”, and “liberals have the rest of the media”.

If mocking those you don’t agree with and ridiculing them instead of engaging in sincere dialogue is funny, he is indeed funny. I think that is why I am most angry. My views are reduced to a scornful, scathing label. I am now simply one of those liberals. I am angry at the lack of respect that is encouraged by such media kingpins. I feel defensive around family and friends in ways I never did prior. My friends are encouraged to speak up in such a way that attacks me personally. I cannot tell you the amount of hateful forwarded email and posts I receive with the demand that I answer these charges, because I am one of those liberals. The contempt for my opinion hurts. Instead of dialogue, it is about name-calling. Political differences have taken friends away from me. I would blithely like to reply that “they weren’t that good of friends anyway” but that is not true. They were, it stings, and I miss them.

I have a lifetime of experience that predicates the way I lean and the values I hold close to my heart. I do not insult other peoples’ walks in life; mine is no less valuable than theirs is. In college, I ran for a student government office. A good friend of mine was managing my campaign and advised me to learn to keep my temper under control, that anger and disdain for those who didn’t agree with me would hurt my chances. I learned that lesson years ago and even though I did not win the election, I won something much more important. I won the ability to listen to and respect everyone’s view.

As far as the having a lock hold on the “rest of the media” goes, I beg to differ. That implies that only one side uses the media, buys television time and appears in the newspapers. Our current administration is in place largely due to grassroots efforts, not mass media. Absolutely, as the stories gained momentum, the media reported them, but the media reports what is happening. The same thing has happened with the tea party movement. I do appreciate op/ed pieces and I read both sides, but when one side continually engages in divisive behavior intended to turn us against each other, I stop listening. Incidentally, I no longer listen to Michael Moore, either, because I found the title of his book Stupid White Men to be utterly insulting. To borrow from Forest Gump, stupid is as stupid does. Moore engaged in the same disturbing behavior and subsequently lost my respect. I am not interested in listening to anyone who uses insults to pull us apart.

What most stuns me is his attack on religions that support social justice; the straw that broke my back. I take my faith very seriously. Slight and belittle me, but when my core belief is insulted, watch out. I want to throw my hands up in disgust. Instead, I will try to repair my broken back and build a bridge. My upbringing as a Christian indeed emphasizes social justice, yet I do not feel anything close to a Communist or Nazi. Such statements insult the real spirit of Christian generosity. As a Christian, I know not to store up riches on earth, to share with the poor, and to help my brother or sister however I can. I do not view such choices as a ticket to eternity but rather instructions how to make the world we live in today a better place.

My faith gives me hope in what at times seems to be a hopeless world. But beyond that, what if we substitute the word nice or kind for Christian? What if we just are nice and kind to those we encounter, in every step of our daily walk? What if we do such things not in the framework of an organized religion, but simply as a member of the human race?

March 11, 2010


My lovely friend and writing colleague, Absolutely*Kate has featured one of my pieces on her writer's blog, AT THE BIJOU.

I'm so thrilled to be on her marquis, pop over and say hello...

Thank you friends!


March 8, 2010

*wink wink, nudge nudge* it gets better...

as soon as you buy my beachfront land in Arizona.

I follow this hilarious mom blog written by a few mothers of preschoolers and young children. At first, it was an older, wiser look back of "thank goodness" I'm past those days. But suddenly, as I read today's post and wanted to patronize the writers with kindly pat on the head and assurance it would improve, I knew I was full of sh**.

I am the parent of two daughters, 6th and 9th grade. They've outgrown Hannah Montana (and I'll never tell anyone that on occasion they haven't because on the off chance that their friends somehow or another discovered my blog (as if) and read this... THEY HAVE OUTGROWN THE MOUSE*EAR CHANNEL AND ALL ITS OVEREXPOSED STARS).

They have outgrown Mommy and Me outings, unless it includes a credit card with unlimited dollars but extremely limited input from said Mommy.

And, they are in school "allday" which really amounts to 4 hours to myself in which to run the errands that make their lives go smoothly. And try to freelance write.

So, we start with the guilt laden question from the day they were potty trained. "When will you go back to work?" This question was usually met with the incredulous stare of "what do you mean back?" For 24/7, I was on diaper then potty, feeding, cleaning, and entertainment duty. Assuming it was until both children were in school "allday", that is approximately 28,200 hours, 705 weeks, 13.5 years (based on a 40 hour work week with no vacation schedule), of solid work and you have the flippen nerve to inquire WHEN I WILL GO BACK TO WORK?

Nonetheless, I felt compelled over the past several years to attempt that "back" stuff. I sold kitchen gadgets, I worked at the church, I wrote about men's shirts for a catalogue, I used to get up at 3 AM every morning to work as an editor for a European website. (3 AM because there were no interrruptions and because it fit in well with their start of day timezone).

Now, I'm back to work as an unpaid taxi driver and staff to two kids, a dog and a spouse.

Yeah. Back.

Oh I was supposed to talk about how it got better, right? (s'cuse me, there's something jamming my fingers, knuckle crack) ahhh yes.

Don't worry mommies, it gets better.

Don't mistake my sincerity for sarcasm.

You can look forward to the day your child barges into the bathroom, not to help you pee, but to rummage for the hairspray that works better than hers.

You can look forward to the day that you graduate from the eyeroll to the simple glare of somehow or another behaving inappropriately in public. Public can be defined as anywhere anyone who may know someone who knows someone and text back can be. Inappropriate can be defined as picking lint off the sleeve, saying hello, or even worse, greeting a friend of theirs. It makes no difference if you've known this friend since preschool and they once sang Barney songs together. (attempt to be cool mom disclaimer: they did not watch it, mom just had the TV on that channel!)  If that friend and your child are no longer in the same social strata of middle or high school, it's an unforgivable crime to greet them. Unless your child greets them first.

You are required to master the art of texting, because a phone call indicates the dreaded, I have a parent sign. Yeah, because your peers, like the Disney icons before them lead completely parent free unsupervised lives. Uh huh.

You are subjected to demands of "absolutely nothing to wear" the minute you've finished the last load of laundry. Made me long for the days when dad dressed them. I cannot believe I used to cringe at the get ups. Dad actually once took daughter to dance lessons with the tights OVER her leotard (like pants?).  I should have celebrated them so they didn't have such a ridiculous sense of fashion that there are varying degrees of appropriate jeans. Last year, after such an announcement, coupled with a demand, I made it easy on said child. I took all her clothing with the exception of five outfits. I figured that she would be less overwhelmed about her choices of what to wear. She was allowed to choose the five. I'm not THAT mean.

In fact, I'm so nice that instead of getting up to write for Europeans (for pay) at 3 AM, I get up to make sure the last load of laundry for your sporting event is finished before said offspring goes to school. And she better not flippen dare tell me she has nothing to wear, or she'll wear that clean sports uniform. Ungrateful one!

You are required to color code charts and overlaying calendars to make sure every child is at the required place at the appropriate time. Heaven forbid you suggest they find a ride. Even worse, I've discovered are the times you offer to drive another child home (in the hopes of reciprocation) and decide to stop at the store because you're driving right past it for that loaf of bread, deposit said child at doorway 5 minutes late with a parent pacing the driveway wondering where their precious offspring could be.

Pour me a glass of wine.


School all day also means your child will receive DARE education, which is noble but also means that if you so much as have a glass of wine in the sight of your child, you will be lectured by said child about the evils of alcohol.

So yeah, moms, it gets better when they go to school all day and you go back to work.

No, that is not my nose growing. It's my wallet, getting stretched. Because I haven't figured out a way to be paid for all my nonwork hours of taxi driving, laundry doing, and errand running, yet. But I'm a writer. Really.

February 26, 2010

Tagged, I'm It!

Blogger friend, Kass, who mercifully is no longer silent, has tagged her readers in a simple fun photo tag.


Open your photo folder and go to the 10th photo, post and tell us the story behind it. OH wow.

This photo was taken with my daughters the last Halloween before we moved away from our home on the west side of Cleveland in 2007. We moved 10 days after this photo was taken. In the background, you can see a rose trellis, which was part of my beloved rose garden. The window on the left hand side was my office and the little rose garden and bird feeders out front of it used to keep me company when I wrote.

We built that home in 1997, and the first rose I planted was when my Grandmother passed away in 1998. She had lived in Texas and we always called her the Yellow Rose of Texas, so I chose a yellow tea rose to remember her. As my rose garden expanded, I planted a rose for every female in the family.

The little "candy corn" was the Circus Rose because from the first time she was old enough to laugh, she was a little clown, spreading her giggles like rose petals. The little devil's rose was the Queen Elizabeth rose, a regal name for a regal child. There was also a Gertrude rose the most lovely deep pink rose, for my other grandmother who was a thousand times more beautiful than her old fashioned name. There was also a Firecracker rose in honor of my favorite holiday, and a Broadway rose for an occasionally dramatic member of our family.

Moving away was not an easy moment for me, I've written about it before, I had not lived anywhere for that many years in my life. I wasn't looking forward to starting over somewhere new, but the nature of employment in manufacturing means you go where the jobs are. It could have been Mexico or China. Mercifully, it was only 90 miles away. Sometimes I still get mad at the new owners who have let my precious roses go.

But instead, I'll cherish photos like this and make new memories at this house. That reminds me, it's time to start planning this year's garden.

February 24, 2010

Time Machine Day

I've been doing a serious purge around the house lately. It's slow going because I'm a sentimental sort of gal. This purge started in January... see what I mean? But yesterday, I discovered a paper I wrote back in 1987, for an undergraduate English class. It was a humor piece about...

Why I Did Not, Nor Would Not, Use Computers

I am so amused by this eerily prophetic piece that I am compelled to share it with you today.

To those people who consider a personal computer to be nothing more than a television floating on top of a typewriter, terms such as PC, diskette, and byte have virtually no meaning. These people are not alone, for I too belong to this pitiful group of lost souls. The closest I've ever come to being user friendly was playing video games on an Atari when I was in junior high. My computer vocabulary consisted of Space Invaders and Pac-Man. Although I recently learned that a PC is short for personal computer, my vocabulary is rather limited. Diskettes and bytes still remain a mystery.

"Once you try it, you'll love it!" my user friends exclaim. User is an appropriate term. It conjures images of drug abuse and sexual conquering. Perhaps a computer can be likened to a seductive woman or illicit drug. It traps and entices, shackles and addicts. The seemingly innocent box of plastic and wire whispers, "Come on baby, Touch my keyboard and watch me light up. I want you to get close to me." A computer somehow manages to enamor even the most steadfast opponents. I revel in watching a user cringe as I set up the typewriter to type something from rough copy. Their pain is visible as unsolicited lectures about how much easier a PC would be while informal lessons in programming begin. Perhaps people writing with fountain pens once received similar endorsements concerning ball-point pens. Once addicted, any habit is hard to break.

Television advertisements extol the virtues of a home computer. I used to believe the ability to type was a valuable commodity. Typing is no longer sufficient, as the world's fasted typist tells me how a computer improved her speed. Parents who want to give their children the best of everything are urged to buy a home computer. Certainly, a child who grows up without a computer will never be able to function properly in society. Granted, computers can do many things better than I can; plan a budget, store information, or process a report. I simply remain unconvinced that our national security will be endangered should people choose not to buy a computer. If anything, national security seems more threatened, remember the movie War Games? Is nothing sacred in the world of computers?

Of course society does have to progress with the times. Communication has come a long way since the days of cave drawings. From stone tablets to quill and scroll to pen and paper to typewriters, the evolution to computers logically follows. Elimination of error is a continual striving of man. With each step in the communication hierarchy, another factor of human error is removed; no ink blotches, misspellings, typos, or uneven margins. Computers provide the ultimate in perfection. I'm not ready for perfection, even if I am willing to make concessions to changing times. After all, I would not want to buy a Sunday paper composed of stone tablets.

Call me conventional. Call me afraid. I admit that I am old-fashioned and set in my ways. If nothing else though, computers are an expensive investment. With each new model, the old becomes obsolete. So many advances are being made on a regular basis that a home computer which came out 10 years ago is literally worthless with today's newer components. In terms of consumer buying habits, I suppose I am a laggard. But until I succumb to the temptations of a PC, I will plug away on my trusty typewriter. Ignorance is bliss.

February 21, 2010

Copied and Borrowed Bread

Sometimes someone else says it better, and this is such a time for me:
from a NY Times comment section about the Tea Party movement:

I am a conservative. I believe in:

Conserving the environment

Conserving a woman's right to choose

Conserving the quality of life for the middle class

Conserving the rights of all people to live the life they choose with whom they choose in the way they choose

Conserving the right to believe in God or not

Conserving my right to pursue a long and healthy life

Conserving the infrastructure that made this nation great.

I believe in paying my taxes, all of them.

I do not believe in loopholes, corporations having the rights of individual humans, congress having more access to health care than the poorest of the poor.

Who knew I would ever label myself a conservative?

February 15, 2010

What will you give up for Lent?

As the Christian world prepares for 40 days of solemn reflection in anticipation of Easter, a time honored tradition is to "give up something". I've taken a slightly different point of view on this tradition... read on...

What will you give up for Lent?

February 5, 2010

Disturbing Do-Gooding

Whenever disaster strikes, it usually is just a matter of time before the altruism turns sour and motives become questionable.  The news is abuzz with a story of a missionary in Haiti who has been arrested under suspicion of child trafficking. What I personally find most disturbing about this story is the layers of arrogance and presumption. To recap:

An Idaho based group, the New Life Children's Refuge had been working to set up Haitian and Dominican orphanages since last November. A noble mission, to be certain, until the leadership comes under a microscope.

The woman who founded the group, Laura Silsby, has a slew of legal and financial problems. Her house was foreclosed in December, she has 14 claims for unpaid wages and is scheduled to appear in court for unpaid legal debt later this month. Why someone with so many domestic problems would leave the country to rescue orphans suddenly feels suspect.

This writer's opinion is that sheer arrogance drove the mission. Why the same funds weren't spent helping expert disaster relief organizations is beyond my comprehension. When the runways and ports of this tiny island are cluttered with handfuls of do-gooders who cannot possibly be as well trained as the professionals, it screams "pompous".

Naturally, there is an inclination to want to help. The news is absolutely heartbreaking. But I wouldn't know the first thing about outfitting a rescue mission to an earthquake ravaged island in a different country. I think it's a safe assumption that neither did Laura Silsby. I will give her mission the benefit of the doubt, despite her questionable business records. I will assume her heart was in the right place, but clearly it pushed her common sense aside to make room. Unfortunately, these are the sort of stories that make headlines. Stories of do-gooding gone bad detract from truly effective relief.

Doctors without Borders has been working in Haiti for 19 years, providing ethical and impartial medical assistance in not just Haiti but nearly 60 other countries that are in need. The American Red Cross has so far spent or committed nearly $78 million to meet the most urgent needs of earthquake survivors in Haiti. Hope for Haiti has been assisting the nation for over 20 years.

Nowhere in any of these organizations' literature is there a request for an ill equipped do-gooder from Idaho with legal problems to fly into the nation and rescue 10 orphans. They ask for donations, for blood, and for professionals to apply for organized mission trips. There are so many ways to help. I hope that stories of such misguided altruism do not halt the much needed assistance through the proper channels. Even a simple click is something.

How can you help today?

Click to Help Haiti

January 25, 2010

Thank you for Commenting!

As promised in my post last week, I have donated a dollar per comment to the Doctors without Borders organization. Due to the number of comments on my Facebook page, my Care2 page, and here, while some overlapped, I donated the full pledge.


Thank you for making it fun to make a difference! Please visit my blog again.

January 24, 2010

Ten Things I Love

This was a simultaneously difficult and easy exercise. My first reaction was to list true “things” like dark chocolate, Springsteen, roses and other assorted brown paper packages tied up in string. However, I realized that those things are as close as my next thought. The joy elicited by each of the aforementioned items is equal whether it is a tangible moment or not.

Instead I decided to list moments in life that can be repeated and evoke multiple layers of memories, joy and love. There is no particular order to these items; I prefer to think that at any given moment I can love all of these opportunities equally.

One of the things I most love is a full night’s sleep. It is a simple pleasure, but an unusual one for me so I truly appreciate it. Since becoming a mother, I have been plagued with insomnia. Even when the children were old enough to sleep all night, I have not yet mastered it. Therefore, I appreciate going to bed and waking up a full 6-7 hours later. Incidentally, I just had a full night’s sleep and I am basking in joy.

Even if I cannot sleep well, I at least take pleasure in my children sleeping well. Another love of mine is tucking them in at night and waking them up in the morning. I cherish those moments even more as they get older, ever cognizant that their time at home is dwindling. However, for now, their cocoon is home and I am the matriarch.

I like sleeping outdoors. I love the symphony of nature. I love the stars over my head; I love the fresh morning air. While I do not love the act of packing a tent and setting up camp, or even roughing it too much, the love of sleeping outside is worth all the effort. This leads to my next item, watching a sunrise over the ocean. As a college kid, I slept on the beach and woke up in time to watch the sunrise. My days of sleeping on the beach are long past, but I never miss an ocean sunrise when I am near the water. Lest I come off as obsessed with sleep, I am more fanatical about rejuvenation. One of the most important gifts we can give ourselves is the true time to pause. Like the story of creation, time to rest is crucial.

This comes to my next love. I love believing in God. I love the absolute faith that what we know is not as good as the universe gets, but that something more wonderful than we can even imagine waits for us. I love that I can trust in something I cannot prove. I love the simple knowledge that I am unique, loved, and a work in progress. I love knowing that eternity waits for me and that life on earth is merely the beginning of the wonders of creation. I take extreme comfort in my faith.

My faith teaches me about my next love, my love of listening and learning. I put these together because you cannot learn without listening and you cannot listen, truly listen, without learning. Flip sides of the same coin. I love knowing that I do not have all the answers and that the possibilities are endless to acquire new information. People fascinate me; everyone I meet has something new to teach me, bringing gifts of wisdom from the path of their own lives.

The next three things I love are skills I have learned over the years. When I was a child, my grandmother taught me to bake bread from scratch. Kneading the dough, watching it rise, punching it down, smelling it bake, all this brings me love on many levels. It also explains the title of my blog, from a personal level. (Ironically, the blog originally was titled Pillow Talk, referencing my love of sleep!)

Another childhood skill was learning to play piano. While I never was an excellent pianist, the joy of sitting at the piano and playing Fir Elise by heart thrills me. I played it for a competition and just hearing the first few notes of that song brings back the challenge of preparing for that recital. Because I took lessons, I have an appreciation of music on a level I may not have otherwise. I know what work it is to make music, true music.

The third love in this category is a recent love. I ran my first 5K this past fall. I plan to run several more this year. I love the challenge of pushing my body past where I thought it could go and competing with myself to improve.

My last love is the love of making a difference. Whether that difference is for others or for me, the only permanence in life is change. Change is not scary if I am actively seeking it and hoping to better the world. I have always been in love with a good cause and love finding creative ways to improve the corner of the world I inhabit. I have a gift of expressing myself with words and I am grateful that I am able to use them make a difference.

If you have read this, please share with me something you love. Alternatively, consider yourself tagged and create your own list of 10 things you love.

Thanks for tagging me, blog friends. This was a beautiful way to start my day…

With love,


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