Thursday, December 27, 2007

Winter Woe

“There is neither heaven nor earth, only snow, falling incessantly” -Author Unknown



I have been given more time to get to know my new computer. My children are honing their sledding skills as well as their hot cocoa and cookie tolerance. My husband is working from home. And The Babe has been tooling around the kitchen island on her new pink tricycle.



We are snowed in.



Our travel plans delayed, we are making the most of our time. I have done every stitch of laundry. All of the little bugs and viruses we've been harboring and ignoring through Christmas have run their course and have been banished by vitamins and clorox. Good riddance. The floors are clean. Steaming mugs of tea warm the innermost chill that creeps in when the door is cracked to let the dog in or a child out. Order is being restored after the mayhem of Christmas morning.



And now, I am so stir crazy I think I might be suffering from one of those clinical conditions brought on by severe cold, like terminal burrowing or stupor. I'm beginning to think our house could benefit from the addition of 12 or so more rooms. I've decided the five of us (and Nate) need several more square feet between us, and that my housemates have developed some annoying habits over the warmer months that have only just surfaced now that we are so snugly nesting.

For instance, Nate has an annoying habit of shaking his head violently every 36 seconds or so. Granted, it's not his fault. He has an ear infection (that stinks of Limburger...also annoying,) and as I can't get him to the vet in the snow before our journey to visit family, he will have to wait 'til we can go and see my Dad during our extensive travels. (My Dad is a veterinarian.)

My 10 year old has had laringitis, which has kept her (mostly) out of trouble, but also out of the snow. She has a loose tooth which, if the Tooth Fairy has any decency at all, may come out tonight in her sleep, so the house might be spared from the awful nails-on-a-chalkboard sound it makes when it is wiggled compulsively and scrapes against an abutting tooth.

My 9 year old asks questions because the answer reminds her of the question. For example: The Producer remarked that it felt a bit chilly in the house. He checked the thermostat but said it was 70 degrees inside. My 9 year old then asked, "Is it 70 degrees inside or outside?"
This is the sort of thing that wouldn't bother me if we weren't all crammed in the living room like bears in a den, rubbing up against one another and breathing the same air.

Tomorrow, it is more of the same. The snow will taper tonight and sweep through Kansas and Nebraska. And we will wait for salvation in the form of a snow plow...And I'll have to break the news to my Mother.

In the meantime, how was your holiday? What are your plans and resolutions for the new year?
I plan to get on with our trip and to laugh heartily with my brother and sister, as per usual.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store...

I saw this story on the news last night, about a family who will literally wake up only to the gift of love and family on Christmas morning. Needless to say, tears rolled down my cheeks as I listened to the 9 year old little girl say that she is okay with not getting what she wants for Christmas this year because, "Christmas isn't about getting gifts."

Dang. I am The Grinch embodied. I think my heart grew three sizes last night.

Elves About...Wordless Wednesday


Monday, December 17, 2007

The Bird of Peace is Circling and She's Coming in for a Landing

It has happened again. Despite holding onto my Christmas spirit, teeth clenched; despite my lists and budgeting of time; despite the sickeningly sweet glaze of holiday music I smeared on all of my mundane tasks; despite my best laid plans, I have become exhausted and overwhelmed.


My frustration sits just below my skin with a heat and itch that boil with the mounting tension and thinning of time. There have been moments when I've contemplated packing away the decorations, giving everything a good dusting, and calling the whole thing off. Christmas has been canceled!


My kids wanted cell phones and i pods and nine hundred dollar sweat shirts from Aber.crombie and (as recently as yesterday) a pink Vespa. Are you freaking kidding me?


We've lost it.


Whatever earnest but pale Meaning of Christmas was holding on for dear life in this house has all but evaporated. My children know the story of Jesus: born in a stable, wrapped in swaddling clothes, three men visiting beneath a brilliant star, Heavenly Hosts Heralding His arrival. We know the story, but have completely missed the application.


The gift of a Father...heart breaking, knowing it's the right thing.


The desparation of a mother, thankful to have lived through the night, bleeding, exhausted, having given birth in a barn in the dirt. Her baby wrapped in the cloth used to clean the animals. Terrified to consider the future.


Joseph, likely wondering, Where do I fit in this story?


And a baby...the fate of humanity resting on the fragile shoulders of a carpenter's son.


The feeling and beauty of Christmas is circling the drain in my neck of the woods, and I am considering donating a couple dozen beautifully wrapped Christmas gifts, so that we wake to the glorious gift of family and love on Christmas morning. We won't be distracted with all of the shiny plastic and blinking lights and mountains of crumpled gift wrap. There would be no arguments over whether or not one's sister will EVER be allowed to lay a finger on one's new sweater. There would be no scrounging for receipts needed to return pants that are 2 sizes too small or woefully out of fashion. There would be only five souls gathered in a room over hot cocoa and sticky buns, reading stories of selflessness and generosity and love that bridges the deepest chasms of time and hurt.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

My grapevine reindeer have stood ankle deep in the snow for two weeks, now. Stalwart. Elegant. Graceful. And in their element. I will take a page from their book. And I will let peace blanket this house when it comes, like today, as I am writing this post, and pray for our own host of angels to serenade...






Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Mostly Wordless Wednesday

Our 15 1/2 ft. Wild Colorado Spruce
Some of the ornaments that made it when our Grandaddy of a tree took a tumble in the living room.

And one casualty.




Monday, December 10, 2007

Merriment


The Producer and I went to his company Christmas party last night. Aside from one conversation that contained more anacronyms than actual words, it was a very enjoyable evening.

You can't see them in this picture, but I wore a lovely pair of earrings that The Producer bought me a few years ago and a $100 pair of shoes I bought myself a few days ago...and apparently a too light dusting of face powder. My sweet husband told me, more than once, that I was lovely. There is nothing more flattering on a woman than a well worn compliment.

After mingling for a bit, we sat down for a scrumptious three course dinner, during which, I did not get up once to retrieve lost/thrown silverware or to take anyone to "change their bum." Delightful.

Our dinner table partners kept the conversation rolling along at a comfortable pace. They had thrilling stories of their grown children, nearly my age; their extensive travels; their home remodeling projects; and domestic and foreign policy. We sat with the former Director for the FBI and his wife who has just resigned her position at The Department of Homeland Security. They told fascinating stories about traveling to Spain while it was still under the rule of Franco. The Wife kept referencing her dear friend, Laura, (As in the First Lady. It was in that moment, that it occurred to me that Presidents and Politicians must have "dear friends".) My husband, The Producer, and The former Director, discussed the importance of The Director keeping his Top Secret Clearance under his new role at my husband's company....

And I mostly sat there with my mouth agape.

It was an unexpectedly enjoyable evening.

And while the last story was being told, the last cappucino enjoyed, my husband crept to the parking lot to warm the car, so that I would be able to warm my woeful toes in my $100 shoes.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Busted

The ever astute, Slouching Mom has just left a comment on my last post asking, "Are you away? I just noticed this post is from 11/23."

I am not away. I am here in my house buried beneath holiday "duties," baking and gifting and wrapping and decorating and obsessing over gifts that must be bought and shipped and Christmas cards, unsigned and crumbling in their boxes...

At least, that is what I am telling myself...I'm much too busy to blog.

However, this is not true. You may have noticed that I'm still visiting your blogs. I have snippets of time, here and there. I am still licking my writer's block wounds...and I'm not being a judicious time manager.

Now, the jig is up. I've been called out, and must confess my lackadaisical blogging.

Stay tuned for a witty and touching Christmas post...
And thank you ever so sincerely for your patience with me.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Tidings

If I could, I would whittle all of my Christmas offerings from the fallen branches of the trees in my yard. Then, I could avoid the mess and mayhem of the unpalatable consumerism of this holy season.There are two problems with this: I have only one tree, a five year old Maple. She stands at an impressive 15 feet tall, but she, like any toddler, is having a hard time sharing her wares. I have no branches, nor do I have any talent for whittling or carving or really any craft that involves a knife.

And so, I am preparing myself, mentally to enter the artificially lighted, Pheromone scented, skin deep world of consumer convenience. The Mall. Generally, I enjoy the mall. I indulge in my fair share of retail therapy throughout the year. But after November 20, the thought of trucking off for an afternoon at the mall makes me cringe.

I am arming myself with a list, a time limit (with fuzzy edges), and a rosy disposition. On this day, eight years ago, many unflattering words were spewed in my general direction as I stood in front of Target at 5 o'clock in the morning, trying to see what time the store opened for business. I stood next to the cranky shopper and blinked for a moment, then decided that I was in over my head. I am not that caliber of shopper…or that caliber of crazy. So, I turned around and walked to my car, drove home, and went back to bed.

I truly believe in the *thought* behind the gift. It makes all the difference in the giver and in the way the gifted, receive. So, I am taking this inspiration with me on my merchandising expedition.

This has been the year of the bird for me. The little feathered creatures in their varied hues have taught me quite a lot about freedom and life and feathering one’s nest. Birds are a lovely, living metaphor.

An odd turn of events, really.

I don’t like birds. They make me physiologically nervous. Walking by the Parakeet cages at Pets Mart just about does me in. I think it must be the way they flit and turn their head in clicks and move mechanically and unpredictably. Whatever it is, I begin to sweat and my heart rate sky rockets. I could never keep one for a pet. But to see these creatures uncaged and in the world, the great expanses of the firmament as a back drop; or lighting effortlessly on top of a reed and then singing a song at the top of his lungs for the whole world to hear…inspiring. Freedom has more to do with the situation of one’s heart and view on the world and less to do with cages and restraints. I’ve found that my own cages are self inflicted. I am careful not to clip my own wings.
All of that to say, I have been inspired by Christine. In lieu of Starbucks gift cards or silver book marks, my daughters’ teachers will be receiving a flock of geese.

We will be donating to Heifer International in their names. I figure this is a win-win-win-win scenario. The families assisted by HI are an obvious beneficiary, I have a few less things to pick up at the mall, my daughters and I are learning yet another lesson from the birds about being selfless and generous citizens in a world community, and their teachers are released from having to find a place for their 48th “#1 Teacher" mug.

What thoughtful gifts are on your list, this year?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Impediments

You know what I hate? Blockage. Constipation. Build up. Word stumps.

I'm feeling stuck. Ugh. (See. I just typed letters that aren't an actual word...merely gutteral noises.) I think I am suffering from writer's block...or something related to it that is far less glamorous.

I think it may be the all consuming domesticity of life right now. My washer has died a fiery death, replete with smoke and electrical smell, and so our laundry sits in ever expanding mounds. I'm going to require cramp ons and pick axes and a well thought out pair of shoes to get to get to the bottom by the time we have figured out whether to invest more money into the dang contraption that has broken down for the third time in it's four year history, or if we should bite the bullet and buy a replacement.

Meanwhile, I have packed all of our fall decorations away...a full week ahead of Thanksgiving. I couldn't stand the clutter anymore. This is a little disconserting, as my varietal pumpkins and candles in ochre hues only breathed the the fresh air for little more than 4 weeks. But they are gone, and I have wiped away the dust and situated the furniture so that my mind can breathe again, and hopefully receive the inspiration of the coming holidays on a clean slate.

I apologize for *dumping* this on dear readers, when I am scheduled to be writing about what I am grateful for. Youthful Tribute. I'd like to reschedule, if I may.

And on an overtly ironic note, dear Julie Pippert has honored me with a Thinking Blogger Award. I am alternately humbled and embarassed by her generosity. Humbled because she is one of the great and thoughtful writers in this medium and to be singled out by her is a lovely distinction. Embarrassed because of my current and unsightly affliction. That and she is so fluent and has probably not ever uttered the words "writer's block." In fact, I was just perusing Emily's latest entry, where Julie remarked on her difficulty of "...thinking in quantities of 1200 words or less. LOL"

So, I'm off to indulge in your words for a while. If you have any advice on how to whet my pen (keyboard just doesn't sound as good) and conquer my dry spell. Please direct me.

With gratitude.
Emily.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Alphabet Soup

I feel a very unusual sensation-if it is not indigestion, I think it must be gratitude. Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)

















Creativity.






Dogged Determination (only sometimes), resulting in





Emily's






Fulfilled






Goals. -This was my 2nd triathlon The first leg was the swim. I decided not to subject dear readers to the pictures of me flapping about in my swim suit. You're welcome.





Haircuts that make a girl feel as if she's lost 10 pounds.






Ill fated love affairs that take a turn and surprise us all. I think a lot of people thought my own love affair was ill-fated, but it is not. We are as smitten with one another today as we were 12 years ago. (Blush. Keep reading)






Junior Mints. I'd like to kiss the person who came up with that lovely confection.






Kissing (see above entry.) I still enjoy a good snog fest on the couch in front of a chick flick.






Lists. I'm a little sad to admit that one.






Motherhood






Nostalgia lent to aromas and flavors and days...that can bring one back to a moment so vividly so that those who are gone are with us again. A bit of magic, I think.




Outages, as in power outages. I love how we always gather around 27 candles in the living room like bears in a cave and wait for the lights to come back on...most especially if there's lightning and thunder involved. (see below)






Polish, as applied to toes and literary works. Anything that causes something else to sparkle.






Quotes. I absolutely love the snippets and sound bytes of things one has said, often in an offhand moment. I think that to speak intelligently, one must first learn to listen. You can quote me on that.






Rolling thunder and lightning, thrashing rain, and inclement weather of all sorts. The first time I knew I was going to be able to make it here in Colorado, was in 2003. We had a massive blizzard that dumped 5 feet of snow in our front yard. We were stuck for days.






Sincere compliments.





Tattoos with a story to tell. (Yep. That's my brother in a....uhm, speedo. Sorry, Seth. He could write you a novel about that tat.)









Un film à l'eau de rose (chick flicks) with apologies to anyone who actually speaks French.






Viola practice...anywhere but home. (Am I right parents? All the culture. None of the headaches.)






Waiting for Christmas morning.






X-rays. My eldest daughter broke her arm on the playground when she was in first grade. She refused to cry or even acknowledge that she had fallen from the monkey bars (because she is incredibly stubborn.) One boy who had watched her fall was adamant that she must go to the nurse. The teachers on the playground sent her just to get him to shut up. When the nurse called, she told me she was doing so because she was required but that my daughter was fine and she would be sending her back to the playground. I asked her to please have my daughter wait for me to take her to the doctor. When we looked at the x-rays, she had broken both bones in her left forearm.




Yawns from the lips of a newborn.




Zucchini that grows so easily in my garden....and taking a break from growing it.
If you participate in this Counting Mercies challenge, let me know and I'll list you here.
Next week's Counting Mercies will be: Youthful Tribute. What about children (yours or someone else's) or your own childhood brings a smile to your face?

Sunday, November 4, 2007

7:00 pm-Flesh Eating Bacteria Invades Playgrounds. Could Your Child Be Losing a Limb as They Sleep. More at 10...

8:30 pm - Hundreds exposed to aggressive bacteria. How to protect your family, at 10...

9:45 pm - Was this two year old stricken with a horribly maming disease after visiting a local playground? The latest health scare you should know about, at 10...

10:00 pm - Good Evening. Children could be in grave danger of limbs simply falling off their bodies after visiting local playgrounds. But first, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie made quite the stir when they visited a coffee shop this morning in New York City...

10:29 - And finally tonight, scientists say they have detected low levels of a bacteria that feeds on the epidermis layer of amphibians along the banks of The Nile River in Cairo, Egypt, last month. Local experts say the strain seems to only affect amphibious species and is not expected to be a threat to any humans, but if parents are concerned, they should avoid travel to Egypt for the next few months. There have been no reports of local children or any humans of any age in any location contracting the disease, and therefore no cause for alarm as no limbs will be falling off of anyone.

That's it for us. Be sure to tune in tomorrow night for our report on the deadly Halloween candy distributed in our area, last week. What every parent should know. Good night and have a pleasant tomorrow.

This post was part of Monday Missions as hosted by Painted Maypole. The challenge was to draft a news story. If you are feeling inspired compose your own and link it up over at Maypole's place.

Friday, November 2, 2007

The Producer

As we waited for our table, last night, my three daughters sat quietly on the floor of a restaurant hallway , absorbing the 9 years that separate them. The eldest read short stories from a book she borrowed from her teacher, while the nine year old sat transfixed by her words and the 19 month old squeezed her cheeks in between them, thrilled just to be included.



My husband and I beamed at the Norman Rockwell painting at our feet; how lovely, how well behaved and quiet. We gave each other invisible hi-fives at our manifesting parental astuteness; even though, secretly, we knew we had little or nothing to do with how wonderful our children were conducting themselves, just as we have little or nothing to do with The Crazy they display at other times, (or so we like to think.)



Eventually, the allure of the cool, older girls faded and The Babe began to toddle around. She flirted with other children and babbled at adults what, I am almost certain is an unknown dialect of Farsi.



My husband and I were staring off into space discussing the news of the day, when over my shoulder, I heard a soft voice with a lovely British accent. “He’s certainly a fit boy.” I turned to see a thin man with brilliant white hair and a kind face with a smile that comfortably fits the definition of jolly, gesturing toward The Babe.




In his defense, The Babe’s dark pink sweater could have passed as red in the dim lighting and the generous hem on her chocolate brown pants almost completely covered the pink lady bugs on her shoes.




I was so enchanted by the gentleman’s beguiling tone and his royal blue track suit, like I was standing before a character on loan from a Charles Dickens novel that I didn’t immediately want to correct him. So, I mumbled something about how nice it was that she wasn’t wandering off.




He gestured urbanely toward the three girls and said to my husband, “All of this is your family? You’re a good Producer.” My husband laughed and thanked him, and the freshly shaven Father Time turned on the spot and disappeared into the crowd.




My husband, The Producer.




The fact that I put my organs on loan for 9 months, 3 separate times; that I grew their bodies within my own, relegating me to guest status within my own skin; that I craved and ate combinations of foods that should never even share space on a plate; that my body parts swelled and morphed into unrecognizable shapes; and that I pushed 6, 7, and 8 pound people from my womb when my skin and hips could stretch no further…clearly, these trivial things earn me no title.




I’m okay with that. The many hats of Mother are plenty. But the whiskerless Father Christmas at The Tavern, last night solved a conundrum for me: What to call my husband on this blog. I am not allowed to discuss him too much. But he is a big important part of my life, and occasionally, he sneaks his way into my anecdotes, and I am certain that he will be playing a larger role in upcoming Counting Mercies.




So, meet my husband




The Producer


(Hi Sweetheart)



Next week's Counting Mercies is Alphabet Soup-26 alphabetical things in your life that you are grateful for...or, if you are very clever, perhaps just a few things that use several words beginning with consecutive letters as adjectives. Bonus points for creativity!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Safe Touching Rules

I know childhood sexual assault is an uncomfortable subject. It is an uncomfortable reality, and we do our children a grave disservice by not preparing them for the battlefield we send them out onto each day. I have said it before, The statistics are these: 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually assaulted before their 18th birthday. 70% of rapes are commited against children. Only 2-10% of sexual abuse is commited by strangers. Most children do not tell anyone about their abuse. (Blue Sky Bridge, 10/30/2007) So, I am discussing these issues with my daughters in a positive and empowering way so that they will know their rights as individuals and so that they will not be easy targets.

I came across these rules from a Victim's Advocacy Group in my area, last week. These rules are worded in such a way that makes sense to children, so you can say them verbatim to even very young children. Children love rules. They appreciate the way rules keep behaviors predictable, and they especially love to point out when someone is breaking the rules. I think these Touching Rules are a good tool for us parents to have in our repertoire. So, please copy them. Type them up in a fun font. Hang them in your child's room or in their bathroom or just talk about them occasionally.

Touching Rules
  • My body belongs to me.
  • No touching if I don't want it.
  • Private parts are very special, children do not share them.
  • No one is allowed to make me share my private parts.
  • No one is allowed to share their private parts with me.
  • No one is allowed to touch my private parts.

Exceptions to the touching rules are health care, hygiene, and safety.

(These should be discussed with kids so that no one is able to take advantage of the exceptions.)

If someone breaks the touching rules, go to a grown-up for help.

If something gives me the "uh-oh" feeling, go to a grown up for help.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Costumed Requital

Shadows of a thousand years rise again unseen,Voices whisper in the trees, "Tonight is Halloween!"- - - Dexter Kozen

The things I absolutely love about this season...






*The creepiness lent to even the most ordinary things.

* Seizing the opportunity to conquer one's fears.



*The way all of God's creatures seem dressed for just such an occasion as this to walk among us in all of their finery.






*The absolute giggle inducing, tingle in your cheek sort of sparkle in the air.


* The way we are inspired to rewrite the classics




* Menus infused with the bounty of the season



* All the Krafting and Kooking that's just for fun...just for memory's sake...without all the pressure of having 97 presents neatly wrapped and adorned and completely overthought.


Be sure to check out Julie's Hump Day Hmmm, this week, as it is also about this divine season.

Next week's Counting Mercies is:

Alphabet Soup- 26 things using consecutive letters of the alphabet that make your day. Get Creative!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Planning Ahead

This week's Counting Mercies will be:

Costumed Requital.

When I was a child, we didn't celebrate Halloween, per say, and as sort of poetic justice, it has become my very favorite holiday. Discuss things revolving around Halloween, traditions, costumes, fall, whatever in this week that makes you happy....thankful...something you know you will try to remember forever.

Send me the link to your blog post. collectingraindrops at gmail dot com. I'll list you here.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Counting mercies

Gratitude is born in hearts that take time to count up past mercies.

-Charles E. Jefferson (1860-1937)


Why do we put the years of birth and death after someone's name when we quote them? I have never understood that. Maybe it's an identifier, like using your birth date in place of your social security number. Maybe it makes the quote that much more impactful to know that it was said by someone who is now dead, or that by calculating the years in their life we may be able to calculate their level of quote worthiness, or perhaps they died young and those little parentheses disclose their great wisdom...beyond their years. Whatever the reason, I am not one to break with tradition. Charles E. Jefferson was born in 1860.....and died in 1937. Amen.

I have been inspired (by a magazine, lest you feel impressed at my depth of character,) to begin compiling a list of things that I am grateful for.

I have said before that gratitude is our first and best defense against the cancer of bitterness and anger. And so now, I open wide and swallow heaping spoonful of my own medicine.

I am pleased to introduce Counting Mercies. A compelling compilation of incredibly ordinary things in my life that make it worth the trip; intentionally starting the week in the right direction, no matter what loops and u-turns await in the days ahead. So, join the parade. Compile your own catalog of gratitude and email the link to me on Sunday or Monday: collectingraindrops at gmail dot com and I will link. Some weeks it will be a great big list, other days a few words or a paragraph. There's almost no rules. I think it will be good for the heart, as "Silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone." -G. B. Stern (1890-1973)

Our inaugural theme:

Organic Gratitude

Some things I am grateful for:

1. Farmers that grow pumpkins in expansive fields, with the mountains and trees in regal attendance.
2. The Universal Hi Sign of touching noses.
3. The magic in a little red wagon that slows the minutes and helps us one remember the joys of childhood, even when it has lost it's appeal.
4. The first snow of the season, and how it blankets the gritty, indulgent air of summer. I think the fall and winter must be more conservative, the way the earth covers herself up and the way the trees change their attire for a more formal affair.

5. Pumpkins as big as Buicks.

6. White Christmas Chili on a cold evening.

7. Children of friends, whom I love, tell me that I am their favorite. And I believe them...and let them eat cupcakes for dinner.

8. Pansies, shivering in their baskets, still bloom and flaunt their purple faces in the snow.

9. The biting breeze that begs for ladies to festoon their wardrobe with long, bright scarves, so that it looks like we are playing dress up right out in front of the world.

10. Maple leaves and Ash trees in their deepening hues.

What are you thankful for?



















Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Journey

Today's Hmmm... is to write about The Journey--a trip you've taken and returned from, changed. I wanted to write about the summer days spent on Grandmother and Granddad's farm, the delicious squish between my toes as I walked barefoot through the cow pastures; swimming in the Olympic sized water trough; sneaking bites of Grandmother's Home Made From Scratch Lemon Meringue Pie with Granddad until half of it was gone and then covering the gaping hole in the pie pan with the meringue as if she wouldn't notice... Or maybe about our trip to the doctor's office last week for check ups and flu shots, and how we also got headaches and and new creative ideas on how to inforce militant restrictions for our oldest daughter who locked herself in the bathroom at the dr's office and refused to emerge....even after the office had closed for the day. (Note to said dr's office: Keep keys to ALL locks in the office, lest someone require retrieving if they, say, have a heart attack behind a locked door, or lock themselves in the bathroom and spew loud and slanderous dialog at their parents for inflicting potential flu shot upon their person.)

I wanted to write about those things, until I took a trip last night to our neighborhood school.

I volunteer for a non profit organization that teaches children, parents, school staff and administration, and community members how to be proactive in protecting children from bully assault, sexual assault, and stranger abduction. Yesterday, we were asked to serve my daughters' school, my school, my community.

Unfortunately, my community has been affected by multiple incidents of sexual assault on a child over the last several months and the parents in our neighborhood are reeling...understandably so.

I walked into the room last night and sat on the last row. The school had brought in two different organizations as resources for the families affected and for our community as a whole. The pain and anger in the room were palpable and at times overwhelmed the good intentions of the administration and the charitable organizations there to help.

Families are mad at other families, parents are whispering within earshot of their children, the children know what's going on they're just not sure how to reconcile the information they've been given and they're acting out the chaos they feel on their peers.

It was one of the most agonizing things I have ever sat through. Parents and teachers so sad and wringing their hands at the fate of the children. Were steps taken to ensure their safety? Are we really changing the way these things are handled so that words like "oral sex" and "penetration" and "molestation" do not become part of the third grade vocabulary.

There was yelling and angry, accusatory remarks thrown at the administration and at parents of other children. Parents want to know who is ultimately responsible. Who is getting fired? Who can they hurt as badly their families are hurting right now? Whose head do they get on a platter? Since there are multiple under age offenders, there must be someone who is offending them, and they MUST be at the school. The parents are on a witch hunt. One father said, "I need some closure. I need someone to hand this off to."

There is no "handing it off," Dillweed. Your kid needs you to stand up and shoulder this with him. (disclaimer: Dillweed is not an official term, nor is name calling an official practice of the upstanding non profits associated with this situation.)

The national statistics are these:

  • 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted before their 18th birthday.
  • 70% of all rapes are commited against children.
  • 90% of childhood sexual abuse is committed by a known and trusted adult or adolescent.

Childhood sexual assault cannot be pinpointed on a map. It is not relegated to seedy sections of society. It cannot be labeled by color, race, ethnicity, social status, or income bracket. It is a putrid canker that thrives on secrecy and shame. Pedophiles need their victims to be silent, scared, and uninformed in order for abuse to be successful.

As parents, it is our responsibility to seek out as much information as we can get our hands on, to be vigilant about who our children are exposed to, and to inform and empower our kids about their rights as individuals. We are their first defense, but it is important that they are a member of the prevention team. We cannot send them out, blindly onto a battlefield of which they are unaware.

We have a long and arduous road ahead of us in my community. I am hopeful that as the wounds begin to scab over, and the emotions are a little less raw, we will be able to come together to form a healthy barricade for our children.

Please seek out information on Assault Prevention. Here are some good places to start:



Blue Sky Bridge



Child Assault Prevention

Monday, October 15, 2007

Proliferating Metaphors

The lovely Emily at Wheels on the Bus has sent me a bundle of light and airy interview questions. And I thank you, Emily, for keeping them light and airy. Emily is a wonderful writer. I encourage you to go check out her blog after you finish here. (And hurry. She deletes her archives quite regularly.)

1) If your dog could type, what is one thing he would tell us about your household that you would probably be unlikely to reveal?
I hate mopping and it shows. I vacuum daily (or intend to vacuum daily,) in order to keep the population of Nate-hair-tumbleweeds down, but beware the suspicious, sticky, dark spot on the linoleum.

2) What is one thing you take way too seriously?
Indignant Eye rolling. When one of my girls (or God forbid, my husband,) get irritated at my endless "nagging" at them to pick up their shoes, dishes, socks, books, toys, back packs, etc, etc, etc... they *sigh* which is annoying in and of itself, and then, if they are feeling especially daring, they roll their eyeballs around in their sockets. I've been known to come unhinged and hand out ridiculous punishments: No TV for a month; No talking to friends-not even at school; No breathing for the next 1/2 hour... It must be hard to take me seriously.

3) If you were writing a book about your life thus far, what would be the penultimate (second to last) paragraph?

This is a hard question for me, since I feel like I am mid spin on a rickety carnival ride called "The Holy Shit Tilt A Whirl"...

Pete Seeger and Ecclesiastes boast, “There is a season for every purpose under Heaven…” For better or worse, I am trudging through the bitter siege of winter and if I close my eyes very tightly, I can smell the breath of spring. It is the promise that spurs me forward. And though I am not alone on my journey, I know the mountains are mine to climb. Equipped with the proper shoes--appropriate footwear is the only way one will make it through,-- I am fairly confident that the first quiet moments will find me worn, but not broken. I am ever so eager to trade my Tattered, Trudging Boots for Dancing Shoes.

4) Tell us about one person in your extended family who has gone through something difficult and is now relatively happy with his/her life.
My Grandmother (on the other side of the family from my pedophile grandfather) was married to my Granddad for over forty years. They had four sons, my Dad being the eldest. They struggled financially, circumnavigated the globe following Granddad's job(s), put all four boys through college.
Grandmother cut off contact with her sister and brother more than 30 years ago and those fences have never mended. She clung to Granddad and he held her up. They were a commensurate compliment to one another; strength where the other was weak, reasonable when the other was rash, in love when the other was ready to throw in the towel. I've heard it said, the key to a successful marriage is "to never fall out of love at the same time." I think they subscribed to this school of thought.
Granddad had a stroke while repairing the roof of an elderly neighbor. He died three days later. Grandmother was left a Pillar with no Foundation.
She moved from her small Texas town to live close to her sons. She had her hip replaced at the age of 73 and decided it was time for her to give up snow skiing.
She still travels all over the US to visit friends from all those years ago when she and Granddad were chasing down jobs and raising their boys. In fact, she is, at the moment, in Italy with one of those friends.
She misses Granddad everyday. She talks about him every time I see her. She openly clings to the promise of being reunited with him, one day. And until that day, she's having a Hell of a time!

5) Do you sing well and what do you like to sing? (Alternate question: how does music impact your life?)


If music is water, then I am in a perpetual rainy season. I dream in music. I pray in song. My thoughts are accompanied by a constant soundtrack.

I love to sing. People around me don’t always love to hear me sing, but if they happen to be in the shower with me, or in my car, or within 20 feet of my car when I have the sunroof open, TOO BAD.

My 10 year old told me, the other day, that I should audition for American Idol, but that I couldn't embarrass her on national television by wearing any ridiculous clothes or hairstyles or saying anything stupid, and on second thought, maybe I shouldn't audition.

Thanks, again, Emily, for the thoughtful questions. If any one of you would like some questions from me, just let me know in the comments on this post.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina…The Truth is, I’m Really Wimpy

Oh my…
I do hate sighing. It causes one’s shoulders to droop in such a way that communicates, “I’ve nearly collapsed under the superficial weight of my petty troubles, but not quite. I’m simulating braveness and carrying on despite my ridiculous worries. And I am proclaiming my pre-martyrdom with exhalation.” Cue worried looks and artificial admiration, and some applause from the back, if you please.

*sigh*

Last week, I took an unintentional “Bloggy Break”, as Christine called it.

I didn’t get to sit down and write ONCE. Can you believe it? And crabby? Honey! I was tetchy, like MY writing time was being stolen from me by laundry and doctors appointments and children who needed nourishment and encouraging. *sigh*

But I persevered through the Unjust Jungle of Errands and Odd Jobs. I return haggard, in serious need of a haircut and eyebrow wax, and pathetically self piteous.

In truth, it was my fault. Poor time management. Please don’t tell my 10 year old, as Time Management is one of the sermons in syndication around this house. And I, being the Empress of Efficiency—as far as she’s concerned, am the Principal Pulpiter.

So, thank you for your patience. Check back this week as I’ll be regaling you with tales of Flu-Shot-Showdowns and my realization that the delicate flower that is my sister is wrought from iron and still dizzyingly beautiful-the beginning of a difficult and necessary story.
Here’s to Literary Liberties and Blogging Bliss.

Cheers.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Romancing Me with Bug Juice




The babe and I picked the last of the tomatoes Friday morning. There are dozens more on the vine. They are optimistic that they will make it through tomorrow's cold snap. I am a little more cynical.




This has been my favorite growing season in my short life as a back yard farmer.

Mostly due to the "help."

It's been a lovely joint venture between the babe and I, to keep the garden up and growing. While I water, she puts her fingers in the stream from the hose and giggles wildly as the frigid water trickles down past her elbows and soaks her shirt and shoes. I pick the Early Girls and the Lemon Boys , she picks the baby Cherry Tomatoes...and eats them.

I've decided all of her clothes next summer must be in shades of tomato so as to camouflage the inevitable, delicious stains on her belly region.



After our extended stay in the garden, she was so tired (and distended,) that I laid her down for her nap...and then I did the most surprising thing. I made lunch...for me.



I don't usually prepare lunch, per say, except for The Girlie's lunches in the morning and The Babe's lunch meat, cheese, and fruit in the afternoon. When lunchtime rolls around, I have generally just finished cleaning up from breakfast, The Babe is napping, and I am enjoying a few moments digesting the day's blogs. Lunch for me, lately, consists of tracking down my woefully expired mug of no-longer-hot tea and a handful of goldfish.

But Friday, I beguiled myself with a tuna fish sandwich on the patio. The seductive roundness of my fresh, garden tomatoes were the inspiration for the afternoon tryst.

I sat in the sunshine, munching and musing about Slouching Mom 's Post
on the perils of sleep talking...when there came an unfortunate crunch. A bug of unknown color and distinction met his demise inside my mouth. The hazard of fresh, garden tomatoes.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Nate



This is Nate.



This is The Baby stealing Nate's ball.



And then wap-wap-wapping him on the head because
she just loves him too, too much.
I know the feeling. Teeth clenched. Heart, hammering away.
"You're so cute, I could just bite your ear." I have that feeling with all my kids.
Nate puts up with a lot.
This past week, I've had a heaviness that has settled on my chest and occasionally slides to the pit of my stomach. Someday, I'm going to have to blog about it all, but right now, it's hard to hear the words in my own voice, right out loud. I'm choosing gratitude...forgivness...grace...hope...the lovelier bits of life.
And when I am feeling completely smothered and smashed by the heaviness, I take Nate for a walk and we talk about it. Mostly, I do the talking and he does the smelling. He is a very intuitive therapist and reasonably priced.
We walk a three mile loop through the neighborhood, around ponds, down paths, and past houses with dogs that bark, longingly behind fences at the sight of us. I sometimes wish there were fewer pedestrians to pitty my blatant mental instability as I discuss the week's goings on with my dog, but there is plenty of goose poop for rolling in and bunnies to imagine chasing. It works for both of us I think, however I have yet to master the rolling in goose poop. Nate doesn't mind. More for him.
He pulls me along at a good clip, eager to get to the next clump of Blood Grass and decipher who's been by, today. He keeps my heart pumping and my feet moving when I want to sit on the closest bench and mope for a bit.
I've noted that somewhere around 2 1/2 miles my head feels clearer, my chest is lighter and heaving with the freedom of breath that reaches all the way to the bottom of my lungs, my grip on Nate's leash is firm but no longer agressive, the muscles in my jaw are more relaxed and forgiving, my pace is hopeful, and my view of the world is benefiting from all of those things: clarity, light, freedom, strength, forgivness, hope.
There is only so much heartache one person can bear. Eventually, it will make its way to the surface. Heartache can turn to anger, anger to bitterness, and bitterness will send its tentacly roots through the very heart of a person and change the way they see things, which will change the way they are seen.
I am thankful for the little role Nate so willingly plays in helping me find my way to the lovelier bits.
I encourage you to take your lovelier bits for a walk, today.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Fitful prayers

I’m floundering. My stomach is upside down and inside out. My brain is flinching and I can’t make decisions for myself which makes me feel frail. I hate feeling frail.

I want to be of a strong constitution. Robust. Stalwart. A pillar that the frail can lean on.

I am certainly not that.

I have decided not to go to the funeral, for the moment. I’ll check in again in a few paragraphs and see how many times I’ve changed my mind and where it settles. My family is…difficult. (As in carting my pedophile grandfather around to all family events and doting over him as if he didn’t use his granddaughters as sexual objects. He had a stroke 4 days before my wedding, eleven years ago and has been imprisoned in his body and wheelchair ever since. God intervened and did what my aunt and uncles would not do, by placing value on the victims and removing the threat of my grandfather from the children surrounding him. ) I have decided that seeing them would not help my dithering heart. Nor would being present at the funeral tomorrow do anything to help theirs.

My cousin is surely broken in so many ways, today. She had a viewing of the body, which after much counsel, she decided was entirely necessary for her. I respect that. I can’t begin to direct her one way or another. There is no etiquette on how to accept that your husband has been killed. She’ll have to make her own strange march toward the truth. The facts that are emerging make it a rugged trail, indeed. He wasn’t wearing a seat belt. He was drunk. He hit a truck. The two people in that truck remain in critical condition. They will never be the same. And she is left to make all of this right, somehow.

Her six year old son told my mother, “I want to tell God that I’m mad and I want my Dad back! But I’m afraid he’ll send my Daddy to hell.”

Later, her four year old son crawled into my mom’s lap and said, “I know why you’re here. It’s ‘cause my Daddy’s dead and I’m sad and you love me.”

Oh the perfect truth in innocence.

Whatever my feelings toward the deceased, (selfish jackass), he was loved. And those people who embraced the arduous task of loving him have lost all of the potential they had placed on him. They are heart broken and empty and for them I’m sad.

I pray that comfort comes to them in thick blankets and offers reprieve from the onslaught of the storm for a while.
I pray for sleep that is smooth and redeeming.
I pray for the kindness of strangers to fragrance their lives for a little while, and for the kindness of loved ones to remain constant and unwavering.
I pray for understanding to come in whatever attire, to be invited, welcomed, accepted, so that the hard lessons can be learned.
I pray for peace in the hard days ahead when truth is an ill-mannered bedfellow.
I pray for the sins of the father to be just his and not the sons’ bitter inheritance.

And that’s all I have to say about that…

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Astringent

I truly think that anger can kill. It sits in our bellies and ferments and decomposes the better bits of our nature and before we know it we are left with an angry, pale, canker sore of who we once were. I’m sad to say I watched this happen to my maternal Grandmother, whom I called Nanny.

She was a tall, slenderish, handsome woman with dark hair, dark eyes, and olive skin. She was, I’ve heard, happy once. Though, by the time I was born, she was already trying to swallow the bitter taste in her mouth. Life had only one flavor for her. And for all of life’s sweetness, (children, grandchildren, family gatherings, finally a house to call her own,…) there was an unremitting acerbic aftertaste.

She always kept score, and by her count, she was always losing because someone else was breaking the rules. She could hark back to every iniquitous deed ever committed against her.

She grew up in the cotton fields of rural Arkansas, the seventh of ten children. She never had new dresses or well fitting shoes. And she was not her mother’s favorite. She was afforded a short childhood before expected to quit school and go to work as a cotton picker. It was in those fields, I think, that she was bent toward harboring anger.

When she was eight, one of her brothers threw a dirt clod at her as they picked cotton beneath the merciless summer sun. The clod smashed against her head and blood trickled down her neck. The wound was still fresh fifty years later when she recounted the story to me.

In her thirties, for undisclosed reasons, she and my grandfather separated and divorced. She began dating someone new and was quite serious about him, until her four children began blatantly putting her and my grandfather into situations where they were forced to reconcile with one another. And they did. And, as far as I know, she was happily remarried to him for another 20 years. She however, never forgave the intrusive behavior of her children.

Later, her father became ill and she and her siblings took care of him in turn. Disagreements abounded, standoffs ensued, paternal tug-of-war matches followed, concessions were made, bitterness was cultivated, and grudges were harbored in the belly of my Nanny. She let silent years pass between her sister and herself, just to drive home the truly wicked nature of the abuse she had suffered during the disagreements.

The “Misdeeds Charts” of her children began filling up in childhood. Every dirty dish, every piece of laundry, every injury, every illness, every social blemish, even when my uncle was shipped off to war, all of these things were cause for her to fret over them, and according to her records put them farther and farther in debt to her.

She took it personally when someone disagreed with her. She ended her friendship with her closest friend when that friend continued dating someone that Nanny did not find suitable. She disowned five of her ten grandchildren when three of the granddaughters admitted to being sexually assaulted by my grandfather. (Which is another post entirely.)

Months after the initial bomb was dropped and many, many more subsequent fires ignited, I hadn’t seen or spoken to Nanny and all of my granddaughter-ish letters had gone unanswered. I walked down the stairs from my bedroom into the entry way and there she was, standing half way in the door. My gut burst into flames and all of the blood in my extremities drained and pooled around my toenails. “Nanny!” was all I managed to get out before she grunted and turned around and left. She had driven the 45 miles to our house to return the things that we had given her over the years; trinkets and what not that reminded her of us, of me. Among them, the sickeningly spoiled poodle that was, on most days, the reason she got out of bed. She was pouring on the vinegar, to be sure.

The next time I saw her, she had three months to live. She didn’t yet know that she harbored cancer in her colon nor that it had metastasized to her liver and was spreading from there like an airline route map. She was rotting from the inside out…a walking, bitter cesspool for which forgiveness was a rare detergent.

Her life is a heart wrenching, cautionary tale. She was never able to let any of it go…to roll with the punches. She was immovable. She equated worrying over all of the details with loving people completely. Her fingers were clenched so tightly around the love she gave away, it bruised her knuckles just to nurture her relationships.

In some very faint and terrifying ways, I see my mother adopting Nanny’s philosophies. Perhaps it’s old age. (My mother is 54 and old before it is entirely necessary.) And in some very faint and terrifying ways, I see myself turning into my mother. (I am 29 and middle aged. I plan on running in backward circles on my birthdays from here on out to combat the gratuitous aging, females experience in my family. I’ll keep you updated as to how this works out.)

If at the end of the day, I can let go of my neighbor's thoughtlessness, my sister's heartache, my daughters' selfishness, my husband's cluelessnes, my own ineptitude,... perhaps I will be able to stop the alarming circuit and scrub clean the generational canker. My first and best defense is gratitude.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Dangerous Ideas

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is speaking at Columbia University, today. Upon hearing that this was going to take place, my first reaction was: WHAT the *freaking heck*? Have they lost their Mother-*effing* minds... (etcetera, etcetera)

And now, that I'm writing and have the benefits of spell check and editing, my response is:

Why would an institution charged with molding and shaping minds, turning out future leaders, imparting wisdom and knowledge lend a platform to a man who is as morally backward as the President of Iran? Columbia University, as far as I understand, has a large body of Jewish students. How could they invite an anti-Semite who has called for Israel to “be wiped from the map” and who dismisses the Holocaust as a “fabricated legend” to speak to their student body? Why would they allow him to scatter his dangerous ideas among the fertile landscape of young adults still seeking their own truth. What if those dangerous ideas take root?

And then, two things happened. 1) I visited Chani’s blog where she put it right there in black and white: Are ideas dangerous? And 2) I watched the live video yahoo had up on their homepage -- As I write this, President Ahmadinejad is still speaking. He is, in fact, speaking of the importance of education and the freedom of speech “we are given in this country.” (Irony dripping, from the lips of a tyranical “president” who keeps the women of his country hidden beneath veils of decorum and mutes their ideas and denies them civil liberties under the guise of “honoring them as the mothers of Iran.” Women’s rights activists have been arrested in his country as recently as March of this year. Just this August, Iranian scholars and democratic thinkers were imprisoned for their dissenting views of the current government and allegedly initiating a US backed velvet revolution. Children have been publicly executed in his country as criminals, within the last few months.)

A moment please. I’ve become entranced by the soothing (female, I might add) translator.

Ok, so, The interview and Q & A is worth the 90 minutes, however if you don’t have the attention span or the constitution for the ramblings of a megalomaniac, at least watch the tongue lashing delivered by the President of Columbia University. It wasn’t very diplomatic in nature at times, and may have cost him some propriety points, but it’s fun to watch someone (anyone) lay into a monstrous dictator.

Unfortunately, His Most High Majesty, wasn’t as easily dismissed as an idiot, as I’d hoped. (Don’t get me wrong. He’s an idiot. But evidently, he has a couple of cabinet members that keep him straight.) He answered most questions with questions....which, I think, is one of the ten most annoying social behaviors known to man. People have been imprisoned in his country for lesser offenses... However, he made a couple of confusing, but valid points. For instance, Question #2 during the Q/A: Why is your govt. providing aid to known terrorist organizations?
His Most High Excellency: “I want to pose a question.” Emily rolling eyes. “If someone explodes bombs...kills your president and members of Congress... how would you treat them? It’s clear. You would call them terrorists.” “...Iran is a victim of terrorism. 26 years ago the president and prime minister lost their lives in terrorist bombs,...” more examples of terrorism. “That same terrorist organization is supported and secured by US...We need to address the root causes of terrorism and eradicate those causes.... We are a cultured nation, we don’t need to resort to terrorism.”
While, he never actually answered the question, he did refer to the US’s horrendous foreign policy and how it has jumped up to bite us in the ass over and over again.

Ok. I am boring MYSELf with this post. If you’re still reading, bless you. If not, me neither.

In closing, *hallelujah*, I’m glad Columbia invited him to speak. I think for the most part, he hung himself with the microphone wire. (“In Iran, we do not have homosexuals like you do in your country. We do not have this phenomenon. I don’t know who told you that we do .” BWAHAHAHA.) ahem.

Believe it or not, President Bush may have said the most intelligent thing about the forum, “Ahmadenijad’s appearance at Columbia speaks volumes about really the greatness of America."

This way-out, evil, manipulative, scary smart, ignorant, dumbass of a dictator came to an Ivy League college with US blood on his hands and spoke freely to a room of students, scholars, academics, and free press under the protection of our rights to free speech, and no one even attempted to assassinate him.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Chimera

I am a very vivid dreamer. So much so that I remember dreams I had when I was 6 and 7 years old. I remember the shirt I was wearing, the shade of green emanating from the horse I was riding, the music streaming in the background (Michael Jackson’s Thriller, if anyone is curious,) the circular door of the club house… My dreams are detail oriented, and all of the details have to line up in some way or another, or I won’t be able to convince myself to stay asleep. For instance, if my dream is taking place in 1889 in a town resembling the set of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman then there would be no paved roads, the air would smell of boiling laundry, cholera, and raw sewage (the Old West according to Emily’s psyche,) the players would all be dressed in period clothing, unless of course the point of the dream is to focus on someone’s individuality, then it would not be out of place for said person to don a Grateful Dead T-shirt and bell bottoms.

Most of the time, my dream life is a whimsical extension of my conscious self and the connection is seamless. Sometimes, my dreams are beneficial. I have come up with my most creative birthday party decorations in my slumber. I write in my sleep, so that when I wake up all I have to do is transpose the words onto paper. In fact, that is how I came up with my Jena poem.

Occasionally, (and occasionally is too often,) I have bad dreams. My unconscious mind attempts to deal with the incubuses that my conscious mind works at ignoring all day long. Usually, the horror of the dream is so terrible that I don’t want to look at it in the day light. I just want it to evaporate. This happened the other night.

My husband was out of town and I have to bring myself to the brink of exhaustion in order to sleep when he is away. I had been watching too much CNN on September 11, too many stories about the terrorists, their disregard for human life, the American families left reeling in the wake of the violence, and all of this through the looking glass for families in Iraq as they traverse their separate hell. When my eyes were heavy and stung with sleep, I turned the tv off and went to bed.

Note: I have wrestled with whether or not to write this down. I hate the idea of giving voice to my terror. But I have come to the conclusion that it may be cathartic for me to cleanse these images from the bowels of mind. If your dreams are as impressionable as mine, please stop reading. Go watch something completely benign, like You’ve Got Mail. Catch me on the next post.

Somewhere in the middle of the night, I found myself running barefoot through the streets of Baghdad, and to my horror, I was shuffling my beautiful daughters along with me. We were hidden underneath veils, looking for an apartment building where the ambassador was said to be smuggling US citizens out of the country to safety. The shards of sheet metal and glass on the streets cut my daughters’ feet and the blood stained dirt, I knew was like bread crumbs, leading “them,” (our nameless, faceless pursuers) to us.

We reached the building and found it empty, except for a few Iraqi children, seeking shelter. I scolded my daughter when she said, she’d be taking one of the little boys with us, and we left him there on the floor of the bombed out building. We finally found a gathering of people in an alley divided by a chain link fence. There was a truck and a hot air balloon siphoning people from the area. I begged them to let us go, to take my children. The woman assured me there would be another truck, but this one was full. After only a few moments, a man began writing names, graffiti style, on the wall; people who would be allowed on the next truck. He misspelled my middle daughter’s name, and then he wrote my oldest daughter’s name. I shouted and jumped in the air. They were getting out. And then I wondered why he hadn’t written my baby’s name and why she wasn’t in my arms. (My husband was out of town, remember.) In the next moment, the man writing on the wall, somersaulted down the alley and out of sight. Women grabbed their children and disappeared, quickly into doorways or fell on top of them in the street. A bomb had exploded. The trucks and hot air balloons sped away or were in fiery pieces on the ground. The soundtrack of diesel engines and gunfire and terrified people fell silent. Across the street, lay a familiar sight, earth shatteringly still: blonde curls, dimpled elbow, marshamallowy thighs. It was my baby.

I sat up, tears streaming down my face. Angry. Unable to breathe. Scared shitless.

Unable to shake it, this dream has set heavy on my chest since. I keep reminding myself that it was only a dream and doesn’t have any corporeal consequences.

And then, this morning in the kitchen, it occurred to me it is a very real nightmare for some. Mothers whose children wear US military uniforms. Iraqi mothers who put their children to bed in a war zone. Families who have received that most dreaded phone call with news from the front lines.

I don’t have an ending for this post. Mostly, I still sit here, tears streaming down my face. Angry. Unable to breathe…

Sunday, September 9, 2007

An Embarrassment of Riches

Tonight is one of those nights when a chilled glass of Colorado wine and Feist is the perfect pairing.

It’s been one of those weeks, (hectic, almost unbearable) the details of which are not interesting to anyone but me, and if I’m honest, they’re not even interesting to me.

I have a tendency to become harried in the face of a daunting to-do list. And by harried, I mean a panicky Howler Monkey with Tourette Syndrome, throwing things and yelling at others to read my mind or get out of my way.

I volunteer for a local non profit and we had our Annual Charity Golf Tournament this weekend where we hit up businesses in the area to sponsor holes or donate items for a drawing or send golfers to come and spend their money. I love the non profit I volunteer for. I truly believe in their cause, which is to help protect children from sexual assault, bully assault, and stranger abduction. What I don’t really believe in is the way we, and non profits in general, raise money. We spend so much money reserving a private golf course, catering meals, enticing golfers, pampering the rich, hoping that they will spend/donate more money than we are spending on them, so that we will have some left over to use for the program and the kids. I know, I know, “You have to spend money to make money.” Whatever. I just don’t like it. And, yes. We made money this weekend. I just hope it’s more than thirty-seven cents when all of the accounts are settled.

In one of my Panicked Howler Monkey moments, I decided to take a spin in one of the golf carts under the guise of “Checking on the Golfers.” I was of little help. I delivered water bottles to a couple of parched putters, but mostly I pissed off the serious golfers as they paused their game and waited for my cart to bobble across the fairway to ask how they were doing and if they needed anything. One gentleman just shooed me away with his hand. Cranky golfers.

I came across a section of the course where there were no tournament goers, no golf club members; just me and the native grasses butting up against the “rough,” and in the distance, the early morning Hot Air Balloons were taking flight. I felt very remote. And in that moment I remembered to be grateful. It was difficult. I didn’t immediately know of anything to be grateful for. I was sitting on a lush golf course, nestled up against the Rocky Mountains, watching the colorful balloons fade into the bright blue sky, the wind whispering against my neck, the Canada geese crooning their love for the earth overhead…and all I could think of was my litany of undone tasks.

I shut my eyes so that I could see a little better, and started from the beginning…
“I am grateful that I woke up, that this gorgeous morning isn’t unfolding beyond my door, beyond my consciousness. I am grateful for this moment where I am just Emily. I am grateful for the opportunity to be Mother and Wife. I am grateful for my girls, even if they weren’t mine, I’d be thankful just to be around them and the way they make life beautiful….

Several minutes later, I was still listing my bountiful benedictions with no end in sight when the green roof of a golf cart came over a hill a few dozen yards away. It was the Marshall, coming to tell me I had parked my cart directly on top of the delicate, recuperating lawn of hole 10 and could I please move.

I smiled, pretty sure he, himself is a cranky golfer in his free time. And as I carefully drove away, I was thankful for him, too, saving the grass that the geese love.

Grace Abundant.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

A Miscarriage of Justice

Another Belief Contradicted.

Dogma eyeballing forgiveness.

Gray highlighted in Jena,

Kindness lamented more.

None opposing prejudice,

Quelling reform.

Six turbulent, unheralded victims

Waiting xenium,

Yarrow zephyrs.

Slouching Mom challenged her readers at large to compose a poem consisting of 26 words, each beginning with a consecutive letter of the alphabet. As I have been thinking of the grotesque miscarriage of justice being carried out under the radar in a Louisiana court, I began to concoct my own word soup. I am not a poet, but I am willing to broaden my writing horizons.
A couple of explanations:

A xenium is a gift.

Yarrow is an herb that means healing.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Awake

I often wake up praying. I don’t know if it’s my fretful, fearful self trying to get one up on the prickly situations of the day ahead, or if it is my spiritual self, asserting positive energy and control. I’m afraid it’s more of the former.

This morning, I was praying for my 10 y.o. as she begins a new week at school. “…illuminate her golden spirit, allowing her true beauty to shine through and envelop those around her.” I spoke those words aloud as my eyelids hoisted themselves open.

Clearly my unconscious, spiritual self is an avid reader of late 19th century poetry. What does that mean, “illuminate her golden spirit…?” The absurd, Dickinsonian prayer ended abruptly as the cogs in my conscious mind began to whir and spin. “Just let her have a good day at school, today. And for all of the kids who make fun of her knobby knees, please curse them with acne and halitosis. Amen.”

More than one person, lately, has challenged my spirituality, causing me to make eye contact with what I believe. And I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to do this on a more regular basis. Too often, I walk through my life somewhat unconscious…rote. There are candidates I’m supposed to support as a Republican; assignments I have to complete because I am a mother; opinions I’m supposed to hold because I am a Christian…

But I don’t live in the pastel Precious Moments world where the sharp edges of life are porcelain bisque and all of its messiness can be summed up in a clever, inspirational quote.

I disagree with the Republican Party, right now: Health care is no kind of care at all. Kids are falling through the cracks. The war is a mess and doesn’t seem to be accomplishing what was set out to do. I don’t know that Democrats would do “better”, but I’m willing to try “different.”

Motherhood is an ever present and odd feathered hat, I wear. I love my girls immeasurably. I want them to be free but obedient, to take artistic license but follow directions, to enjoy their every whim but be acquainted with disappointment so that its not such a lumbering sparring partner when they are 30, to be respectful but to question authority, to be boisterously happy and quietly reflective, to suck the marrow from life but know when to let things go…

Eyeballing my Christianity has been the most enlightening. I have decided one thing for sure: God is God and I am not, (and I might add for the rest of you, Thank Goodness!) I often get in His way. I think a lot of Christians do, especially those “in charge.” I think God wants us to shut up and love people, instead of strong arming them into following our rules. I will support same sex marriage with my vote, because I think that’s what God lined out for us to do…to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the weary, essentially take care of each other. I’m afraid that denying anyone basic civil liberties is in contrast with the way God loves people. We, as Christians, are incorrectly portraying God as someone who ostracizes and exiles sections of society when the truth is that He embraces them, and we are massaging our homophobia by legislating homosexuals into a more comfortable corner for us…in the name of God. And, truth be told, if I had the right to decide who would be a fit parent/uphold the sanctity of marriage, there are plenty of heterosexuals who would be in the strike zone.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Table for Two

I took the baby to lunch, today. Come to think of it, we have gone to lunch everyday this week. A private party for the two of us since the girlies are back in school. She slept until almost 2, so we missed the lunch crowd. Thank goodness.

I have a really annoying habit of naming everything she picks up, points toward, or grunts at. It's a nervous tic. She grabbed ahold of my fork and started stirring the contents of my plate.

"Fork," I said and instantly regretted it.

"Fruck." She repeated and beamed.

"FORk." I enunciated.

"Fruck. Fruck. Fruck." My bright eyed, curly sue was cursing at me in triplicate.

She held the utensil up to the man sweeping the floor, "Fruck."
"Fruck!"

The frat boys at the table across the room started to snigger.

I just smiled.
"what the fruck."

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Authority

The girls are back in school. 4th and 5th grade. It is strange for me that they do things I can remember doing.

I had a wonderful teacher in 4th grade, Mrs. Tucker. She was very small and round, but I hadn’t enjoyed a growth spurt since preschool, so this endeared her to me. She was round, because she was pregnant and she had her baby on my birthday, that year, which made me love her even more. I felt like her favorite.

She was patient and kind and never raised her voice at the class, even though we were a smelly circus of 9 year olds. I remember someone had diarrhea as they sat at their desk. The smell was so strong, we had to evacuate the classroom, but no one would own up to it as the Principal and various administrators interrogated us in the hall. Can you imagine standing there, your pants filled with squishy, cold, shit… I wouldn’t have owned up to it, either…social suicide. I guess Mrs. Tucker understood this, and took over the Spanish Inquisition. She took us aside and spoke to each of us individually. Within minutes, we were all sitting at our desks again, she was reading Old Yeller, while an apple scented candle began to blanket the stench of barnyard animals and Pine Sol. To this day, I don’t know who the Phantom Shitter was. Had I been a clever child, I would have singled them out as being the only person suddenly sporting too big pants from the lost and found. Alas, I was not a clever child.

In 5th grade, I had the White Witch. Mrs. Stephens is proof that elementary education is a satisfying industry for the clinically sadistic.

I was gangly and awkward; too skinny; had brown, greasy hair; thick, thick glasses,…I could have been a JK Rowling character. Mrs. Stephens could smell the insecurity in my blood. She would stand me up in the front of the class and lecture them on the importance of hygiene and a balanced diet. I wanted to dissolve on the spot.

One afternoon, I came down with the stomach flu. I spiked a fever and was roughly the color of concrete. I asked her if I could go to the nurse’s station or the girls’ room and she said no. Of course. I could feel the choppy seas in my stomach turn over. I through my hands over my mouth to stem the tide and ran from the room, almost making it to the bathroom stall. When I was finished puking, I lay on the floor next to the toilet until I had the energy to walk back up the hall to the classroom so I could gather my things and call my Mom to pick me up. When I returned, Mrs. Stephens chided me for leaving class without permission and refused to let me call home. She was so efficient in her cruelty that I actually felt guilty for leaving the classroom, for throwing up, for disrespecting her that way.

It is because of Mrs. Stephens that I have revisited the idea of childhood obligation to respect authority. Adults abuse their authority. That’s why 33% of girls and 20% of boys are sexually assaulted before their 18th birthday.

I have instead taught my girls about their rights as individuals. They have the right to have ideas and goals and pursuits apart from anyone else. They have the right to feel safe and healthy. They have the right to be happy. They have the right to exercise their rights, or not. (The 10 year old is more hormonal than happy these days, and would rather not set herself apart from the pack by pursuing anything individual/uncool.) They do have the obligation to respect these rights in other people as well.

I am hoping that this philosophy will set the girls up to be well adjusted, self actualized individuals in need of as little therapy as possible in their thirties. But what do I know. I’m beginning to understand that all of these “parenting styles” are really just little social experiments. We adults are trying our damndest to appear as if we’re not making this up as we go. We don’t know what we’re doing. We’re just along for the ride, looking at our ticket stubs, hoping we’re not on the Titanic.