Sunday, January 16, 2011

cha cha change

Change is inevitable, isn't it? Then why is it so damned hard? Recently, there have been some rock-my-world changes in my life. As I look back at these changes, I wonder, "Who thought this would be a good idea?"

I guess the biggest problem with change, as I see it, is this:
1. Change is good if I choose it.
2. Change can be rotten if someone else decides how and what to change in my life!
3. Why can't I change the ridiculous things that I'd like to change - like my height?

I'd better go back to bed. I've got to figure out how to wrap my head around this stuff. I'll let you know how it all turns out!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

are you brave enough to be really happy?

I recently had a conversation with a good friend. We haven't seen each other for a while. We were talking about the changes that our lives had gone through. We've grown - wiser, older, smarter, more beautiful and more comfortable in who we are. Mostly, we are happy. Happier.

We talked a lot about our roles as women in the world today. Our mothers, grandmother, and aunts fought the fight so we could "have everything." The problem is, we don't really want everything.

But still... we work until we can't see, and we parent competitively, and we are wives to men who are willing to step into our world and forgive us when we seem to go a little crazy... and I'm not sure we're happy.

So, what does it take to be happy?

Are you happy?

Are you honest with yourself? Do you have the courage to be honest about what you want in this life? Be really honest - to yourself, to your spouse or partner, to your children, to your family, to your co-workers, to your neighbors, to every single person in your life about what makes you happy?

What did it/does it take to make you happy?

I haven't had the courage recently to do what I need to do to make myself happy. Oh, I spend a lot of time making everyone ELSE happy - my boss LOVES my hard work, my students KNOW that I am always there for them, my husband can COUNT ON me for everything from dinner plans to unshakeable love, my children find SAFETY in my love for them, my parents trust that I will ANSWER every question quickly and with the answers that the EXPECT...

But what about me? I don't even think that I know what makes ME happy anymore. When I have 10 minutes quiet time, I am afraid to dream about those things that make me happy, because I am afraid that I am going to be disappointed.


I have a challenge. It is a challenge that I I am going to take, too.

Set your timer for 5 minutes. Take out a piece of paper and write. Write every word that describes you. Write and write and write and write.

Now. Take that same list and start to highlight - start with the ones you like - or the ones that you don't like, it doesn't matter. These are all part of you.

Here's the challenge. Whittle it down to one word. One word that describes you today. This word doesn't have to describe you tomorrow or when you were a teenager or what you'll be like as a grandparent. Just a word that describes you NOW.

Once you've got that single word, write that word on a post-it note. Now, slap that post-it note on your chest like a name badge. Do you have the courage to wear that word all day long? If you do - come back here and write about it.

What did people say? How did you tell people about that word? Were you honest? How much courage does it take to be really really happy?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

willy and roxie

I love our house. I've been browsing blogs tonight - I love this task and so rarely have the time anymore - anyway, as I said, I've been blog hopping and I've realized, as I saw all of the gorgeous photos of homes and such, I love my house.

(I'll post photos sometime soonish - maybe.)

Our house was built in 1902. It is rumored to have been a rectory for the Catholic church some blocks away, and was thought to have been moved in the early '20s to this spot. It feels like my grandparents homes. Both sets of grandparents' homes. Little snippets here and there. It smells like family. It smells like dust and chicken dinners and coffee for friends and children and crayons and pledge and pets and work and music...

This house has only ever seen girls raised here. The last family had 4 girls. That was when Willy and Roxie owned the home. They bought it in 1960 and sold it in 2005, to us.

It needs work, but it's ours. And we are so lucky.

I'll share more later, but I didn't want to forget to be thankful for something so important. It shelters us and keeps us warm and together and feels like home and family. Lots of family and shared, happy memories.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

the fast and low-down

So. Time goes really fast. Crazy fast. It's good. I'm happy. I'm busy. I feel like I am doing something that matters to someone. To lots of people, actually.

I love being a mom. My girls are so spectacular. They are loving school, and being so wonderfully successful. I love the time that we get to spend together at dinner! I look forward to hearing everyone chime in with what they learned that day. Yaya chimes in and is so thrilled to finally be in school. Noni and Via are thriving. We are planning parties and sleep-overs and all that stuff. Via (10 yrs old), was asked if she wanted to date a boy at school. Luckily, she said "No." There will be no dating until she's 16, then it will be group dates only.

We are making lots of trips to piano lessons, and brownies, and gymnastics, and swimming lessons, and church choir. Then there are play dates and ... you get the idea! It's rich and lovely and I am in bliss.

School is going really well. I love teaching. I feel like I was ... called to be a teacher. I am teaching 4 sections of theater to kids K - 6. I am also teaching math and reading in an RTI block. I've got a tremendous bunch of 4th grade students. We actually have conversations, these kids and I - questioning and thinking and working on math and reasoning through lit questions... Sounds kooky, I know. But I really love these kids.

The next challenge and shining moment in my life are the kids that I am mentoring. Our school had low NCBA test scores and is in danger of being re-configured (yikes!) so we (the staff) have all chosen to mentor the students with the lowest test scores. I have chosen 2 girls - same family - and I dig these kids. The hardest part part is knowing that these lovely little people go home to such hell, it's breaking my heart.

Without telling you all too much, I want to share their story. Mom is an alcholic/drug addict. She is single parenting 4 children. The youngest is an angelic little boy in 2nd grade and there are 3 older sisters (I think that's all the kids at home, but hwo knows?). It's really no big surprise that these kids come to school unprepared. How could anyone be ready to learn when you never know what kind of chaos is waiting at home?! I've given the girls my phone number - the youngest girl calls me every night to "check her homework." I'm pretty certain that what she really wants is anything BUT homework help.

Last Monday, the children returned to school. We've managed to completely catch up th youngest girl - homework in on time for the first time in years! But the little boy... he wasn't in school. His sisters said that he'd been hurt over the weekend. When all of the pieces of the story were put together, we learned that one of the older children had jumped on this little boy. The mother - who may or may not have been home at any point during the weekend, has not taken the child to the doctor. We think that his collar bone is broken. It's happened before, the kids say. The boy came to school on Tuesday. His arm was in a sling. He is in obvious pain.

We've told all of the authorities, but I worry so much about these children. They are kind and loving and simply want to belong to a family that offers safety and security and comfort and love. Daddyman and I talked about fostering - we don't have the room, yet. But oh, if the world works it's magic, these children will be placed with a family that can love and care for them. A family that will offer these children the safety and security that they deserve. A family that they can count on to do the right thing.

Until that happens, I will continue to answer the phone for "homework help." I will try to help these children learn so that they can make the most of their lives. I will help them learn to love to learn so that they can see their own future - a future that is different from the one they live in now!

So now, I am really tired. I am tired and I am going to take care of myself tonight and go to sleep.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

the great minnesota get together...

So. This is where we lost Ava. The Minnesota State Fair. One minute, she was there. The next minute, she was gone.

As I looked over this enormous sea of people, I couldn't even begin to think about where to start looking for her. I put the two older girls at a corner and insisted that they STAY PUT! They held hands and held their breath. And Rick and I ran in circles shouting Ava's name at the top of our lungs.

Other parents seeing what was going on started searching as well.

If felt like HOURS.

Shouting and running and looking. Running in circles. Shouting like crazy people.

Then, I stopped at a ticket booth. "How can I find my child?" I shouted through the bullet proof glass. "I can't find my daughter! She's too little to be here alone. She's only 4 years old! I can't find her."

They were calm and gentle and efficient. The sweet smelling lady in the blue t-shirt picked up her walkie-talkie and started talking to people at other ticket booths. Have you seen...? She's really little... Yes, pink dress...

Calling and talking and paging.

Then, someone called back.

"We think we found her." the quiet voice crackeled on the other end.

The lady in blue picked up the phone to get the details in private. Trying not to frighten me. I am shaking and tears are running down my hot cheeks. There are too many of us in this tiny ticket booth. Everyone is trying to be calm. They talk too quietly. I am very afraid. I hear everyone breathing.

Then, the nice lady hung up the phone and turned to me. "Is her name Ava?"

I could only nod.

"They've found her. She's OK. She's at the East ticket booth. Mike will take you there now."

I don't know if I said thank you. I had to run to keep up with Mike. He looked to be about 72 - short, maybe an ex-marine. As we walked-ran-darted through the crowd to where we hoped to find Ava, he said, too quietly, "you'd be surprised how many people this happens too. We'll be there in just a minute. Can you keep up?"

I couldn't see anything through my tears. I wasn't breathing. I was frantic. I'm so glad that he kept talking. It gave me something to hold onto. Something to follow through all of the sweaty State Fair visitors.

Then, there she was. In the arms of a very nice looking woman. She wasn't crying. She wasn't talking or fighting to get out of her arms. She was just waiting. I heard the woman say, "Don't worry, sweetheart. They'll find your mom. Mom's sometimes get lost at the fair."

"OK" was her tiny answer.

Then I had her in my arms. I was squeezing her and holding her and crying into her sweaty hair.

The nice woman patted my arm, and said, "Everything will be OK now, mom. You found her." Two college girls showed up from across the street. "Are you her mom? We were really worried. We saw her standing here. She was lost. We didn't know what to do. You're her mom, right?"

"Yes. Yes! I'm her mom!"

Then Mike turned me around and started steering me back to the other ticket booth. The last place I'd seen my other children. I hadn't even told Rick I had her. I hadn't told anyone where I was going. I just went.

Mike reached over and patted my shoulder. "Remember, it's not her fault. She didn't mean to get lost."

"I know." I said. "I know. She's only four years old. It was my fault. My fault that Ava got lost. It wasn't her fault at all."

I was calling Rick on his cell phone when we turned the corner. He had his cell phone in his hand to call me. He looked like I felt. Then he cried when he saw Ava in my arms.

Then, a doughy lady and her pasty husband, along with their 5 children, held Rick's hand and said, "I new something bad was happening when I heard you calling for your daughter. You looked so frightened. I started praying right then that God would bring her back to you safely. We all prayed."

"Yes we did," said the husband, nodding his head gently.

"God answered our prayers today at the Minnesota State Fair."

Thank you. Thank you for praying. Thank you for looking. Thank you for caring about one family's daughter. Thank you sweet smelling lady with the quiet voice. Thank you Mike who led me through the crowd. Thank you to the moms and dads that saw our panic and started to search with us. Thank you young girls who knew that something wasn't right about a four year old girl standing alone at the Fair. Thank you nice woman who told my daughter that it would be ok, mom's get lost sometimes. Thank you praying lady for caring enough to stop what you were doing and care for Rick and our family. Thank you, God, for teaching us how precious our children are and how quickly our lives could change.

15 minutes.

This whole thing lasted 15 minutes.

What do you do if you loose your child for a lifetime?

Ava is snuggled in bed, waiting for me to tuck her in. I am so thankful that she is safe. I have a whole new prayer to say tonight.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


Sometime, I find that I am gasping for air.


Not breathing.

Nothing involuntary.

Nothing gentle.

When did breathing become such a difficult thing to do? I am working really hard to just master the involuntary action of breathing in and out, in and out.

School starts on Tuesday. Had a vicious prep week last week. Mom and Dad home from the Lake. Friends on the edge. Children gone mad!

In and out.

In and out.

My mother tells me I am gasping for air.

Yes. I am.

I forget to breathe.

I am too busy holding may breath, sucking my stomach in, trying to look like I've got my life together - like everything is rosy and happy and good.

In and out.


in and out.

in, in, in, in, in, in,

in and out.

How can a person forget to breathe?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

the 1, 2, 3's of family vacations

I am vacationing with the Littles at the family cabin in Northern Minnesota. It's so beautiful. The lake is crystal clear. There are enough people near us that we don't feel lost. However, it is never a vacation for mom. It is crazy busy! And I love it.

For those of you who have never ventured into the Northwoods with a gaggle of little people, here is your primer:

One - canoe to the bridge.
8:42 AM
Note: must find 4 different sized life jackets to fit 4 different sized people. Fail to find an adult life jacket. Spend 20 minutes discussing the reasons why mom can sit on her life jacket and children must wear their life jackets.
Note: must find 2 paddles. One might have to use a kayak paddle. Teach oldest child the art of the J stroke. Give up. Just pray that the wind doesn't pick up so we can make it back to the cabin.
Note: Swimming at the sandy beach at the bridge really is fun when mommy finally decides to relax.

Two - race to the merry-go-round.
11:14 AM
note: Mommy does NOT ride this merry-go-round. It spans exactly 2 feet across resulting in approx 4000rpm.

Three - practice with the kayak. 12:02 PM
note: See one.
Note: Practicing with the Kayak only works with one child per Kayak. There can be no learning when one is balancing on the front end of the kayak.

12:14 PM
Four - dig in sand & create amazing 4 story sand castle.

Note: Can't find sand toys. Make do with large spoons from drawer. Don't forget to return them after beach time.
Note: avoid sand fleas. Don't forget the pain and tears of last year.

Five - set up and play badminton.
12:27 PM
Note: give up on the beach idea. Sand flea idea is too scary. No one willing to put knees or fingers in the sand. Must find all pieces to assemble badminton net. Must find mallet to hammer the spikes into the solid clay. Must find 4 badminton rackets. Settle for 3 rackets and one tennis racket that is missing most of its strings. Mom gets tennins racket. Must find 2 birdies. Must retrieve birdies from roof of cabin or branches of trees multiple times. Smile.

Six - snarf down lunch. 3:32 PM
Note: it's 3:32 PM. Mom forgot that small children need to eat lunch. Bonus: When we eat this late, children will eat anything.
Note: Did mom also forget the sunscreen? We'll see.

4:00 PM
Seven - start fire in fire pit at beach.

Note: Time to start dinner. Roasting hot dogs and marshmallows and anything else that will cling to a stick over a crackling fire.
Note: When lunch is served at 3:32 PM, children won't eat hotdogs that are roasted at 4:20 PM. Haul all of the leftovers back up to the cabin. Save the hotdogs for fishing off the dock tomorrow morning. Yes, children, some fish will eat hot dogs.

5:30 PM
Eight - pour large cocktail and collapse into the lawn chair.

Note: This is only for the Mom! Children get water, milk or juice.

nine, ten and 11 - kids are on their own.
Note: This should need no explanation.