Monday, March 30, 2009

On the Surface

Last week, a few blocks from my house, an elderly couple died in their home.  They were prominent business people and livelong residents of our community.  Both graduated from the local high school.  He was 83, and she was 81.  They were very active in our church.  They had celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary a couple of weeks ago.  They had just come back from their winter home in Florida last Monday night.  

The police were summoned to their home overlooking the St. Croix River on Tuesday morning.  Evidently, their daughter and son-in-law had found the couple shot to death in what they believe was a murder-suicide.  They looked like they were sleeping.  

The theory behind this is that the man's health was failing, and his wife had early stage Alztheimer's.  It is believed that the man shot his wife while she was sleeping, and then shot himself.  No other facts about the case are being released.  

This has bothered me all week.  It's one of those things that I push to the back of my mind, but it stays there.  My mind insists on dwelling on it.  

Yesterday in church, our Pastor briefly mentioned the matter.  He is of the opinion that so many of us are preoccupied with the economy and our day-to-day tasks that we don't notice how others might be suffering.  We need to be aware that others may need our help.  

I went out today to run errands.  I actually put my hair up and makeup on.  I watched the people out and about.  I saw an elderly couple at the grocery store pharmacy, sitting on a bench waiting for a prescription to be filled.  They both had canes, and she was telling her husband (I assume) about how she couldn't sleep last night.  He reached out and put his hand on her knee.  I watched them waiting there together at the pharmacy.  

In the frozen food aisle, there was a young couple dawdling over the frozen vegetables.  The man was cracking some sort of joke, and the woman hugged him from behind.  I watched them smiling and hugging while grocery shopping together.  

I can't imagine what it is like to have a soul mate for 60 years.  To have a lifetime of memories and suddenly be facing an uncertain future.  Did they not want to live without each other?  Was one of them suffering more than anyone else knew?  Why would someone do this?  

We only know what we see on the surface.  What goes on inside the houses with the manicured yards?  What is going on in the mind of a person as they are celebrating 60 years of marriage?  What causes people to snap and do the unthinkable?  We may never know.  

And what lesson is to be learned from all of this?  I haven't got a clue.  

A man and a woman shared a life for 60 years and it ended tragically in a beautiful home overlooking the St. Croix River.  Whatever burdens they were carrying are gone now.  New burdens have been put into place for the loved ones they left behind.  I want to believe that a great love was the cause of this act.   

Life, for the rest of us, goes on.  The sun rises in the east and sets in the west.  We go about our lives.  And I hope, wherever this couple is now, that they are together free from the troubles of this life.  

"Oh my, justifying reasons why is an absolutely insane resolution to live by . . . And oh, let's take it easy and celebrate the malleable reality because nothing is ever as it seems, this life is but a dream.  Live high, live mighty, life righteously."  Lyrics from "Live High" by Jason Mraz  

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


I am always amazed at the number of emails I get when I haven't blogged for a week.  I thought I'd write a short post since you haven't heard a "peep" out of me for awhile.  

You see, the daughter started French lessons this week.  We've also had to take her dance costume in to a seamstress for alterations.  The son got into an altercation at school yesterday and his glasses got stepped on necessitating a trip to the optical center.  By some small miracle, they were able to straighten them out enough so that they are wearable.  Things have been busy here with all the havoc that two kids are capable of wreaking.  

I will write a longer post when I have something more exciting to blog about.  Hopefully soon.  

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

My Mother, Myself

"What the daughter does, the mother did."  Jewish Proverb  

If I said that the last couple of days were challenging for me, it would be a massive understatement.  Darling daughter got sick on Saturday.  It started with a sore throat followed by a low-grade fever.  On Sunday morning, she threw up the Motrin that I had given her for the fever.  She slept most of the day.  In the afternoon, the fever reached 103 degrees, and I dragged her kicking and screaming to Urgent Care.  She was miserable.  She hates throat swabs.  She was dizzy and a bit incoherent.  We got a wonderful nurse who was gentle with the throat swab.  The minute the nurse was gone, the daughter threw up all over the exam room.  There was no wastebasket for me to put in front of her, and I had to hold her up because she was dizzy, and I had to hold her still and hold her hair back.  The doctor walked into the room to find a scene straight out of a horror movie.  They rushed us into another exam room.  An antibiotic was prescribed.  The doctor gave us an "Emesis Containment Bag" - the technical term for barf bag - with bright red and black biohazard signs emblazened on it and sent us home.  

I spent the majority of Sunday night sleeping in the living room by the daughter just in case she needed to get up and became dizzy.  She managed to keep her antibiotic down that night, thank goodness.  By the time yesterday morning rolled around, I was pretty much a walking zombie who bore an uncanny resemblance to Medusa.  The daughter got up and drank some water and immediately threw up.  

I got my son ready for school.  While waiting for the bus, the son got his bike out of the garage and rode it up and down the sidewalk and driveway.  Just before the bus came, he hit one of the last remaining patches of ice and fell ripping the knee of the last good pair of jeans he owns.  The knee was badly scraped and bleeding.  I would have to drive him in to school.  

Twenty minutes later, after getting the daughter settled down, and the son's knee cleaned and bandaged, I drove him to school.  I had to turn in yearbook payments yesterday, so I walked in to the school with my son.  We had to wait outside for a minute before the bell rang.  We stood next to a woman who is a recess monitor at the school.  My son, who is one of the most amiable and outgoing kids you will ever find, saw her and said, "Hi Recess Monitor!"  She got an annoyed look on her face and said, "Well, if it isn't 'Mr. I-Didn't-Do-It'."  I watched her smirk and look very proud of herself.  

Now, I know that my son works hard to cultivate his reputation as a troublemaker.  He is not an angel by any stretch of the imagination.  But lately I noticed that he has been getting sent to the guidance counselor's office for relatively minor infractions of the rules at school.  I volunteer at school, and I see reports on the other students for far worse offenses, and they get off with mere warnings.  Things were becoming very clear to me as I stood looking at the Recess Monitor from Hell.  

I have a temper that I can usually keep under control.  But from time to time, it almost seems like there is a "clutch" in my brain that disengages all control that my brain has over my mouth.  This was one of those times.  After taking a second to consider what the repercussions would be if I lambasted this woman, I decided that her smirk and her weird hairstyle were my welcome mat to a temporary insanity defense.  With my left hand on my hip, my right index finger pointing and searing eye contact, I looked at her and said, "Lay off my son."  I didn't recognize my own voice.  I scared myself.  

And then the bell rang.  The Monitor looked as if all the blood had drained from her face.  She put a protective arm around each of her daughters and hurried them into school.  I told my son to have a good day.  His brown eyes looked like they were dancing.  He saw and admired what I had just done.  He gave me a smile and wave and dashed off to his classroom.  

As I reached the school office, I looked up to see the Monitor walking down the hallway and looking back over her shoulder at me.  I gave her a look that said, "Yes, I'm still watching you."  

I felt exhausted.  Before 9 am, I had been thrown-up on, bled on and nearly in a smackdown with a woman who is larger than I am.  When I got back out to the car, I caught my reflection in the rearview mirror.  I saw my mother staring back.  My mother is a rollercoaster.  You simply never know from minute to minute whether she's going to go along at a leisurely pace or throw you around a curve.  Sometimes you can feel yourself chugging upward just before a freefall.  And you're turned upside down quite a bit.  But in all our years together, she has been my biggest defender.  

I remember being a little girl with thick glasses and unruly hair who used to get picked on at school.  And I remember my mother getting in my face and saying, "My kids are the best damn things that ever walked the earth.  Now get out there and stand up for yourself."  She simply could not understand why I would ever let other kids intimidate me.  I remember being frightened in new situations, and my mother would get in my face and say, "You've got two legs and a mouth, don't you?  Use them!"  My mother is brash and direct and doesn't have a subtle bone in her body.  Patience was not her strong suit.  She is a force to be reckoned with.  

I have a memory of my Mom that I treasure.  When I was in fourth grade, she bought me ice skates and took a friend and me to Lake Park to skate.  The problem was, I had never been on ice skates in my life.  I couldn't even stand up.  Mom had been watching me from the car.  She strode out onto the ice and picked me up.  My friend was skating circles around us.  Mom pointed at her and said, "Just do what she's doing."  Then she lit a cigarette and held it in the air with two fingers of her left hand and her right arm crossed in front of her.  It was as though she thought she could make me skate by sheer force of will.  Don't think about things - just do them.  There is a line from one of the "Star Wars" movies that always reminds me of my Mom.  Yoda is teaching Luke Skywalker to be a Jedi, and he says, "Do or do not . . . There is no try."  My Mom, the Jedi Master.  The force is definitely strong in her.  

I have so many good memories of my Mom when I was growing up.  She taught me to embroider.  I can still see her taking a dishtowel and using a round cap from a pill bottle and a pencil to draw a bunch of grapes for me to embroider.  She would buy me paint-by-number kits and we would paint together for hours.  It was my Mom who would hold up math flashcards and drill me on them.  It was my Mom that I would call and cry to when things would go wrong.  And she would always tell me that "You might as well laugh through grief as cry though it."  She knocks me down and straightens me back up.  

A few years ago, I wrote my Mom a letter on Mother's Day.  I typed out all the reasons why I felt she was a wonderful mother.  In 20 minutes, I had typed two pages full of reasons - single spaced.  I mailed it to her.  I was so proud of myself.  I was sure she would love it.  She called me after she got it.  She told me she wanted me to sign it and have it notarized because she didn't believe that I wrote it.  But I know that she liked it.  If you are looking for hearts and flowers from my Mom, you are "barking up the wrong tree" as she would say.  

They say that God chooses a mother for each baby that is born.  God finds one that is perfect for us and who will give us everything we need.  There have been times in life when my relationship with my mother made me say, "Lord, what were you thinking?"  But now that I am a mother, I am surprised at how wise she's always been.  She instilled a strong sense of self in me.  Whenever someone tries to knock me down in any way, there is this part of me that is like a punching bag with sand in the bottom of it.  It takes the hit and comes back full force.  

I feel in a strange way that the altercation with the Monitor has earned me some "Mom stripes".  My son knows that I've got his back, and I am also a force to be reckoned with.  

My mother would be proud.  

"The formative period for building character for eternity is in the nursery.  The mother is queen of that realm and sways a scepter more potent that that of kings or priests."  Author Unknown  

"The tie which links mother and child is of such pure and immaculate strength as to be never violated."  Washington Irving  

Friday, March 13, 2009


I found this video on another knitting blog today, and I cried all the way through it.  The beauty of it is overwhelming.  Here are the lyrics followed by the video:  

I was a little girl alone in my little world who dreamed of a little home for me.
I played pretend between the trees, and fed my houseguests bark and leaves, and laughed in my pretty bed of green. 

I had a dream
That I could fly from the highest swing.
I had a dream.

Long walks in the dark through woods grown behind the park, I asked God who I'm supposed to be. 
The stars smiled down on me, God answered in silent reverie. I said a prayer and fell asleep. 

I had a dream
That I could fly from the highest tree.
I had a dream.

Now I'm old and feeling grey. I don't know what's left to say about this life I'm willing to leave.
I lived it full and I lived it well, there's many tales I've lived to tell. I'm ready now, I'm ready now, I'm ready now to fly from the highest wing.

I had a dream

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Fire and Anxiety

In yesterday's blog, I mentioned that I was going to my daughter's third grade class to deliver cupcakes and read a book.  While getting ready to go, I started a fire in my bathroom when my ceramic hair straightener blew up.  If the universe was trying to scare me to death, it succeeded.  I was simply going about the business of straightening my hair when I heard a loud pop and saw a small orange fireball come out of the outlet and land on the bathroom vanity.  I immediately put the fire out with a hand towel, and then I began hitting myself on the head with the hair towel - just in case my hair had caught on fire.  (What I wouldn't give for a video of that!)  I unplugged the straightener and made sure there was no fire anywhere.  Since I had to go to school, I ran the straightener outside and threw it in the snow so it wouldn't catch anything else on fire.  (I'm sure the elderly lady that saw me swearing at the Japanese beetles last summer saw it, and I'm once again setting the senior citizen coffee klatch at the Target Food Court abuzz with rumors of my mental instability.)  

I always used to wonder about that weird warning on certain toiletries that says "Do not spray into open flame."  Now, I realize that they were really talking directly to me and others that like to start bonfires in their bathroom sinks.  

The rest of the day was better.  This morning, I was looking forward to getting back into my morning routine.  The last couple of days, the son has been having an upset stomach and insisting that he has to go to the bathroom a lot at school and in the morning at home.  On Monday, the school nurse called and had me pick him up from school.  Yesterday morning, I had to drive him to school because he missed the bus while he was in the bathroom.  This morning, he did the same thing.  I had been emailing his teacher about this because he acts this way when he is nervous about something.  (The poor child spent the majority of three days in the school bathroom before his kindergarten concert in December.)  We just had to find out what was causing his anxiety.  Finally, on the way into school this morning, he told me that there is this boy on the bus who hits smaller kids.  I know he had knocked Joe's glasses off in the past because Joe wanted to be the first one off the bus when they got to school.  Apparently, the abuse has continued, and that is the cause of all the stomach problems.  The school guidance counselor is having a little talk with the perp today.  Hopefully, this will solve the problem.  

I'm really hoping that this is the end of all the falls, the fires and the bullying around here.  I'm sure that tomorrow will hold some more mayhem - I see it's Friday the 13th.  I may just stay in bed with the cat and the covers over my head all day.  

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Jumping Through Hoops and Missing the '70s

"Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you."  Maori proverb  

I'm stressing out . . . I have to deliver cupcakes and read "The Lorax" by Dr. Seuss to 25 third graders this morning.  The darling daughter is Star of the Week this week, and she's loving it.  Today is her turn to bring a treat (the cupcakes) and have a parent come to class and either read a book or share a special talent with the class.  Since the third graders wouldn't be interested in learning shorthand (a lost art if there ever was one), baton twirling (another dying art form), or how I can speak pig latin like nobody's business, I'm going to read a book to celebrate Dr. Seuss's birthday and hopefully communicate the need to save our environment.  

This whole thing caused me to think back to my grade school years.  What a simpler time.  Here's a little video I found of a song that will forever remind me of the '70s and a sunny summer day.  Enjoy!

"Those laughing lighthearted tunes, oh, sometimes they turn to blues.  So tell yourself a joke or two 'cause everyday invites you to find your place in the sun."  Lyrics from "Find Your Place in the Sun" by Pablo Cruise  

Friday, March 6, 2009

I've Almost Made It!

Friday of spring break week . . . the kids have completely broken my spirit.  I finally lost it in the grocery store this afternoon.  In the spice aisle.  I can't even remember what my son did, but I jerked him by the arm, got in his face and yelled, "Knock it off!  I shouldn't have to put up with you!"  He finally paid attention.  And when I got up from kneeling, I saw three women with their grocery carts staring at me disapprovingly.  My daughter picked up on this and said, "Someone might take us away from you for being mean to us."  I let it go.  

At the checkout, my son wandered off.  I told his sister to find him.  She came back after a halfhearted search and said, "I couldn't find him.  I think someone took him."  I replied, "It won't take them long to send him back" as I paid for the groceries.  The older lady at the checkout almost died laughing.  I found him talking to a cardboard cutout of a soldier at an Army recruiting desk.  He gave the cardboard soldier a hug and asked if we could take it home.  

Part of my bad mood is because I feel like I've been hit by a semi.  I fell when I was taking the recycling out to the curb yesterday morning.  I am bruised and sore.  I fell right on the cement sidewalk on a small patch of clear ice from all the thawing and freezing that we've had here this week.  I can hardly move my neck and shoulders.  Just what I needed this week.  

I took the kids to a jumper castle place this morning for an hour and a half.  It was loaded with kids of every age and size.  The kids had a blast.  I sat and knit and finished sewing up a baby bootie that I've knit out of suede yarn and some yarn that looks like sheepskin.  It is supposed to look like a tiny Ugg boot.  I wasn't sure if my gauge was quite right - it looks a bit large, but six people walked up to me wanting to see it and asked me a ton of questions about it.  One lady who had brought her grandson told me, "It is better than anything you could buy in a store."  No one has ever told me that about something I made.  It made my day.  

After the jumper castles, the kids wanted to go to the animal shelter and look at the pets.  The daughter fell in love with a wonderful cat there.   She promised to pay for it with her allowance.  I reminded her that she didn't even want to feed the cat we already have, and she swore up and down that she would take care of this cat.  When I explained that we couldn't get another cat, she started crying, and I had to drag her out of the shelter.  What did I expect?  I knew going to the shelter was a bad idea.  My daughter is just like me.  When I go to bed tonight and close my eyes, I will see the little faces inside their cages.  Their eyes all look bewildered, and I know they are still wondering how they got there.  They have been treated as though they are expendable.  Worthless.  Thrown out like trash.  Living in a cage.  But, sad as that is, they are at least in a clean environment and being well cared for.  

We looked at the dogs.  For some reason, there were an awful lot of nasty loud pit bulls there this time.  The kids fell in love with this Akita mix.  She didn't bark.  But she was young, and she wasn't trained  yet because she had gone to the bathroom all over her pen, and she was stepping in it and tracking it all over.  It was then and there that I decided that I would probably never have a dog.  Though there was one sweet labrador in the next pen.  She was ten years old, and her owner had become ill and was no longer able to take care of her.  She was wearing a bandana around her neck, and she looked so sad.  One of her eyes was matted.  Her name was Lucy.  I will be saying prayers all night that she finds a wonderful home.  It is so hard for the older animals to find a good home.  I just can't understand why people buy animals when there are so many wonderful ones in shelters that desperately need homes.  

If any of you know anyone looking for a wonderful cat or a sweet labrador or two really cute but naughty kids, please let me know.  Okay, I'm joking about the kids - they aren't that cute.  (Joking!)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A True Rarity

Behold a photo of our entire family.  No one is blinking - although the cat is trying to get away from me.  No one has any black eyes or scratches.  It is a flattering photo of everyone.  Here's the proof that this does happen in life.  

Don't I have a beautiful family?  

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

OMG Moment of the Day

My son is playing pirates, and he wanted a belt to put on and carry his sword in.  I had cleaned out my closet not long ago and got rid of almost all my pre-childbirth clothing, but I saved an old belt.  I gave it to my son, and he looked at it and then looked at me.  He said nothing.  He put the belt on, and IT WAS SNUG on him.  A six-year-old boy who is a very normal height and weight - not husky.  Granted, it was over his jeans and sweatshirt.  But still . . . 

It was snug.  

I'm bronzing that belt when he's done playing with it.  

Monday, March 2, 2009

A Relaxing Spring Break

Ten a.m. on the first day of spring break.  I was determined that we have a schedule of events to keep us busy throughout the week.  

This morning, we made homemade playdoh with the Kitchenaid mixer.  (I love my Kitchenaid mixer with a love usually reserved for cashmere and silk yarns, rosewood knitting needles, leather purses and rum raisin Haagen Dazs ice cream.)  I made the mistake of letting the kids "help".  I think I see flour on my vaulted ceiling.  There is flour and salt on the counter, on the floor and in my son's hair.  The cat just walked by, and she has pink playdoh on her head.  

There has been one screaming fit from me when the son decided to use a chair as a trampolene.  One crying fit from the son when his sister smacked him in the ear for some unknown reason.  And there is an eight-year-old girl on the sofa who suffers from the delusion that the rest of us in her realm are put here to wait on her hand and foot.  

This too shall pass.  Life is finite.  I hate spring break.