This week was the last week of ballet class for my daughter before the Christmas break. Every year, we give a small gift to her dance teacher and send candy for the other students. This year, my daughter mentioned that no one in the class wanted to give their ballet teacher a gift. "She's too mean" was the explanation.
I had been observing this ballet class since it started in September. The teacher is a young woman who is a professional dancer with a ballet company on the west side of the Twin Cities. She avoids eye contact with parents, she is sharp and direct with the students, and there is a brittleness about her. Whenever I've spoken to her, she looks as if she is about to break. She never looks happy.
She is an excellent dancer. Whenever I watch her perform a combination for the students, my heart literally aches with the desire to be back in a ballet class (after 28 years). But even her perfect technique can't mask the unhappiness I see when I look at this young woman. She reminds me of an ensiform leaf on an iris: tall and graceful, but also resembling a blade with sharp edges and a pointed tip.
She is a stickler for rules. The students' hair must be in a bun, and the bun must be secure. If a student makes a mistake, she will draw attention to it. She once told my daughter that she should know her right from her left by now - something my daughter still gets confused about. I blame her lefthandedness for it. One brave girl once asked her why she was so fussy. I must confess I had wondered this myself. The teacher explained, "When you walk into my studio, you are dancers. You will conduct yourselves as such." No one has asked her another question since.
So, when the subject of a gift for this teacher came up in a conversation with my daughter, she confessed that no one wanted to get her a gift. I asked her what she thought would be the right thing to do. She asked me to get the teacher something - but something small. :)
We went shopping and found a silver necklace chain with little circular charms that go onto the necklace. You can pick different charms, and they are all engraved with a word. We picked four charms for the dance teacher: inspire, spirit, achieve and harmony. I wrapped the necklace, and my daughter made a card for the dance teacher. It had pictures of a Christmas tree, ballet shoes, presents, and a poem: "Roses are red, violets are blue. You are a great teacher, and you rock too." She also included a snowflake ornament that she made out of shiny pipe cleaners and pony beads and ribbon.
After ballet class, my daughter came out of the studio wearing her new dance costume for the spring recital. She was so excited. The dance is Sleeping Beauty, and the costumes are a dreamy confection of all different shades of blue with a long tutu and a sequined top. Beautiful. After she showed me the costume, she remembered that she had forgotten to give the teacher her gift. We walked back to the studio, and the teacher was there alone. Kate gave her the gift bag and smiled. The teacher looked shocked. Then her eyes filled with tears, and she started to sob before she put her hand to her face and turned away from us. She managed to choke out the words "thank you". Kate looked at me, and I told the teacher to have a Merry Christmas, then I took Kate by the arm, and we went back to the lobby.
We were taking Kate's costume off and packing it up, and another dance class came in and was getting ready for class. The dance teacher came out to get the next class, and she was wearing the necklace. And she was smiling.
When we got out to our car to go home, Kate told me, "I'm really glad I gave her a present." Me too.
This holiday season, please be kind to others. You never know what unhappiness is in someone's heart. A smile or a nice gesture from you could make all the difference in the world to another person. And we are all worthy of love and understanding.
Yesterday morning, my son had a flag football game. We had to arrive an hour and 45 minutes early for practice and individual and team photos. I stood with the other mothers filling out forms and choosing portrait packages. All of the usual banter was going on . . . Do we put our son's photo on trading cards? Did you know they can put the photos on a fake magazine cover? I was lamenting the fact that my son had, that very morning, fallen at the park and scraped up the front of his nose. This is usually something that happens every portrait day. Another mother told me to have his photos retouched, but I said I wanted to "keep it real". Truth is, I probably wouldn't recognize my son with every scrape and bruise retouched.
We watched the boys line up and get their individual photos taken. My son knelt on one knee, football helmet in front of him, holding a football and smiling his gap-toothed smile with a big scrape on his nose. Classic. This moment would be forever preserved in time.
After individual photos, the boys had to wait around to have their team photo taken. I was supervising my son, and standing where I could see the other players have their individual photos taken. There is a set of identical twin boys on my son's team. Their Mom always looks frazzled. I can't imagine having twin seven-year-old boys. The twins' Mom was watching her boys have their photos taken. When the second twin was posing, I heard the Mom mumble something about his shoelace being untied. She yelled out to her son to tie it, but he didn't hear her. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the Mom dive onto the ground to tie the laces on her son's cleats just as the photographer snapped the photo. We all stood for a moment not quite believing that she did that. The photographer admonished her for ruining the photo, and she got up, brushed the dirt and grass off herself and muttered, "I didn't want the laces untied in the picture." One of the other mothers took her by the arm, and the rest of us gathered around her and showed our support. Poor thing. If I ever had any perfectionist tendencies, I gave them up years ago. It's just easier.
There are times in every mother's life when she wants to throw up her hands and give up. Preoccupied husbands, ungrateful kids, unending mind-numbing tasks . . . they take their toll. And in the end, whether they remember it or not, children have their mothers to thank for standing in endless lines to sign them up for swim/dance/sports/music lessons, driving them to all their activities, making sure they have everything they need for said activities, and giving them encouragement the whole time. And what do we get in return? Well-rounded, intelligent, confident, talented children, of course. And, if we're lucky and strive to make it happen, perfect photos will adorn the walls of our rooms in a nursing home one day. Photos of our children with every hair in place and every shoelace tied. Or not. I prefer to remember the missing teeth, the scrapes and scratches and hair that sticks up in the back. These imperfect days are precious and fleeting.
Here's a video for the twins' Mom and any mother who has at one time or another felt overwhelmed and wanted to throw up her hands and walk away from it all. If I could choose one person whose voice I would like to have, it would be Adele. There is something about this video that I love. She looks like a school girl, and then she sings effortlessly and beautifully with this incredible voice. Her mother must be very proud.
I'm trying to pinpoint the exact moment in time when the minutia in my life became mountains.
A couple of days ago, I was wandering around my local Target store which is in the process of being remodeled to include a larger grocery section. Most everything has been relocated in the store, and I miss the layout that I knew like the back of my hand. I used to be able to go in that store, get what I needed, check out and be back in the car in about eight minutes flat - depending on the wait in the checkout line.
I wandered and wandered in the unfamiliar territory in search of kitty litter which I found directly across from the men's underwear. I guess they haven't completely finished moving things around and some merchandise is in a temporary location.
The longer I spent in the store, the more agitated I became. I ended up leaving the store and forgetting half of what I went there for because I was so confused by the whole experience. I stood in the checkout line lamenting that it had become such a bad day - all brought on by the Target remodel. And I wondered at what point did something so minor become so paramount in my mind.
I never did transition well. My teachers used to tell me that change is the only constant in life. And they were right about that. Well, change and my cooking disasters . . .
I remind myself of the three goldfish we have in an aquarium. I often stare at them and wonder if they are happy. They swim around, and mostly look for food. They have everything they need, water pump and food, all in a carefully decorated environment. They seem content. And then every three weeks or so, I come in and pull them out of the tank in a net and put them in a bucket while I clean the tank. They hardly swim in the bucket. Mostly they just look terrified until they are back in the safety of their familiar tank.
I need to come out of my fish tank and work on being a little less self-absorbed. I can't tell you how many times I have tried to teach my kids to "roll with it" when things go wrong. I often tell them "This doesn't have to ruin your day" when they are met with an obstacle on their road to happiness.
My life has changed so much in the last few years. Sometimes I feel like Dorothy in Oz who, while dreaming of a place where there isn't any trouble, just crash landed in an unfamiliar territory full of munchkins and wicked witches. Dorothy navigated her way past evil trees and flying monkeys and managed to hold onto her ruby slippers and help her friends too. She surrounded herself with her dog and her friends and never lost sight of her goal. But even Dorothy's goal was to get home where things were safe and familiar.
Note to self: Take things in stride. Come out of your "shell" more. Don't dwell on minutia. Don't let anything or anyone ruin your day. The power to do things is always within you. And, even though you need to get out and experience some wild and exciting things in life, there really is no place like home. And try not to blog when your thoughts are all disjointed and you ramble on and on and don't make sense. And don't ever lose your sense of humor.
Today is the start of a brand new school year. And while I've looked forward to this day for about two and a half months now, I'm not feeling as jubilant as I thought I would. The peace and quiet I had craved almost seems deafening. And I can't remember all the things I felt needed to be done when the kids were in school and I would have all the time in the world to do them. It's just me and a snoring cat.
On the bright side, I'm going to save a lot of money by not drinking Kahlua for breakfast to get me through the day full of kids arguing and yelling and hitting each other.
Here's a little blast from the past. A song so sweet and sad that it remains in my memory from childhood. They don't make songs like this anymore. A gift from me to you on a beautiful late summer day that I will spend trying to cope with all the quietness.
My last post got me to thinking about what an oddball I really am, and a friend of mine emailed and mentioned a few unusual things that I totally forgot about. I'm finding this introspection oddly cathartic, so I thought I'd put out another list:
25 More Things You Don't Know About Me:
1) I am developing clostrophobia more and more with each passing year. I had a panic attack not long ago when I crawled under a bed to get something I had stored there.
2) I once rode in an elevator with Bryan Adams just before he became a successful artist.
3) I like to lie down on my deck and look up at the blue sky and think.
4) I intentionally play dumb to irritate people.
5) I have only had one job that I truly loved, and, unfortunately, I wasn't there very long.
6) I had a "bucket list" years before the movie made them popular.
7) I think Cher is cooler than Madonna and Lady Gaga put together.
8) My dream is to own a yarn shop.
9) My other dream is to be a backup singer for Kid Rock.
10) Josh Holloway makes me weak in the knees.
11) I know how to sew, but somehow none of my sewing projects ever turned out.
12) I loved it when my kids were babies.
13) I am fearless when I become angry. Much like the Incredible Hulk, only not green. And I'm loud when I'm angry.
14) Whenever I go to a concert, I stare at the stage and wish I could feel what it is like to have the talent to stand up there and entertain people.
15) I used to perform ballet en pointe. I still have my toe shoes.
16) I am a helluva baton twirler. A lost art if ever there was one.
17) I have been afraid to walk outside in the dark since I saw "I Am Legend" awhile back. There might just be zombies in that big pine tree . . .
18) I can sing "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" from Showboat.
19) I make fantastic omelettes.
20) I often have epic cooking disasters.
21) I can't swim.
22) I sing and dance when I vacuum.
23) I think my husband is one of the smartest men I've ever met, and not just because he married me.
24) I believe I am clairsentient and am adept at reading people.
25) My cat and I are so tuned into each other that she wakes me up when I'm having a bad dream. Cats are so much cooler than people.
There have been a number of bloggers and Facebook people posting "25 Things" lists. So, I thought, what the heck? It's fun to be a little sophomoric and self-absorbed now and then. Here's my list:
1) My favorite time of day is mid-afternoon.
2) I hate Sundays.
3) My favorite flowers are ivory roses, irises and lily of the valley.
4) My favorite season is fall.
5) My favorite holiday is Christmas.
6) I hate losing things, and I can still remember everything I've ever lost. And, yes, it still bugs me that I lost those things.
7) I can't stand to have people touch my head or hair.
8) I eat all the topping off my pizza before eating the crust. Always have, always will.
9) I hate driving.
10) I have freakishly strong eye muscles. I am frequently amaze eye doctors.
11) I have a debilitating fear of bats. Probably from watching my mother catch and boil one on the stove once. This was years before "Fatal Attraction". The woman was ahead of her time.
12) My eyelids don't close all the way when I sleep.
13) I was once told that I look like Ava Gardner. And Sela Ward. That was awhile ago.
14) I would only want to be young again if I could take my 40-ish brain with me back in time.
15) I hate funeral visitations. And I hate the time after a person's burial when everyone walks away from the grave and leaves the deceased behind, even though I know it has to be done. And I hate how the world just keeps going when you are so filled with grief that you want to scream and just wish everything would stop. It bothers me when people die. Always.
16) My favorite Beatle was Paul. And my favorite song is "Let it Be".
17) My favorite poet is W.B. Yeats. And my favorite poem is "When You Are Old" by Yeats.
18) I've loved every cat I've ever met.
19) Dogs love me, and I love most of them right back. Except for the little yappy ones that look like rats.
20) I miss the '80s. Especially the obscure '80s songs. And the hair. All of the hairspray I used in the '80s is responsible for a great deal of the global warming. I had great '80s hair.
21) I wish I had a Volkswagen Beetle. My parents had an orange one once, and I loved it.
22) I used to be able to recite almost all of the lines in the movie "Gone With the Wind". Fiddle dee dee.
23) My kids once irritated me so much, I took a wine bottle out and tried to open it with a corkscrew, but it was a twist-off cap. I jammed the corkscrew right through the metal cap. I really needed that drink.
24) I taught myself how to knit. My first project was a seed stitch and cabled set of mittens. I only ever finished one. It is orange. And, yes, I still have it.
25) Every day of my life I wake up and wonder what I want to be when I grow up.
School registration was this morning. The lines weren't too long. The children were ill-behaved. I think I turned in all 5,000 forms properly filled out and signed. They gave me an additional form to be filled out by our pediatrician to allow my son to have an asthma inhaler at school. Just one more hoop to jump through.
By the time I got the lunch accounts set up and payments made, my head felt like it was ready to burst, and I was ready to run away screaming like a banshee.
This day calls for some haikus:
Forms and money fly about
How I dread this chore
School photos taken
The boy's hair won't stay in place
Dress shirt, vest, red socks
How young boys dress for photos
Like 70's pimp
Pink argyle sweater
Angelic smile on sweet face
You don't fool your Mom
Endless wait in lines
This day calls for alcohol
Next time pack a flask
I am crabby now
Children starting to act up
Where's my padded cell?
I made these up while trying to keep my sanity in line this morning. Something about registration day with the principal present (along with all the administrative staff, some teachers and other parents) just causes my kids to go berzerk. I hate it when you leave a place and you know that they're going to talk about how naughty your kids are when you're gone. And you'd think that I would be used to that by now.
Reminder to self: There is a new guidance counselor at school this year. I'm going to have to get in touch with her to let her know why the last guidance counselor had my phone number on speed dial.
My daughter's softball team lost a hard-fought tournament game tonight and, sadly, finished in fifth place overall. Yet, looking back at the season, it was a tremendous success for her. In addition to getting a chance to pitch in the junior fastpitch league, and being coached by a phenomenal, strong and positive woman coach, she made a wonderful friend named Hope.
Kate is timid and it takes her awhile to make new friends. I thought I would try and help things along a bit, and I got her a giant bag of sunflower seeds to take to her softball practices and games and share with her teammates. At the very first practice, a smiling blonde girl named Hope taught Kate how to spit out the shell of the sunflower seed. They sat on the bench talking, and spitting, and laughing all through the first couple of practices.
Throughout the season, I would see the girls smiling and laughing together. Hope would do something silly and make Kate laugh. Hope would start a cheer when Kate was up to bat or call out encouragement from the bench.
The two girls could not be more different. Hope is a wild thing that loves softball and plays with fierce intensity. She is loud and makes lots of jokes and draws people to her with her bold personality. She wore bright purple capris and her red jersey with aplomb. Hope would slide into bases and intentionally pitch close to the batter to intimidate them. And she would smile the whole time she was playing.
As I was looking back through photos of the season, I noticed that in quite a few of them, Hope is right behind Kate. Always intense. Always encouraging. That is Hope.
There she is right behind Kate who was pitching.
After tonight's disappointing loss and a speech from the team's coaches encouraging the girls to keep playing ball, we walked off the field. Hope was getting into her family's van when she spotted Kate and smiled and ran over to hug her. I congratulated Hope on a good game (she had a fantastic slide into first base in one inning), and she smiled. Kate mentioned how much she will miss Hope. I will too.
I believe that God brings people into our lives for a reason. I wish that life came easier to my daughter. I wish she could live life headstrong with wild abandon. Hope gave her a glimpse of what that would be like. And I will be forever grateful.
I went to my daughter's junior fast pitch softball game tonight. Her team played a very talented (and tall) group of girls. As my daughter got up to bat, I recognized the pitcher as a girl who had started daycare with my daughter almost ten years ago (it will be ten years on July 17th to be exact - more useless information that my brain stores). And I saw the two girls playing ball on different teams, and I got choked up remembering that first day of daycare all those years ago.
When Kate started daycare at three months old, this other little girl was a smiley little six-month-old. Kate was the only other girl in the baby room at that time, and this other girl was so happy to have her to play with that she sat and shook a rattle until she fell over. And even though they were totally different girls and never best friends, they knew each other until this girl left our school when our school district was restructured a couple of years ago.
So, I sat on the bleachers watching the game, and I caught the eye of the other girl's mother in the other team's bleachers. She was also teary and smiled at me with quivering lips. I went over and gave her a hug and said, "Who would've thought that time would go this fast?" And she said, "It's good to see them together again." And we sat and talked and laughed about our kids and got caught up.
My daughter struck out tonight. But, she got a girl out at first base in one inning, so that kind of made up for it. (It was a very snooty girl that Kate knows from school. And she cried when Kate got her out. Bonus.) And we lost the game. You win some, you lose some.
And I wondered if the girls would continue to cross paths in years to come. I'm sure they will see each other in middle school and high school, maybe college. I pictured them in business meetings together. Maybe Kate will become a teacher and she will have this girl's kids in her class. Maybe their kids will be the same ages. That's a lot of "maybes".
And I got to thinking how small the world is. Kate had a teacher this year who used to teach at an elementary school in central Wisconsin just blocks away from a law firm where I worked for ten years. I wondered if we had ever crossed paths before never knowing that one day she would be my daughter's teacher.
And I wonder how fast the next decade will pass by. I discussed it all with Kate after the game tonight. She just wants the opportunity to strike the other girl out this season - turnabout being fair play and all. I guess you don't think too far ahead when you are young.
I love spring and early summer. Especially the lilacs. These are some of the last lilacs in my yard.
The same rain that took away most of the lilacs also took away most of the blooms on my bleeding heart bush, but a few blooms remained.
This is what I've been up to lately: planting, weeding, mulching, mowing . . . I think the results are well worth it.
Here is my attempt at an "English garden" window box. I think it turned out pretty well. You can see the green watering can on the porch. It belonged to my Dad. We used to water trees with it every day during the summer when I was a teenager.
This is my front porch. You can see my hanging fuschia and the blooming spirea.
There is something about springtime that brings out my love of all things whimsical.
This one was made for me by a former co-worker. She made it out of a decorative stairway spindle. And notice the rocks that my kids painted.
Here's my favorite coffee mug created for me by my darling daughter
A knitted cupcake - seriously.
I'm taking things more in stride this year. There is the usual flurry of end-of-school activities, dance recitals, softball/baseball practices and games, and gearing up for summer. But I'm dealing with everything as it comes, and I'm much more laid back about it all. I'm ready to leave this school year behind and enjoy the warm weather this year.
Thanks for visiting me and letting me share this life of mine with you.
I had lunch at school with my son yesterday. In the middle of the school there is an open area that separates the media center, cafeteria and gym from the office and classrooms. In a corner of this open area are two park benches, a potted palm and a cart of books. On the wall are three photos. One photo is of a little boy wearing a green, brown and white striped shirt. His dark blonde hair has straight bangs. He has big, clear green eyes and a goofy grin. Next to his picture is a plaque with his name, birthdate and date of death. His name was Nick, and he was eight years old. There is a quote on the plaque: "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are." Theodore Roosevelt.
The other photos are of a little girl who died in late 2007 when she was six and attending kindergarten. I remember when it happened. Her name was Chelsea, and it was a freak accident where a hair dryer fell into a bathtub and killed her. The other photo is of her kindergarten teacher and classmates releasing balloons with messages to her. I can't look at that photo because it makes me cry. Little faces looking skyward and releasing balloons is just too much for me to think about.
This corner is a permanent place for these little ones to be remembered in the school where they used to study and play and eat lunch. And every time I pass by it, I feel their eyes looking at me from the photos. They seem to say, "I'm still here" to me.
And I wondered what had happened to the little boy. He had died in 1998 before I moved to this town. As I walked past the office to sign out, I asked the receptionist. She didn't know, and she asked the principal's assistant, who didn't know either. They glanced at each other and then looked cautiously at me. "Why do you want to know?" one of them asked me. I explained that I have had children here for the last five years, and I had always wondered. Just then, the principal walked in, and they asked her. She didn't know either. The school nurse popped in and said she thought it was an accident, but she wasn't sure either. The only other person nearby who would know was the school guidance counselor who had worked in the school district for the last 26 years, but he was out of his office. I smiled, shrugged, and told them I was "just wondering" and left. But the rest of that afternoon I kept seeing the boy with the big eyes and goofy grin in my mind.
I wonder if these little ones look in on their old school from time to time. Do they see friends or teachers they used to know? Can they see inside the classrooms and remember their life here? I like to think they can. And I wanted to let them know that I was thinking about them, and how I notice their pictures every time I walk past them. They are still here in spirit if not in everyone's memory.
And I was able to find out information about the little boy on the internet. His name was Nick, and he died on a day in September. It was a bike-truck accident, and that is all I know. I hope his final thoughts were about enjoying the fall leaves, or enjoying his day off of school, or how much he loved to ride his bike. I hope he felt no pain. I know he is at peace now.
And the next time I pass by the remembrance corner, I will see his face, and I will smile back.
When I was younger (much younger), I worked at a law firm in Central Wisconsin. It was my first "real" job. The senior partner was an older gentleman who I found quite contrary. At times, he was smiling and laughing, and at other times, he would be crabby. Like the day he found me in a hallway and told me to write something down only to find that I didn't have a pen. He then reminded me that "I wasn't hired to smile." It is because of him that I usually carried a pen around with me at all times when I was working after that. Whenever I think of this senior partner, the one thing that I remember is how he would sometimes suddenly start telling a story. You could be in a hurry, you could be in the middle of a big project, it just didn't matter; you were going to stand there and listen to his story. Some made sense, some just didn't, but they all started the same way . . . "So, there I was . . . " I think that is the perfect beginning for any story, and especially the one I'm going to share in this post.
So, there I was at the veterinary clinic yesterday picking up my cat. It is always crazy busy there because the veterinarian is the absolute best. I was standing at one of three receptionist stations waiting for them to give me my cat. A teenage girl was standing at the next station proudly showing me her new pink collapsable square cat carrier. She was thrilled about the pink cat carrier. She asked me if I thought it was wrong to get a pink carrier for her "boy" cat, but she didn't wait for my answer before she started texting on her iPhone. I'm sure she was texting about the pink carrier.
As I was standing there, an older lady came in. She was shortish and very composed. She walked up to the third receptionist station and waited for the receptionist to hang up the phone. When asked how she could be helped, she said, "I would like the vet to come out to my truck. A dog got in my goat pen and bit up three goats. I got what's left of them in the back of my truck, and I need to know if there's anything worth saving." Time seemed to freeze for about a minute while we all processed what she just said. The receptionist went to get the vet right away.
The teenager got her cat in the pink carrier, but didn't have a credit card to pay the bill. She was calling her Mom for a credit card number. I got my Gita and was carrying her out to the van. The vet was walking right ahead of us and held the door open. We talked about my cat, and then she went to look in the back of the goat lady's pickup truck. I stood transfixed. The goats must've been badly mutilated because nothing made a sound, and I couldn't hear anything moving in the back of that pickup. And I felt so sorry for that lady and her goats. I have no idea why she is raising goats, but they seem like fairly docile creatures, and it is a shame that a dog capable of severely injuring three goats is on the loose.
So there I was feeling sorry for three unlucky goats. That's not something that happens everyday. I don't think I would ever want to be a veterinarian.
I can't believe my beautiful baby girl just turned ten. I swear, I just brought her home from the hospital. I knew time would go fast, so I've tried to memorize certain things through the years: how good she smelled when she was a baby; the feeling of her little arms wrapped around my neck; the wet kisses all over my face; the way she looks when she's sleeping; her doodles of flowers and butterflies; her small hand in mine; and her beautiful eyes.
I was doing some spring cleaning today. I decided it was time to weed out some of the kids' books and toys. I always feel a bit sad about how fast they are growing up. I had a pile of toys and books to go to charity, a bag for things that were so well-loved and so well-used that they needed to be thrown away, and a pile of things that I wasn't sure what to do with. I had my daughter's Taylor Swift CD in her CD player, and I was listening to it and came upon this song "The Best Day" about the relationship between Taylor Swift and her mother.
The song reminded me of my Mom and I, when I was younger, and it reminded me of my daughter too. By the time the song gets to the leaves changing color in the fall, I was crying. How wonderful is the love between mothers and their children.
And I looked down at the pile of books on the floor. On the top was one called "Muffin Mouse's New House". I remember reading that to Kate every single night. When I was pregnant with my son, I would curl up with her on her little bed and read it over and over again. One of the pages has red crayon on it from when she was so small and first discovered crayons. The pages are worn and dog-eared. And I picked up that book and put it back on the shelf.
I guess this song isn't the greatest song to listen to if you want to stop getting sentimentally attached to things, but it is one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard. Give it a listen and see if you don't think so too.
About a thousand years ago, or so it seems to me, I found out that I was pregnant with my first child, and I was the happiest woman on Earth. I went to the doctor's office in my steel blue Liz Claiborne pantsuit, matching shoes and purse, impeccable makeup and hair, and drove there in my sporty black two-door coupe with a rear wing spoiler. I held the square positive pregnancy test administered at the doctor's office, staring at the little plus sign, thrilled beyond words. I bought my husband the book "The Expectant Father", wrapped it up and gave it to him to let him know that we were expecting our very own bundle of joy. We were over the moon. I made all the rookie Mom mistakes (registering at Target for 32 onesies in a newborn size . . . hello???). I ordered car seats, crib mattresses, and searched for a diaper bag that would be just right. Ignorance was truly bliss.
Nowadays, I walk the kids out to the bus stop in sweatpants and a t-shirt with my glasses on and not a stitch of makeup on my over-40 face. I step on Legos. I let my kids pack the groceries at the grocery store and end up with squished loaves of bread. I drive kids to dance, violin lessons, sleepovers, playdates, and baseball. I taught Sunday School, I chaperone class field trips, I volunteer at school, meet my kids for lunch sometimes, take my kids to movie matinees, and I let them play those machines with the metal claw to try and win even more stuffed animals. In the years that I've been a mother, I've been peed on, pooped on, puked on, bled on and cried on. I am the "fixer", the "maker", the "helper" and the "giver".
I am also the "enforcer" at times. Like a couple of weeks ago at the bus stop when my kids started fighting about who would be first in line for the bus. It was my daughter's turn, but she got to go first the day before when my son was home sick from school. So, my son figured he was due to be first. Push came to shove (literally), and my son pushed his sister into the street with a car coming half a block away. I grabbed his arm and yanked him off his sister, got my daughter picked up and dusted off, and then got both of them on the bus. I thought nothing of this the rest of the day. As far as our days go, this was pretty much par for the course.
After school, I was unpacking backpacks and getting homework together. The school nurse wrote a note that my son had gone to see her for a "bruised arm given to him by his mother." I called my children to the table for homework and asked about the visit to the nurse. My son had gone to the nurse, gotten an ice pack, and was sent to the guidance counselor for further questioning about his mother's actions that morning. The guidance counselor then called my daughter out of her classroom to question her about that morning. So, I asked my daughter if she explained how she had been pushed into the street and I grabbed her brother's arm in order to get him off of her. She hadn't. She simply confirmed for the guidance counselor that I had yanked her brother's arm. The three of us sat at the table looking at each other. My daughter asked if I could go to jail. "Probably," I said, "But it's okay, someone will cook for me and clean up after me there." Nothing ever came of it. Child Protection Services must have bigger cases to look into. (BTW, it turns out his arm was sore from an altercation on the playground the day before. Of course, he didn't tell anyone at school that, and he didn't tell me until days later.)
Then, last night, I was cleaning out my son's backpack. He had done a "Beach Day Squiggle" for art class. Out of his squiggle, he made a giant snail. Underneath the snail picture, he drew a lobster, two people in a boat, clouds and an airplane overhead, and he wrote, "I allwese wanted to go to Hawiey but my Mom never let me go. The end."
I'll accept the blame for yanking him off his sister. But I will be damned if I take the blame for my seven-year-old not going to Hawaii. There is going to be a family meeting over this. That child was 8 pounds, 10 ounces at birth. I nursed him for 15 months. And THIS is the kind of BS that I get??? Those kids are going to have to come up with something better than tissue paper flowers and Hallmark cards for Mother's Day this year.
I get no respect around here. I feel a "Mom Strike" coming on.
The cat threw up a hairball at 3:22 a.m. I heard it happen, got up, cleaned it up and went back to bed.
I was wide awake at that point, so I laid there thinking. I had been having a dream before the hairball incident. In the dream, I was having a conversation with someone about a knitting bag. It was a complicated conversation, but I couldn't remember any of it.
I just couldn't get back to sleep at this point, and thoughts started popping into my head. My brain literally felt like a popcorn popper with random thoughts flying about. Here is a sample of the things that were flying about in my brain:
My daughter will be ten soon. She will likely only live with us for eight more years. Geez, that makes me sad. I need to do more stuff with her. Mental note to self: Make time to paint ceramics with her soon. Didn't I just bring her home from the hospital? (Then the theme from "The Way We Were" started playing in my head.) Geez, "The Way We Were" was a great movie. A young Robert Redford . . . insanely good looking. Of course, Robert Redford is still good looking. What was that movie he was in with Michelle Pfeiffer? That one had a good theme song too. I don't remember the name of the song, but Celine Dion sang it. Hey, Robert Redford was great in "The Sting". Another good movie song. I wonder how many Robert Redford movies had hit songs?
Then I heard my husband's Blackberry chiming in the kitchen. I wondered who was emailing him. Probably someone half-way around the world. I wondered where they were. I wish I knew someone half-way around the world. If I did, I would get up and send them an email, and then they would wonder why I was up in the middle of the night sending emails to them.
It was then that I started drifting back to sleep only to be jolted awake by the cat who decided to profess her love for me by purring and cuddling up next to me. I looked at the clock. It was 4:12 a.m.
Then I laid there thinking about the Olympics and Canada. I wondered what it would be like to live in Canada. Are they that much different from us? I wonder if I could pass for a Canadian if I learned the words to "O Canada" and started putting an extra "u" in words like "favourite" and "colour". I might have to learn about hockey. I think maybe the Canadians would see through me. They seem like a smart bunch. I really like Canada. That's where William Shatner is from after all. Captain Kirk was my first crush.
And somewhere in the middle of Canada, Captain Kirk and the Olympics, I managed to fall back asleep for a couple of hours.
I see that the damn cat is sleeping peacefully right now. I'm going to go wake her up just for spite. I wonder if cats dream? If she were dreaming, what would she be dreaming about???
I need to find an "off" switch for the random thoughts that make their way into my brain.
I watch a handful of TV shows each week. Some are complete trash - i.e. Grey's Anatomy. I don't care about any of the characters on that show. The writing is completely unrealistic. But sometimes there is a neat plot twist, maybe a surprise or two, and I loves me some McDreamy. Patrick Dempsey just has those EYES. I could watch him with the sound off.
Then there is Lost. Great writing 98% of the time. Wonderful actors. We all need a little mystery in our lives, and this show delivers. And there is Josh Holloway. Not that I watch TV just to see the cute guys. Sheesh. But, truth be told, it's a dead dog that doesn't wag its tail.
As a rule, I hate reality shows. However, I love American Idol. I'm hooked on Idol from the first audition to the finale. I enjoy watching the truly talented contestants and the train wrecks. But I think there is much to be learned from watching Idol.
1) Life is not always fair. Bad things happen to good people.
2) Life is what you make it. Even people who get voted off go on to have fantastic careers.
3) There is usually a freak around every corner. Enjoy the weirdness. It keeps life interesting.
4) Sometimes the stars align just right, and magic can happen.
5) People who take what they've learned, mix it up and make it their own can have great success.
6) It's all about choices. Make the choice. Live with the consequences.
7) Choose who you listen to carefully. There are good mentors and bad mentors. There is good advice and bad advice.
8) Be fearless. You may fall short. You may come up on top. You will gain the respect and admiration of others.
9) There will always be someone more and less talented than yourself. Life would be boring if everyone were the same.
10) Everyone has good and bad days. Life goes on.
11) The most talented person doesn't always win. Life is a popularity contest at times.
12) There is always an a**hole that will tell you what to do. Try and find a nugget of truth in his negativity, learn from it and move on.
13) Be true to yourself. Know who you are. Do what you love.
14) Keep looking forward. Learn from the past but don't dwell on it. You might miss what lies ahead.
15) We all have to do things we don't want to do. Suck it up. Don't think about it, just do it.
16) We are all judged on our looks. Sad but true.
17) You'll never know if you can do something if you don't try.
It's not a perfect world, is it? If it were, Patrick Dempsey and Josh Holloway would be co-hosts of American Idol, and I would be able to sing. Good thing we always have dreams to fall back on. Sometimes it makes reality less harsh.
My little guy has a habit of making me little cards out of paper and leaving them on my bed at night. He occasionally gives me post-it notes with little pictures of him and me and a tree with hearts all around us.
This morning, I had forgotten to turn on the bathroom fan while I showered. When I came out of the shower, I saw a message written on the foggy mirror. It said "Joe" and then a picture of a heart and then "Mom". He must've written them after his shower last night, and I didn't see them because I was busy elsewhere in the house.
Note to self: Make time to look for messages from now on. Give the kids a hug. Write more love messages on post-its.
I loved kindergarten. My teacher was very young. Just out of teacher's college (called Normal School back then), she had short blonde hair and clear blue eyes. She smiled all the time, had a sweet personality and was a trendy dresser to boot. I thought she was wonderful. Just what I wanted in a kindergarten teacher.
At the end of that school year, the weather turned very warm. My teacher, Miss Bohl, was having trouble keeping our attention on our schoolwork. One day, to break the monotony, she gave each of us the opportunity to stand up in front of the class and perform a song. Kids got up and sang songs that we learned in school like "Animal Fair" and "Shoo Fly". I got up and sang "Fool on the Hill" by the Beatles. I'll never forget the surprised look on my teacher's face.
On that day, I felt like the Beatles' music was the most wonderful thing you could ever perform. I still feel that way today. I have been a Beatles fan for as long as I can remember. I was born shortly before they made their US television debut on the Ed Sullivan show. I had sisters who were 10, 14 and 15 at the time, so I grew up listening to their music. It was something that I loved so much that I wanted to share it with the class.
I received a mixed reaction that day in kindergarten. My teacher smiled and told me that it was a very good performance. One of the boys told me that I was dumb, it was a dumb song, and I sang it in a dumb way (he got sent to the corner for that.) One girl who was a friend of mine praised my choice of song and told me that she wished she would've sung it. Overall, I was pleased with my performance. And, if I could choose one moment in my life that I would like to see on video, that would be the moment. To see myself as a little girl with black hair in pigtails wearing a blue jumper dress and white knee socks singing the words "Day after day, alone on a hill . . ." with my head held high would be priceless.
My writing is like that Beatle song that I sang almost 40 years ago. I just put myself into it and put it out there for anyone who cares to read it. I want to share what I love and care about. No doubt, I have my share of readers who are slightly surprised at some things like my teacher was at my choice of song. I would imagine there are some who think I'm terribly dumb like the boy in my kindergarten class. (If only there was a corner in which to put negative people where they could hopefully find a better attitude. Well, that would make the world a much better place if you ask me.) And I know there are readers who will encourage me as my friend did the day I warbled out "Fool on the Hill". God bless them. No matter what the reaction to my writing, I always take it in stride.
So, imagine my surprise when I've started to doubt my ability as a writer lately. Does anyone get what I'm saying? Does anyone really care? Do I write for myself, or do I really want to reach out to people and make them think? Then, I thought about John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Do you think they ever worried that no one would "get" their songs? Did they really care? I think they put their hearts and souls and minds into their work and they sang their songs for anyone who would listen. Some songs were hits. Some never got radio airplay. But they wrote and sang them all.
And there was my six-year-old self who thought so much of their music that I tried to make it my own and share it with others. I sang it loud and sang it proud to mixed reaction.
But at least I took that chance and sang that song.
"I'm fixing a hole where the rain gets in and stops my mind from wandering where it will go." Lyrics from "Fixing a Hole" by Lennon/McCartney
This book is coming out next month. You can pre-order it on Amazon here.
When I got my copy in the mail yesterday, I had forgotten all about it. I opened it and stood staring at my story in print.
And I smiled.
And then I started reading all of the beautiful well-written stories from the other authors. I read their bios at the end of the book. A talented and accomplished group of people. My bio is the very last one (they went alphabetical by last name). I'm a little different from the rest of the group. I mention the Green Bay Packers in my bio. Seriously.
Hey, life would be pretty boring if everyone was the same. I always bring a little green and gold to the party.
And then I started thinking that my story wasn't quite up to par with the other stories in the book. I wasn't as talented as the other authors. I mentioned my feelings to my husband on the phone. And he said, "But, honey, YOU made the cut."
I took my daughter to her tap and jazz dance class tonight. We have the misfortune of having this class on the same night that all of the school's competing dance lines have their rehearsals. These very talented little wind-up dolls are ill mannered, snotty little pigs. They throw their belongings about the dance studio, leave their trash on the floor, and walk around as if the world should worship them. We usually keep to ourselves and ignore them best that we can.
This week, we walked into the studio, and a table of mothers turned around to look at me. Two of them turned back, said something to the rest of the table, and then they all turned to stare at me. I simply walked past them and got my daughter ready for her class. One mother that I had a run-in with last year was looking quite amused, one was staring daggers at me, and another couldn't look me in the eye. Very strange behavior even for them.
I have to say that I have developed a thick skin over the years. I don't look like everyone else. I've become a bit hefty. I have these big prominent eyes and a big nose. I like to think of it as unconventional beauty. However, these mothers are no beauty queens themselves. I was a bit puzzled. I left the dance school to run some errands and came back 15 minutes before class was dismissed.
I was standing with two other mothers watching our girls dance. Smiling little nine-year-old girls having fun. One of the other mothers walked up to me and told me that there had been a problem during the dance class last week. (We were gone last week for my daughter's school play.) Evidently, three of the little competing dancers had been watching the girls dance through the classroom window, and one said, "Can you believe how BAD they are?" The three of them laughed and walked away. This mother had heard it and immediately walked to the office to speak to the school's owner/director about it. The director called all the competitive dancers into a classroom and gave them quite a talk about it.
Suddenly, things started to make sense to me. This other mother looks a great deal like me. About the same height. Similar hair style. I think the mothers at the table in the lobby thought that I was the one who had reported the problem. It's not hard to see why their kids turned out the way they have.
And all I have to say is that I am happy it was the other mother who overheard it. I may have had my "brain clutch" disengage, and who knows what I would've said.
I turned back and watched my daughter's class smiling and having fun. How do I prepare her for a world full of a**holes? When someone picks on her at school, I help her figure out how to handle the situation. I always tell her that the world is full of negative people, and you can't let them get to you. I have always made sure to get my daughter involved in many different activities so that she can gain confidence in herself. She can hold her ground in any situation, but I always know that she is shaking inside, unsure of herself deep down. And I hope and pray that she develops a thick skin too. If she had heard that girl's comment, she would've been devastated.
We have one more year at this dance studio after this year. My daughter wants to get her five-year pin. It has been her goal for the last three and a half years. And I'm going to make sure that she achieves that goal.
I've mentioned in this blog before that sometimes having to take the high road sucks. The only thing that is getting me through this situation at the dance studio is a wish that I have. It's a wish made by my alter-ego who I keep buried deep down inside of myself because she is a heinous bitch. And the wish is that someone somewhere will treat these ugly, selfish little brats from the dance line how they treat other people. I really wish I could be there when it happens.
Something tells me that I'm not going to get through the next year and a half without being confronted by one of the dance line lobby mothers. Maybe I should let my inner heinous bitch come out to play . . .
"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." Eleanor Roosevelt
There comes a point when you and your kids choose extracurricular activities in which they want to participate. Dance has always been the activity of choice for my daughter. She's been dancing since she was five. We go to the classes every week, we buy costumes and primp for photos. We spend time practicing for the yearly recital. This year, she decided to participate in tap, jazz and ballet which means two nights of dance lessons each week.
Then there is softball every summer. Now, there is softball camp every Sunday afternoon to prepare for the summer softball season.
Then the opportunity for music lessons came along. My daughter decided to join the orchestra and play the 1/2 violin. Since neither my husband nor I had music lessons ourselves, we gladly signed her up.
Now she decided to participate in the school play "Sleeping Beauty". Since she got the part of a Chorus Girl (I'm not sure what version of "Sleeping Beauty" has chorus girls, but whatever) she is spending almost every evening this week rehearsing for the play.
Add to that the usual homework and recorder practice for music class, and we're on a pretty tight schedule. It didn't hit me until I was watching her in softball practice on Sunday. She was waiting in line to practice her fast pitch, and she was practicing her dance steps while she was waiting. Now that's multitasking.
She wants to do it all, and I want to encourage it to a point. I am hoping that she really falls in love with one activity, but so far she likes everything. And she is an excellent student with very good grades.
Raising that girl is getting to be a full-time job.
I'm taking down our Christmas tree today. It always amazes me how many ornaments I've collected over the years. I still remember where I got each one, and I love them all.
It just really hit me today how fast the years are passing by. I swear, I don't feel a day over 28. I'm still surprised when I see the lines under my eyes and the grey in my hair. Where did the time go?
Here's a video for all you fortysomethings. It's one of my favorites. And, yes, I did rock out to Wham!, loved Duran Duran, and wanted to dance on the hood of Whitesnake's car.
There was something about my Dad that was unique and wonderful. Maybe I imagined it because I am his daughter and loved him so very much. Maybe it was a quality shared by those brave members of the greatest generation who left behind all they had ever known to fight and die on foreign soil. Whatever it was, imagined or real, it has survived long after he left us 21 years ago today.
There was a dichotomy to my father's personality. He was at times serious and solemn and very direct. He had a bad temper. He worked hard and expected no less from those around him. He did not sit still for long unless he was on his riding lawnmower. He would mow for hours making patterns on the lawn. It must've been a type of therapy for him. He was usually happiest when there was work to be done.
And then there were times of pure joy. There was a spring in his step. A twinkle in his eyes. He loved nature and baseball and talking to people. He loved his home. He was loyal to his family. He took care of everything.
For as long as I can remember, one Sunday every month was spent driving to see my paternal grandfather who lived a little over an hour away. My Grandpa owned an antique store. We would visit him and take him out for lunch and then return home. In later years, my Grandpa had no short-term memory. We still visited him every month until his failing memory forced him to live with my Aunt. And after he passed away, my Dad was the one who tended to his grave site. He bought the grave stone, planted flowers and tended to them every day in the summer. It never mattered that he and his father had not had a good relationship when my Dad was young. He felt it was his duty to respect his parents. And he did.
My Dad had a wonderful singing voice. I heard a story that he had won a 4H contest when he was young. He had sung "Beautiful Dreamer". One of my most cherished memories is of my Dad swinging me back and forth in his arms and singing "Swinging on a Star" when I was small. He knew the entire song. And I would giggle when he would sing the verses about a mule, a fish and a pig. It's a memory that I keep close to my heart.
His passing left a void in my life the size of Texas. Many times I've wondered what Dad would've done . . . I hear his voice in my head saying, "Think twice before you do once." I find myself wondering what he would've thought about certain things. Is he somewhere where he can still look out after us? And what is he doing to keep busy now? For a very long time, the not-knowing bothered me.
I feel his presence around me all the time. Not long ago, I lost control of my van on an icy road, and it was his voice I heard yelling for me to turn the wheel. Last summer, my son had a double play on first base in a baseball game. He tagged the runner going to second base and then got the batter out at first. Then he caught a fly ball. He got all three outs that inning. As I was cheering on my son, I felt something on my shoulder and then a slight breeze blew by me. And I knew my Dad saw the whole thing. This morning when I looked out the window at the cold, sunny sky and thought about missing my Dad, a cardinal flew up onto my deck and looked at me as if to let me know that my Dad misses me too.
Mostly, I feel his presence through my children. My daughter who is solemn and studious, and my son who is happy-go-lucky. Both have his mannerisms. My son has his eyes and smile. They ask about him from time to time. I show them a couple of pictures I have. Flat, one-dimensional images of a man they never knew. I tell them stories. They like to think that he is in Heaven with angels. I like to think that he sits on the moon and swings from stars.
"And all the monkeys aren't in a zoo. Every day you meet quite a few. So you see, it's all up to you. You can be better than you are. You could be swingin' on a star." Lyrics from "Swinging on a Star".