Family Moab

Family Moab
In Arches National Park

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Viral Musings

I woke up two days ago with a left eye the color of pink lemonade, a goopy pillow case, and a voice like the menacing secretary from Monsters, Inc. - low, scratchy and sinister-sounding (Mom, Dad, that's why I haven't called - sorry!) Just pile the enterovirus on the bandwagon of things to do this last week of school along with award ceremonies, retirement parties, thank you gifts, practices and games. This morning Aden asked "What exciting thing we were doing tonight?" ready to get dressed up for the third time in a week and present a project, receive an award, or party.

Fortunately we don't have anything this evening, but we did enjoy a lovely 8th grade awards ceremony yesterday at the kids' middle school. Aden received an ASPIRE award from her eighth grade core teachers for exemplifying school values and also an award for being on the honor roll all 12 quarters. Many of the neighborhood girls and boys were recognized, too, so it was a special hour in the fine arts auditorium at Creek, where they will all start high school in August.

I described the scene to Rob when the kids were at swim practice, and after discussing our daughter's accomplishments, I heard myself whine, "I used to be smart, too. I used to win awards like that!" Rob heroically through himself into the void and insisted that I was still smart.  But I'm not - not in the same way. I used to understand electricity and magnetism, factor polynomials, run science experiments and conduct research products. Now the aging hard drive is too full of schedules, grocery lists, recipes and therapies - it's rebooted and erased much of what I used to know.

That's why I sit here writing - clinging to the last slightly academic activity that I can perform. I've vowed to make more time to write this summer, though I don't know yet where the time will come in long summer days with kids. Add to lack of empty hours my fear of unproductively sitting still, and the task of writing looms like the Warped Wall from American Ninja Warrior . But for now I'll table the task, take my antivirals and go muse with closed eyelids on the couch.

Monday, May 25, 2015

A Memorial Day Poem

Winston Churchill sent this poem to Franklin Roosevelt to inspire him. A fitting tribute to those who face fears and sacrifice personal hopes and dreams for the benefit of the many, so those who come after can inherit that 'bright land.' Remembering all those who struggled for our country on this Memorial Day.

Arthur Hugh Clough. 1819–1861
741. Say not the Struggle Naught availeth
SAY not the struggle naught availeth, 
  The labour and the wounds are vain, 
The enemy faints not, nor faileth, 
  And as things have been they remain. 
If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars;         5
  It may be, in yon smoke conceal'd, 
Your comrades chase e'en now the fliers, 
  And, but for you, possess the field. 
For while the tired waves, vainly breaking, 
  Seem here no painful inch to gain,  10
Far back, through creeks and inlets making, 
  Comes silent, flooding in, the main. 
And not by eastern windows only, 
  When daylight comes, comes in the light; 
In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly!  15
  But westward, look, the land is bright!

Friday, May 22, 2015

First World Problems

Our orange tiger - kitty, Rex, got into a snit the last two days because no one was home to play with him, and he up-ended his recycling water dish three times, to the detriment of the wooden floor and the electrical mechanism in his dish. As I filled a washing machine with wet towels, Aden and I joked over what a first-world problem it was:  "our pet cat tipped over his personal water fountain." Can you imagine trying to explain that to a refugee fleeing Africa?  Or the fact that I 'labored' to fill our high efficiency washing machine with plush towels so they could be washed, rinsed and spun in 30 minutes?  Hardly a heavy issue.

Then I got on a kick and started looking at the challenges of this month from the same perspective: our crazy May calendar full of concerts, athletic events, thank you gifts and award banquets - nerve-wracking to a parent of three but full of fun activities that our sponsored students in Guatemala would love to schedule somewhere between walking to and from school and helping their families with hard labor.

A messy kitchen overflowing with colorful flyers for picnics, field trips and parties, a living room littered with musical instruments (piano, trumpet, guitar, recorders), an office holding books and technology.  You get the picture .  .  . what amazing good fortune to have any of it, and to have a family to share it with.

Being grateful doesn't shrink my to - do list, doesn't shorten the list of thank you notes to write and gifts to purchase, but it does change the recording in my head from frustrated to fulfilled, from dutiful to delighted. As I reflect on our many opportunities I actually get impatient to express my thanks and joy for the people who have filled this school year with growth and happiness for my children and for Rob and me.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Recent Funnies

Several interactions have tickled my funny bone in recent weeks and I wanted to record a bit of self-deprecating humor here for your Monday enjoyment.

1. Upon wearing a nightshirt to bed in place of boxer shorts and a t-shirt, Daniel fixed me with narrowed eyes. "Are you going to have another kid?" he asked, eyeing the loose fabric around my middle. What I thought: God forbid! What I said, "Oh no, honey, these are just new pajamas." The kid is worse than TMZ!

2. Upon visiting a new acupuncture specialist and Chinese medicine doctor, who assessed my tongue, muscle-tested my addiction to sugar, and flipped me face-down for a therapeutic treatment: "I'm going to leave now for twenty-nine  minutes. I would tell you to keep your mind blank, but I know that you won't. I know that you will instantly jump to your schedule for Saturday and run through the to - do list, fixating on what can't be done. So instead, I'm going to have you count to ten, over and over again until I return. Here's a panic button in case you need to get up."  
     And he doesn't even know me! Is every woman in the United States in frenzied May-hem mode or is my racing mind and elevated heart rate just a dead-giveaway for a reforming type A personality? And a panic button - sheesh. I've only needed that once before . . . .

3. Upon visiting the chiropractor (yes, I need a lot of help) and talking again about the chocolate addiction: "You don't have to give it up cold turkey. You could just have it one day a week. Or you could just do what my wife does and have four chocolate chips per night. There isn't too much sugar in four chocolate chips."
     FOUR chocolate chips?!  Who on earth can stop at four? And just one day per week? How about forty chips every other day? Or just forgetting about it entirely and staying on the 3 oz / day schedule?  He definitely does not know me - a woman who cleans the kitchen floor and table with lysol wipes, but who regards pieces of old chocolate found on those surfaces as buried treasure. Just this morning I ate an old sliver of peanut butter cup found in the grout between our kitchen counter tiles. Four days old, but DEEE-licious.

Time to go make a gluten-free, dairy-free cake for William's birthday. My little football baby is twelve years old today, strong and healthy and happy and loved - thank God. Can't wait to celebrate with him and the rest of the family tonight - and don't tell, but I just might have more than four crumbs of cake.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Family Stories

Mom and Dad are leaving this morning - driving all the way to Billings from Denver - after a delightful visit. We ate good food, shopped at Trader Joe's,and freed Mom's fingers from the weeks-old polish that just would not come off. Best of all, Nana and Papa told stories.  Rob had worked more magic before the visit, to get started on a family tree for both sides of the family. Lo and behold, Mom and Dad have extensive trees for both sides (which they promised to send) and they also had a wealth of family trivia and anecdotes to share.

Dad's Aunt Gertrude played at Carnegie Hall, a portrait of his grandfather "Clavy" still hangs in a Billings High School, and his mother went to two years of college in an era when women didn't do such a thing. Mom's grandmother Mary came to the United States from Finland - alone - when she was only 16 and married when she was just one year older. Mom's father, Oscar, was a terrific multi-sport athlete who once cracked a vertebrae in his neck sliding into base; he also played basketball and had state records in the pole vault.

A common thread among all the stories was the hard work of our ancestors. They slaved in coal mines and lumber mills, cooked in boarding houses, took tedious desk jobs and taught music for pennies. My parents' generation was the first to consistently attend college, and now their grandchildren's college experience is an expectation. From basement apartments to tar paper shacks they rose  - first to small homes in Billings and then to homes across the country.  Though our stories are unique and personal, it also felt part of the fabric of America.

We are reminded of how blessed we are by the efforts of our family. They probably did not feel glamorous, perhaps felt the loss of youthful dreams, but they are the giants that we stand on. Further, they've passed on a love of words and music and competition and family. A few choice phrases will live on in my memory, as when Dad told me that a cat licking his tuschus was "playing the bass viol." I'll never see Rex using his tongue as toilet paper without that image in mind!

So - many thanks to Mom and Dad, and thanks to Mary and Anna and Herman and Oscar and Clavy and AJ and Ruth and Agnes. We love you all!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Our Furry Baby

I feel I've waited a sufficient amount of time and can now indulge in a cat - centered blog post. Rex is a central figure around our house, and as I waited through the small hours in Chicago O'Hare a week ago, I realized how much I wanted to return home to my husband, my children - and my cat. Pet-love is a new thing for me, and I snuck surreptitious glances at my airport neighbors to see if they could detect the crazy. One twenty-something female in pajama pants held a stuffed animal, and her boyfriend sported a blue t-shirt with a 'Go Cats!' logo, so I felt reassured.

Rex has at least twenty different vocalizations that range from "Me - wow - wow" to "Yooooowl" to "Meh." When Rob gets home, Rex immediately jumps on the kitchen counter to hide between a narrow wall, ready to play hide-and-seek with the most playful human in the joint. The sight of his small triangular face peering around the wall to find Rob, and his startled leap in the air when Rob catches him from behind, provoke nightly gales of laughter. Rex has no fear of a  biped twenty times his size, and persists in starting the game over again each time by walking across the counter to peer in the other direction.

The cat does have a few bad habits. He poops a lot, and uses his tongue as toilet paper. This gives me pause when he plants "kisses" on my forehead. Rex sits in the shower and refuses to move until we turn the water on full blast - I think I may have partly solved the mystery of why he is so water -focused today when I caught him licking Epsom Salts off the top of the ziploc bag. The cat eats my flowers and plants, forces me to put my vases eight feet high where no one can smell the flowers, and sits at the screen doors crying to go out all day, only to refuse when we put him on the cat-leash to "walk" him around the backyard.

When all is said and done, he is our furry baby, with simple responses and warm, purry affection for whomever has the best seat. In this complex and crazy world, you can't beat it.