Saturday, December 10, 2011
Sometimes talking about the good thing can turn your whole view of the day around, or at least the way you're feeling in that moment.
Now that it's just me and Tori, it's not something we do all the time. We're always talking about the things that are going on in our lives, good and bad, and with only two of us in the house I don't have to work so hard to make sure everyone is heard. But every now and then, I'll pull it out.
So that headline there...that's mine for today. No one is dead. And please don't think I'm being cynical or using this as a backhanded way to say nothing good happened. I couldn't be happier that everyone is alive.
See, we were supposed to take my grandson Andrew home this morning, but yesterday afternoon while my son-in-law was on his way to work, his timing belt snapped. Fortunately, a relative loaned them a van almost immediately; if she hadn't, my stepdaughter Beth would have been home alone with no transportation when my younger grandson, Caleb (1), stuck a ruler in his mouth and turned to run from her, tripping before she could grab him and jabbing it through the roof of his mouth. But that didn't happen. She had the van available and swept him right out to the emergency room, where they shipped him to Indianapolis for some frightening testing and then determined that the blood supply to his brain had NOT been affected and they could just stitch him up, rehydrate him and, as soon as he was able to eat soft food and drink, send him on his way.
That hasn't happened yet. That means that his mommy (who is 6 months pregnant) was up all night at the hospital and Andrew didn't get to go home this morning...and he took it hard. So hard that when he told me at McDonald's Playland this morning that he had to go to the bathroom and I said, "Okay, let's get your shoes on," he threw a fit instead and stood his ground until he peed all over the floor. And that, of course, made him all the more hysterical, not to mention pretty darned uncomfortable when we went out in the freezing cold to take him back to my house and change him.
And Tori, who was up most of the night waiting for calls or exchanging texts with her sister at the hospital (and hasn't gotten a whole lot of sleep since she's been playing aunt-in-residence this week, anyway), actually fell asleep in the shower this morning and woke as she was falling. She managed to protect her head, but hurt her wrist a little and her ankle quite a bit.
So that's my good news for the day. We're all alive. If that's still true at the dinner table tonight, I'll be counting my blessings...if I can stay awake long enough to get dinner on the table.
Update: Though we're all still alive, I told the story of our day just a bit prematurely. Andrew took a flying leap into Tori's nose about 8:00 this evening and we ended up at the emergency room having her checked out for a broken nose. Verdict: maybe it's broken, but it's straight and her nasal passages are open, so no need to take any action. Go home, take some Motrin, put some ice on it, and stop envisioning slivers of nasal cartilege in your brain.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
2. Really sticky kisses that for some reason aren't icky at all.
3. How long something like watching a train pass by can remain interesting to a three-year-old.
4. The warm weight of a sleeping child.
5. How HIGH UP tiny children look when they climb almost anything.
6. The smell of Johnson's Baby Shampoo.
7. The extreme difficulty of staying focused on the misdeed at hand while looking into big, shiny brown eyes.
8. The willingness to appear in public wearing antlers.
9. The fact that a small child will scream "help!" when the television goes fuzzy with the same tone and degree of urgency he might employ were he trapped in a burning building.
10. The immeasurable value of fresh-from-the-bath-in-clean-pajamas hugs.
11. The endless capacity for repetition.
12. Being unable to remember when I last found time to take a shower.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
Here's a little snapshot of our first twelve hours together:
I'm not really prejudiced, though. Some of the best things in life are also one.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
I love the idea of making charitable donations at Christmas, but they're hard to wrap and you can't hand them out around the tree, which typically means that I'm spending double the money every year, buying stuff for my loved ones and handing out cash to feed and clothe and otherwise support all those folks we should think about all year but often forget about until food drives and fundraisers put them back in our line of vision.
And that's okay; I'll probably do the same thing this year and feel good about it, too. I want my kids and grandkids to have shiny packages that make their eyes light up on Christmas morning. I want everyone else's kids to, too.
But this year, at least, I've found one option that covers all the bases. If you're a regular reader here, you've undoubtedly heard me mention Kwagala Project before. Kwagala (fka Purse of Hope) is an organization that provides aftercare to young victims of the commercial sex trade in Africa.
I first became involved with Kwagala because my former employer, Total Attorneys, funded a house in Gulu where these girls could live, learn, become a family and prepare for their new lives. In the intervening four years, I have been consistently amazed by the resilience and capacity for joy in these young women. Many of them were kidnapped, sold or forced by desperation into prostitution at an age when our girls are still playing with Polly Pockets and dressing up as princesses. But instead of holding on to bitterness and focusing on what they've been through, these dauntless young women work hard, play hard, laugh, sing and are endlessly grateful for the support they receive and the new lives ahead of them.
I don't think anything has made me cry quite so often as the hearts of these girls.
One of the first things the girls can do, while they're starting to transition, when they have little training or limited time, is to make jewelry. For many, this jewelry-making is the first paid work they've ever done outside of prostitution, and their first step toward saving money to build new lives for themselves.
Now, Kwagala is offering that jewelry for sale in time for Christmas. Please check it out, and check back over the next few days--we'll be adding many more items. Wouldn't you and the recipients of your gifts like to know that you're supporting a courageous young woman in her new life as you shop?
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Today, in celebration of our first Thanksgiving "back home", Tori and I stayed put. We didn't go to anyone's house; we didn't have anyone over. We cooked a little turkey in our kitchen (in Rochelle) and Tori made an elaborate fruit salad and we ate dinner and watched A Christmas Carol and went for a long walk around our neighborhood to look at Christmas lights and played with the dog and played a game of Scrabble, and...well, you get the idea.
And when the song about how "this is how life should be" broke out, I couldn't have agreed more.
So here's the short list; there's definitely more, but a little Yorkie dog who's high on the list is waiting for a last walk before bed, so I'll try to keep it reasonable:
- All of the friends who have, in different ways, ensured that I haven't been alone in the many years I've been a single mother. They are legion, but I am especially thankful for Margo, Jo Ann, Barb, Todd, Mike, Don, Judy and Andrew. I think about you guys every day.
- My totally amazing daughter, who makes everything fun and inspirational.
- The other children who still let me be their stepmother many years after the separation (and the next generation that came with them...have I told you all that my grandson is coming to stay with me next week?)
- Little Yorkie dogs...one in particular :)
- Being in Rochelle
- How happy Tori is to be in Rochelle
- The people in Rochelle
- The way downtown Rochelle could easily be mistaken for Bedford Falls
- The big windows and sunlight and clean whiteness and light wood floors in our townhouse
- The fact that we're solvent (so far) even though I'm unemployed
- The fact that I have had so much flexibility in the way we build our lives and I get to balance being a parent and supporting my kid
- The many amazing people I came to know in the job I recently left and what I learned from them
- The opportunity to put my skills to work for the forces of good
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
As tends to happen as we age in the modern world, my three kids are in three different cities in two different states. One still lives with me, but the others are each five hours away...and not even the same five hours. To make matters worse, one of those distant children keeps my grandchildren in her faraway home.
There just aren't many days like this anymore:
And though we make an effort to get together when we can, too often it's hectic holidays and planned events and big crowds and none of those ordinary days that broke out into a squirt gun war or a multi-city quest for Tiddly Winks.
Last night, though, my girls reminded me (by example) that those days aren't about the perfect situation but about taking everyday life as it comes. I hadn't been feeling well all day and had ordered a pizza for an early dinner so that I wouldn't have to cook. When the pizza arrived at the front door, Tori was nowhere to be found, but the open front door provided a clue. I couldn't see her, but I could hear her voice: she was walking the dog and talking to her sister on the telephone. I called out to her that the food was here and she came inside, but rather than hanging up the phone she put it on speaker and set it down in the living room.
While we ate pizza and chatted, Beth bathed her kids and got them ready for bed. Tori likened this, later, to standing in the bathroom doorway and talking to her sister while she bathed the kids. And it was...except that we were 200 miles apart.
Afterward she put the kids to bed and Tori and I both started crocheting, sitting on separate couches with the dog curled up on my feet and we talked...and talked...and talked. Somehow, as we talked about the kids and laughed about escapades gone by and books and movies and yes, a few other family members, more than three hours passed. And it was much more like those nights we'd make popcorn and play a game in the living room or hang out late in our hotel room when we visit than I might ever have imagined.
Sunday, November 13, 2011
One of my first thoughts was that it was a great time to be unemployed. I could stay in bed. I could take time out to do what I needed to do with the flood. I could, in short, pull the blankets back over my head and...
Well, no. I did have a few freelance projects in the works, and the deadlines weren't going to change just because I was sick and flooded. In fact, it turned out to be more complicated than when I'd had a full-time job: if I was really too sick to work in my employee days, I could just call or email one person and let them know and then that was it for the day.
Not so much with this freelance thing. There were three or four different people at different companies involved. There were different deadlines, and it was tough to know which (if any) would be affected, since I didn't know how long I was going to be sick. No one cared what I was doing that day in particular, which meant that no one needed to know that I was sick or that there was a newly formed creek running behind my house.
But the work still needed to be done, the dog still needed to be walked (in the rain, around the flooding), Tori still needed a ride to choir (in the rain, around the flooding)...and six or so days later, I still haven't gotten a down day to rest and recover, and I'm still feeling like crap. And still pushing to get things done, even though they're fewer things, because I'm not all that diligent or efficient when I feel like crap.
I'm starting to think it might have been very helpful to have a job to stay home from.
Monday, November 7, 2011
So today, I did the only sensible thing and started another blog.
That doesn't even surprise you, does it?
Sunday, October 30, 2011
It turns out, too, that there's more to Halloween than dressing funny and paying too much for candy that you can pass out to other people instead of eating it and then go around and try to gather up candy from other people to eat since you gave all yours away to strangers.
Pumpkin seeds, for example. I learned this year that you not only can but should eat them raw, which was a big bonus for me because I've never had much patience with that whole "let them dry overnight" thing. And having them available immediately provides a great diversion from the candy I'm supposed to be handing out to other people.
But it's not all about food. There are also corn mazes. I'm not sure why corn mazes are Halloween-specific: now that I've discovered them I'd like to go all the time and can't quite work out whether they're seasonal because they look Halloween-ish, because they're often haunted, or because that's when the corn is at the right point in its life cycle to form a maze instead of, say, dinner.
This year, we went to the Jonamac Orchard corn maze in Malta, and it was great--wide, clear paths, intricate pattern, and some fun checkpoints along the way where you could get a hint if you answered a question correctly or didn't mind singing Old McDonald's farm while pointing back and forth and counting in the middle of a cornfield.
At one point, we found ourselves alone in a clearing, surrounded by corn and bright blue fall skies, and Tori said there was only one thing to do in a circumstance like that. This isn't what I was expecting:
Then, of course, we headed out to teach neighborhood children to take candy from strangers. We'd spent Saturday morning creating this nice place to sit and hand out candy, and although it was a little chilly we weren't facing anything like the snow and slush my eastern friends were reporting.
After dancing around a bit, Tori announced that she was going to be a gypsy permanently. It's always risky letting her try something new.
Then, of course, we made our traditional holiday pizza and watched Scream 4.
Being a parent is educational in a lot of ways. You learn patience; you learn to go without sleep; you learn to smile even when you're stretched so thin that you're pretty sure you're going to snap; you learn to say "It's okay," in a soothing tone and not flinch when someone throws up in your hair...but I'm coming to believe that the most important thing we learn from our kids is how to see the world. In this case, that nearly anything is worth celebrating.
Saturday, October 15, 2011
See that silver car in the background? Zac Efron was totally in that car. We saw him. And they let Sydney touch it.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Sunday, October 2, 2011
Saturday, September 24, 2011
The dog is dancing to go out when I come through the door and I slip him into his harness and grab my phone and head out. I'm feeling thankful as I close the door behind me; I've just walked four miles and I have the energy to go right back out with the dog. I'm not short of breath. My heart isn't racing. I'm sure you're all sick of hearing about it, but it wasn't all that long ago that I thought it would never be possible again.
Smiling, I shift my phone to the hand with the leash so I can lock the door. The dog yanks. My phone flies out of my hand and lands face down on the concrete, shattering.
Who knew Yorkies were so tough?
Okay. Deep breath. I'm pretty sure I have insurance. I try to dial customer care and the call goes through, but apparently they can't hear me. All I get for my troubles is an index finger full of tiny glass slivers. When the call disconnects, "No Service" pops up and stays.
Have I mentioned that Tori is on a field trip out of town? Or that they didn't know what time they'd be home and I was waiting for a call to pick her up? Or that we don't have a land line at this new place?
So I'm a little rattled and the dog doesn't get the nice long walk he was hoping for, but I'm still feeling pretty good. I've decided to run to Wal-Mart and pick up a TracFone. Not only have I come up with a solution in just a few minutes, but it's come with another "things could definitely be worse" moment--even though I'm unemployed, I didn't have to stop and think about whether I could afford a TracFone.
My luck held, too. I got my new phone purchased and activated just minutes before Wal-Mart caught on fire, and was already on my way to the door when they started to evacuate.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Saturday, August 20, 2011
Friday, July 22, 2011
And she was so eager to establish that "I live here now" that she settled right in and announced, "I'm sitting in my living room. I took my shoes off."
And, you know, tiny people incapable of malice are going to gather in my yard and sing on Christmas morning.
Saturday, July 2, 2011
Maybe your best friend cuts a foot off your hair in a dormitory bathroom one night, both of you giggling at your own daring; maybe you stand with an old friend at ocean's edge at sunset, your child by your side and hers in her arms, and watch an unexpected school of dolphins play in the surf; maybe a man spontaneously picks a flower for you walking by the river at dusk; maybe you and your closest friends drink wine coolers out of two-liter bottles by the lagoon late one night and end up singing old songs together on a tiny island; maybe a little girl carefully makes you a picnic lunch of bologna sandwiches and juice boxes to eat on the lawn with her on Mother's Day; maybe your conversation on a road trip with a friend keeps you laughing so hard that you almost don't want to reach your destination. Maybe you stand on a bridge at midnight and watch fireworks with all of the people you love most in the world; maybe a man plays a song just for you in a room full of strangers who will never know what it meant; maybe a tiny child looks up at you with shining eyes and says "this is fun!" and transforms everything about that moment; maybe wine tasting on a winter morning makes you reckless enough to say something you really, really should; maybe you dance in a downpour with your children; maybe you hang your purse in a tree one evening and roll down a hill with your oldest friend, forgetting for a moment that you're both in your forties and laughing like children; maybe a child who isn't yours gives you a heartfelt Mother's Day card; maybe any of a hundred thousand other moments you could recall happened when you least expected them, when you were walking down the street with a friend or awakened by a child or surprised by a lover or caught a glimpse of something magnificent.
Here's what almost never happens, though: you plan to have a magical movie moment and it turns into something memorable. The reason is both obvious and ironic. What makes those moments magical and memorable is their authenticity, the moment of connection, the spontaneous laughter, the way you feel when a certain person's hand covers yours. And you can't plan those things. You can plan the trappings, but the trappings don't really mean anything. Sunset doesn't make for romance; the sun sets every evening and most of the time most of us don't even notice it. It's the right company, the loosening of your sense of time when you're sitting with that person at dusk that lets you see the sunset differently, that makes it something memorable. And there's nothing inherently beautiful about a bologna sandwich. It's the tiny hands that worked so hard at making it just right for you and the tiny heart that motivated it that fix that lunch in your mind for the rest of your life.
How very sad that so often we get so caught up in staging the perfect moment that we're too busy to let one happen.
Friday, June 17, 2011
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Saturday, May 21, 2011
- A young woman sitting by a duck pond reading
- A group of pre-teen boys playing basketball in a driveway
- Several teenage boys on skateboards
- A multi-generational group hanging out on lawn chairs in a driveway
- Three separate groups of young men working on cars
- No fewer than five people walking dogs
- A group of children of several ages riding bicycles
- Two separate lone men riding bicycles
- Five people jogging, alone or in pairs
- A woman and her teenage daughter (I presume) out walking
- A youth baseball game with many families in attendance
- Kids hanging out on the school playground
- A man and a ten-ish girl painting their house
- A child sitting in the lap of an older man and "helping him steer" a riding lawnmower
- A young woman walking a baby in a stroller
- Two women sitting in a yard watching a toddler and a girl of about six play
- A couple teaching their toddler to throw a ball
- A man gardening
- A group of elementary-school-aged kids playing kickball
Friday, April 8, 2011
In typical harried downtown professional fashion, I slid into the cab and offered up my destination while at the same time digging for cash for the fare and checking the new email making my phone jingle repeatedly...and then I looked down.
Sliding out from under the driver's seat was a satiny black bra, somewhat padded, with rhinestones.
I looked at the driver. It didn't appear to be his size.
In days gone by, I would have debated about what to do next. Should I mention it to the driver? Pick it up? Pretend not to see it? Get out the other side in case cooties might jump off of it and assault me?
But no more. Today, my course of action was crystal clear: I snapped this picture and posted it to Facebook from my phone, before I ever left the cab.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
I'm also worn out. For those of you who haven't been keeping score, thus far this year:
-my car died forever, not just in another state but in a rural stretch of Interstate at midnight on a Saturday night;
-after about a month without a car, we replaced it and got the old one cleaned out and scrapped just in time for us both to get sick;
-an unexpected new expense cropped up in my life to the tune of $500+/month;
-my doctor joined a local clinic of very questionable quality and integrity on no notice, leaving me low on crucial maintenance drugs and without a physician;
-my father was diagnosed with a serious medical condition;
-I got a serious flu--both bronchial and stomach--that lasted for more than three weeks;
-frustrating things started to happen at work, which is probably par for the course for most people but was pretty much previously unheard of in my formerly Utopian workplace;
-my stepson dropped out of JobCorps and didn't tell anyone in the program or the family that he was leaving or where he was going, so that we weren't sure whether he'd run away or been killed (turned out it was "run away");
-I lost my debit card and discovered that fact while I was downtown Chicago with $2 in cash;
-I spent Saturday night at the hospital being evaluated for a blood clot; and then
-I spent this morning at the ER with Tori and her neck problems.
(Looking for a much better Q2, by the way.)
But I digress.
I went to McDonald's and got the chicken strips. While I was there, I noticed a sign that made me think about a new blog post series. I was thinking something along the lines of "Signs that Shouldn't be Necessary". This one said "Sorry--free drink refills are available only for the duration of your visit. No free refills in cups brought in from outside the restaurant."
I left the restaurant thinking about why that sign had been necessary and wishing I'd gotten a picture of it to post on Facebook or one of my blogs but then, before I was out of the parking lot, I realized I hadn't seen the cashier put the sweet and sour sauce in the bag, and I pulled into a parking space to check.
My coke tipped over and spilled all over the floor of the car and my feet.
You can see it coming, can't you?
So I went back into the store with my bag and my now-empty cup to ask for the sweet and sour sauce. But the bag was wet from the river of coke in my car and started to tear as I was carrying it, and I didn't have a free hand. And no sooner had I gotten that under control than my pants started to fall off. No, really. I'd changed out of shorts to run out to McDonald's and the pants I'd put on were pretty loose...and apparently getting looser as I walked around. I'd been hiking them up the whole time, but this was a whole different ballgame...I felt them sliding past my hips. Long shirt or no, I had to rescue them...but I didn't have a free hand and I couldn't do it walking, so I ended up standing in the parking lot blocking the cars attempting to come out of the drive-through line while I reassembled my clothing.
Good news, though. I got the sweet and sour sauce and then no one even attempted to stop me when I refilled the cup I'd brought in from outside the restaurant after the duration of my visit had expired.
Saturday, February 12, 2011
15 years and 12 hours ago, I was sitting at a rather grungy Denny’s, having been unceremoniously booted out of the hospital for not being far enough along in the process. The lasagna I’d made that evening was still sitting in my oven untouched, but that wasn’t why we went to Denny’s. Eating was out of the question, given that I was in so much pain I couldn’t even stand up straight. No, we went to Denny’s because it was across the street from the hospital, and you KNOW when you’re having a baby.
It was a long, strange night that seemed rough in the moment and has evolved over time into a fond and entertaining memory. My little sister’s pay phone fight with the condescending nurse has become legendary; we’ve all come to love the boy with the sno-cone colored hair whom I first met on that night. No one seems to remember who read Tori’s charts on the day she was born (or whether it was even someone anyone among us knew), but we all remember the dramatic predictions she (he?) made.
That part, I’ll admit, seems like another lifetime. Maybe more than 15 years. But something strange happened the very next day. I had a beautiful baby girl, and then she started kindergarten and a couple of days later it was middle school and now she’s 15.
A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about how each new stage in a child’s life brings its own joys, and I’m happy to report we haven’t reached the end of that road yet (though my friends with teenagers keep warning that the end is near).
In fact, it often seems to me that it's only the details that change--and sometimes not even those.
So rather than looking at all of the many ages and stages we've passed through and all the milestones my baby has left behind today, I'm thinking about how she's been the same remarkable, sweet, funny, positive, lovable and creative person for as long as I've known her.
And I've stopped waiting for something to change. I've stopped believing that one day I'll get used to her, and that she will come down the stairs in the morning and I won't notice all over again how beautiful she is. I'm going to stop believing that one day she'll run out of new discoveries to share with me, or that her enchantment with those new experiences will cease to enchant me. Yes, she will be driving in a year and I don't know how that happened, but it doesn't frighten me. Because I do know the sound of her half excited/half frightened laughter, and I can't wait to hear it the first time she eases her foot onto the gas pedal...I've heard it before, when she rode a two-wheeler for the first time, and it was delightful.
She's gone from baby to schoolgirl to "the big kid" to teenage aunt
and so far, every day is just as much fun as the one before. Somehow, I think that's going to continue even when she's all grown up.