Sunday, February 17, 2008

Time Redefined

I’m not sure how you people do it.

After over eighteen years of being a stay-at-home mother, the transition to working mother is humbling! I am struggling with how to lop ten hours out of my day and still have time to do all the things that need to be done.

I know that I will get it figured out.

And, for the most part, I am enjoying the process of figuring it out.

It’s just…
It feels as though I am sprinting while everyone else is on a Sunday stroll, and yet, I am falling farther and farther behind.

The first thing to go has been my “me time”.
Coffee dates with friends are a thing of the past. Now, when I drink coffee, I drink it alone. Often, I get so absorbed in work that by the time I am ready to drink my coffee, it is no longer hot.
Meeting for lunch. Gone. Lunch is a half an hour broken into five or ten minute increments during which I exchange the cold sludge in my mug for hot coffee or dash to the locksmith to get a copy of the front door key made so my children can get in the house without climbing over the back gate.
These “sacrifices” came as no surprise, but, I miss these times with my friends.

I tried exchanging lunch dates for dinner dates on the nights my children are with their father, but that hasn’t worked out so well. I’m an eight-hour a night kind of girl which means that if I’m not ready for bed by nine or ten, I’m wearing sandpaper eyelids for the next two days.

The “me time” thing I am missing the most is my four-plus day a week yoga routine that has dwindled to one class a week.

I miss yoga, and yet, I have consciously chosen not to go. I just cannot justify it to myself nor can I justify it to my children. I feel as though I am already away from them too much. Choosing to be at yoga for two hours rather than with my children just is not an option. Missing yoga is preferable to missing my children.

It was fine to leave my children at home and go off to do my own thing, when I spent time in their schools and I taxied them to and from practices and appointments and I molded my life to fit into theirs.
Now though, I am asking my children to adjust their lives to mine. They get up earlier, eat dinner later and spend the time in between being spectacularly independent.

When I worked from home, our time together was plentiful. I could, for the most part, be completely available to them whenever they needed me to be. I did the daily school drop-offs and pick-ups. I was available after school for homework help and snack making. I attended every single game, meet and performance.
I loved having that kind of time with my children. I loved it, but I’m afraid that I was also careless with it. In the back of my mind, I gave myself permission to miss moments because I knew that another one would be coming along right behind it and I could just grab that one.

Since starting work, I have not made it to a single of my daughter’s games. Homework help happens long after the time that heads should be filled with sweet dreams rather than questions about book reports and thesis statements.
The moments that took for granted are no longer a given. Accidental togetherness is rare.

And so, I have had to redefine “me time”.

Me time is now the precious moments that I get to spend with my children not away from them.
Adult time. That now happens at work.
My chores get done when the children are with their father. My children do their chores when I am at work.
Blogging happens in the time left over, meaning daily posts and jaunts through the blogoshpere are mere memories.

Keeping all these balls in the air is hard and the learning curve is steep.

I bow to all of the women who have managed to do this with such dignity and grace.
Thank you for proving to me that it is possible.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I Dated A Man

I dated a man. Sweet man. Helpful man. Needy man.

He called one night. After three weeks of nothing.
I picked up the phone, even though caller ID warned me not to.
I couldn’t ignore it. I HAD to see what he was going to say.

“Will you marry me?”
“You heard me…I want to marry you.”
“No, you don’t want to marry me AND we need to talk.”

There are so many things wrong with this conversation.
    Answering the phone in the first place.
    No boundaries as far as the eye can see.
    Not hanging up immediately.
    Pretending it was a rational conversation.
    Seeking to prolong it.

It doesn’t take a crystal ball to figure out that the rest of the conversation did not go much better. He did not call to listen to me; he called so that I could listen to him.

I’m good at that. Listening. So I listened and I soothed and I thought.

I thought about a conversation I had just had with my oldest daughter. The one where I told her that relationships should add to your life, not take away from your life. A good relationship makes you feel better, look better, be better. Not all the time, but most of the time, enough of the time to make it worth the effort.

My relationship with this man had lost most of the better.
When it was finally my turn to talk, I told him that.

I told him that one call a month cannot sustain a relationship.
He said he was sorry and he had been selfish. Then he pointed out that I had not called him either.
Classic turnabout tactic. Clearly he was listening when his coach taught him that the best offense is a good defense.
“Yes,” I responded, shutting my eyes so as to avoid seeing the brick wall against which I felt compelled to bang my head, “I didn’t call because, the last time we talked, you said that you would call me back as soon as you got out of the store.”
“You’re right, I did say that. I can’t remember why I didn’t call you. Something must have happened, a call from the kids or work or something. But I’ve been checking my phone for the last three weeks to see if you’d called, and you never did.”
Ah, he took lessons from my mother as well. Just keep repeating yourself, like a broken record. No matter what the other person says, just keep on repeating your main point. Don’t respond. Repeat.

I see that the conversation is going nowhere fast. But, what the heck, it felt so good to pound my head against that familiar brick wall, so I kept on going. “I’m tired of always being the one to call, so this time I waited.”
“You’re not always the one to call. I called you. Even though you didn’t call me for three weeks!”

And so it goes. Around and around. Until we can’t talk anymore. Until I get angry and he hangs up because “it’s pointless to talk angry”. He always says we’ll continue our conversation after we have “cooled down”. Of course we never do. By the time it’s time to talk, memory makes the conversation into an irrational discussion about who was supposed to call whom, which really doesn’t matter, and is not worth rehashing.

The deeper discussion, the part that gets buried under the rubble of a failed conversation, is lost.
This time, I think it’s best just to leave it there.
Leave it there and move on.
Without him.

Monday, February 11, 2008

I Am From

I am from black sand beaches licked by warm purple seas, from stiff new Weejuns penny loafers and the Ko’olau Mountains wreathed in mists of the gods.

I am from picture posed houses, Daddy’s big squishy chair and the blue electric sizzle of termites greeting death in the bug light. From musty books and midnight rainstorms, ancient bullfrogs and proud roosters.

I am from the stiff lauhala tree, roots stacked like a bonfire, orange crepe paper ilima fashioned into lei, the rainbow halo of the full moon on a clear Hawaiian night. From creaking bamboo and the whisper of a carp tail breaking free from the water, buzzing mosquitoes and ducks nesting in trees.

I am from stockings before Mass on green Christmas mornings and too flat button noses. From Mollie and Kekaula and all the Kanamus, steadfast and prudent, holding tight to the land.

I am from the perfect family and secrets, in dark corners of basements. From hallways and pianos, frozen fragments of time, from lawnmower furrowed grass and tangerine trees.
I am from because I said so and troll hair unbound, dancing untamed. From a breath never exhaled and a prayer waiting to be granted.

I am from a crucifix strung from the rafters, incense jangled into smoke. From questions and white lace mantilla dusting brown braids pulled tight. I am from Our Father and dry wafers on moist tongues, alleluia and amen.
I am from ti leaf offerings of gin placed carefully to appease, from rocks stolen and returned, giving peace to a soul.

I'm from England and China, the Emerald Isle and the North American plains. I am from royalty of Hawai’i and Germany, lau lau and garlic crusted lamb chops.

I am from the Hawaiian boy in Boston on a corner in the snow, from the first and final stop of an adventure around the world, from the daughter left alone to wait for a miracle. I am from summers on the lake in Tennessee and kick the can in the dark of a neighborhood street. I am from chlorine and salt water, concrete and sand.

I am from the drumbeat of paddles on koa canoes and words stolen by strangers being reclaimed by fresh voices. I am from my grandfather, my grandchild, my inner child, my crone. I am from what has been and what is yet to come, from wisdom and faith.

Thank you Molly for the challenge.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Rules of the Game

My youngest had a basketball game today.
They lost.
He felt discouraged.

The good news is that they only lost by five points today instead of by the twenty plus point losses they have been enduring all season.

Still, my boy walked back to the bench with his head hanging and his shoulders sagging.

I go over and give him a hug. “You played some really good defense today,” I say to the top of the sweaty head that is buried against my stomach.

A grumpy voice mumbles into my shirt, “I didn’t like the refs. Joe got fouled and they didn’t even call it.”

“Well,” I sigh, “that’s the thing about basketball. The refs are going to call it the way they see it, whether you agree with them or not. That’s their job. And what is your job?”

He takes a breath so deep that his shoulders lift. I can feel him rolling his eyes at me as he admits, “To be an athlete”.

“That’s right,” I nod, hugging him a little tighter. “And you did that really well today.”

“But we still lost,” he argues.

“Yes, you did,” I agree, “but did you do your best?”

“Uh huh.”

“And that’s what matters, lovey,” I say, detaching myself from him so that I can get down and look him in the eyes. “And I know that sometimes it feels like your best is not enough, and I’m sorry for that, because really, it really is enough. It’s everything.”

“But we lost,” he repeats, a tape stuck in a continuous loop.

I nod, “ And I’m proud of you. You played hard all the way through. You didn’t argue with the refs or get mad at the other team or pout when you got subbed out. You encouraged your teammates. You all worked together and listened to your coach. And…you played some stellar defense.”

His face lights up. “Yeah, did you see when I stole the ball?!”

“I did! And you blocked that shot in the third quarter.”

“Yeah,” he says. His eyes are bright with the excitement as he stands up and goes into instant replay mode. “He was coming down the court and he threw the ball up and I stretched out really far, like this, with both hands and the ball kinda ran into my hands and my hand bent back, like this.”

I smile at him and agree, “You did. It was just like that! It was totally awesome!”

He sighs with satisfaction and turns away from me to walk back to the bench to get his gear.

My heart bursts with pride for my little man and I am thankful for the lecture I went to last summer about the role of parents in athletics.

It was offered to parents of high school athletes, but I have found the information I was given has been useful for all of my children.
It was presented by a man named Bruce Brown. He gives talks to parents of athletes, sharing with them the things he has learned in his thirty-five years of being a teacher and coach.

Here’s what I came away with:
At any kind of athletic competition, there are four different jobs available.
You need to pick your job before the competition starts.
You can only choose one.
Once you have chosen your job, you need to stick with it for the entire contest.

Your choices are:

I always choose fan.

As a fan, my job is:
    Be present.
    Do everything I can to make it a positive experience for my child.
    Accept the decisions of the coaches and the officials.
    Encourage everyone on the team, not just my child.
    Be a good role model.
    Attempt to relieve competitive pressures rather than add to them.
    Understand why my child plays and accept and support his reasons.
    Be a confidence builder by maintaining perspective and making sure that my child doesn’t feel as though his self-worth is tied to playing time or the outcome of the contest.

I love Bruce Brown for teaching me this. It makes it so much easier to go to athletic events.

He taught me that:
    It doesn’t really matter if I feel as though my child needs to warm up sooner or hustle or be more engaged. That’s the coach’s job. If the coach has a problem with it, the coach will talk to my child about it; if not, then it’s not a problem.
    The officials are not going to change a call just because I yell at them. My dissing of the officials only teaches my child that being disrespectful is okay as long as I think the other person is wrong.
    My child will give as much or as little effort as he chooses. He needs to learn how to listen to his body and I need to respect what he hears.

It has been liberating.
I no longer have to worry about the calls or second guess the coach or remind my child to remember to use this or that skill. Those things are someone else’s responsibility. Those are the jobs of the coaches, officials and the athletes.

My job is to encourage and appreciate.


Saturday, February 9, 2008

Yes We Can

"I must do something" always solves more problems than "Something must be done."
What do you think?

Friday, February 8, 2008

Behind the Shadow

Some of my favorite memories of my childhood are not my memories at all, they are my mother’s.

The stories she tells are of a toddler who is strong willed and determined. A child who knows her mind and is not going to let anyone make her change it.

A two year old who loathed being called a baby and bristled, “I’m not a baby, I’m a bear!”
A three year old who ate her dinner of shrimp cocktail and onion soup under the table at a New York restaurant because it was better that way.
A four year old who stopped an entire neighborhood carpool from going home after school by hiding underneath the car because she was afraid to get in that car with a father whom she had never met.

I love that girl.
I’ve missed her.
She was beaten out of me.

The last time I remember seeing her was when she was four and a half.
She was playing at a friend’s house and wanted desperately to go home, but she was afraid to ask. The mother had a strange southern accent. To a child who was barely three and a half feet tall, the woman seemed large and loud, scary and foreign. And so, rather than ask, the child set out on her own, determined to get back home.

Home was four miles away, through windy neighborhood streets and down a four-lane highway. But this little girl’s heart knew the way, knew that this little girl needed to be there.

So she set off on her own, brown braids wagging back and forth, bangs ruffled by the breeze. Her round tanned cheeks jiggled as she marched resolutely toward home. She slowed a few times to admire the flowers, stopping once to climb up a small plumeria tree for a particularly alluring and delicate blossom.

Walking through the neighborhood was peaceful. As she neared the highway, the whoosh of busy cars alerted her to the fact that she was more than half way home.
Rounding the corner, the sidewalk ended abruptly and the smell of exhaust fumes filled her nose. The girl walked as far off the highway as she could, through the dust and gravel along the side of the road. The bottoms of her sandals were smooth and slick and they refused to bend to accommodate the sharp edges of the gravel. Her beautiful, baby blue, crisp cotton dress with the appliqu├ęd sailboat began to wilt as it collected dust that was kicked up by the cars flying by at 45 miles per hour.
And the girl soldiered on. No one noticed her. No one stopped. No one slowed. And that was fine with the girl. She wouldn’t have talked to anyone anyway. She knew better. Besides, she really didn’t notice them either. Home was calling. That was all that mattered.

Half a mile later, she turned off the highway into her own neighborhood. She passed by the low grey ranch where her friend Debbie lived. Around the next corner was the tall brown fence behind which hid Kelly’s house. Down the street, was the white ranch with the brown-shingled roof belonging to Pam’s family.

And finally, there was the familiar tan house with the peaked roof and the lauhala tree in the front yard. She banged the gate loudly as she ran through it and straight into her grandmother’s room where she was greeted with the smell of violet candy and a surprised smile, “You’re home. I didn’t hear the car door.”

“I walked,” the girl replied quietly, but her fiercely beating heart and up thrust chin betrayed her deep sense of pride.

“I see,” her grandmother nodded.

The girl peeked through her long brown lashes, searching to see if her grandmother’s face matched her words. She was relieved to see that her grandmother’s eyes were soft and wise with understanding. Their eyes bowed respectfully to each other and, just over her grandmother’s shoulder, the girl saw her mother enter the room.

Her mother’s eyes carried no respect, only anger. She grabbed the girl by the wrist and dragged from the room.
“Do you know how frightened Susie’s mother was?” she spewed, spitting anger at the girl. “She had the whole neighborhood out looking for you!”

“I wanted to come home,” the girl explained, hoping that her need would make a difference.

“You could have asked,” her mother replied through clenched teeth, as she yanked open the broom closet door and reached for the yardstick.

“I was afraid,” the girl pleaded, but she already knew that her feelings wouldn’t matter.

“I’ll give you something to be afraid of,” hissed her mother. She pushed the girl down on the hikie’e (hawaiian daybed). The girl’s nose was buried in the cotton cover, which smelled of starched humidity. She felt her mother lift the yardstick high over her head and heard it’s whistling descent. The air stung the girl’s legs and then she felt the crack of the yardstick against the back of her thighs. Once. Twice. Three times. Until, finally, it splintered in two.

The girl knew she deserved it. She realized, too late, that her brave and daring trek home had been neither brave nor daring to her mother; rather, it had been a source of humiliation.
The girl knew that her crime was unforgivable. She was expected to be perfect, and, on this day, she had fallen miserably short of the mark.

She vowed that she would never let it happen again.
On that day, she understood that she was not enough. And so she left.

She was replaced by a shadow who knew how to remain soft and malleable, who allowed herself to be shaped into her mother’s idea of perfection. Even the shadow couldn’t get it right all of the time, but her mistakes were as timid and wispy as she was and were easily squashed.
Occasionally, the girl would peek out from behind her shadow to see if it was safe to come out. Someone was usually there to chase her back into the dark.
Sometimes, the girl could come out and play with her grandmother, but she always made sure to hide before anyone else caught her.

It took me forty years to be brave enough to ask her to stay.

We’ve been getting to know each other again.
I keep telling her that I love her and that she really has always been enough, that, in fact, she has always been perfect.
It has taken a while, but she is finally beginning to trust me.
I think, this time, it is finally safe enough for her to stay,

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Your Excellencies

Hearts In San Francisco over at Guilty with an Explanation has given me an Excellent Blog award.

This is my first ever award and I am so thrilled that it came from Hearts. I discovered this blog on one of my rambles through the blogoshpere and I have been coming back for regular visits. Hearts’ blend of humor and intellect make her blog a wonderful read. She has the ability to take an ordinary situation and turn it into an extraordinary experience.

It is now my responsibility to pass on this award. It was hard for me to choose between my favorite blogs – I have at least two dozen bookmarked. As a way to narrow down my choices, I decided that I will give this award on to the people who currently live next to Hearts in my bookmark bar.

They are:
Molly at The Molly Bawn Chronicles.
Molly inspires me with her wisdom and grace. I rely on her to make me laugh out loud. Her life chronicle provides me with a template for my own life and shines a light to help me to see where I am going.

Shauna at Up In the Night.
Shauna reminds me not to take myself too seriously. Even situations that make her “blather like a nutcase” get turned into comical experiences that provide me with the inspirational view that is sometimes needed to keep putting one foot in front of the other. That, and the joy of being introduced to the incredible number of angels in Shauna's life, are what keep me coming back again and again.

Claudia at at On a Limb.
Claudia’s clean, clear writing informs and inspires. Her idea for practicing daily acts of kindness has changed my life, helping me to see that my glass really is half full – at least!

Carrie at Fully Caffeinated.
Carrie seamlessly blends humor and relevant information in a way that is readily accessible. Her Top Ten lists have inspired me and made me laugh. She allows me to walk in her shoes for a bit, to look at things from another point of view, which has led me to a greater understanding of my own life.

Michelle at Full Soul Ahead.
Michelle is one of the most well informed people I know. I count on her to keep me abreast of the latest news. Her writing about her life and her family are filled with love and hope. Her dedication to making a difference is proof that one person is all that is needed to start a revolution. Michelle constantly teaches me how to make lemonade out of lemons.

Karen at Cherrio Road.
Karen is amazing. Visiting her blog gives me peace and shows me that I am not alone in my struggles. Karen words penetrate my skin and burrow deep into my soul. Her writing is beautiful and simple and real.

Thank you to each of you for making a difference.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

First Days

I was awake at 5:15 and, before the alarm clock even had a chance to sound, I was out of bed. Ignoring the sandpaper that seemed to have replaced my eyelids while I had been sleeping, I stumbled into the bathroom and began my morning.

As I brushed my teeth, the mirror informed me that a perfunctory shower was not going to be sufficient today. My hair was a tangle of sleep and neglect that was threatening mutiny if it didn’t get the love and attention of a good conditioner. Picture brillo pad meets electrical outlet and you’ve got a good idea of what I was seeing.

Ten minutes later, my freshly laundered tresses are wrapped in a towel turban and smelling of citrus and sun, and I am standing in my closet. I had listened to my daughter’s advice and had chosen my outfit the night before, but this morning, I felt it was necessary to second-guess my decision.
Would the new, light brown, crisp cotton trousers really make the proper statement in the middle of winter? Perhaps the green plaid wool skirt would be better. But…I’ve never seen anyone else in a skirt. I’ve volunteered with these people for a year and a half and I’m the only one I know who has ever worn a skirt. I spend the next too long weighing the pros and cons of each choice, finally settling on my original outfit, a symphony of chocolate and gold.

My smart brown flats tip tap on the hardwood floor and I head down to the kitchen.

My mind swims with the tasks that need to be completed before I head out the door.
The sun is not yet even a hint on the horizon and I impress myself by actually thinking about dinner. Usually, thoughts of dinner do not even enter my cluttered mind until at least 5pm, when the hungry masses start circling. But today, I am all efficiency and planning and I drag my crock-pot out of the cobwebs at the back of the cupboard and set it on the counter. My youngest enters the kitchen as I am browning the pork roast.
His face betrays his confusion as he glances out the window, checks the round red clock on the wall, and rubs the sleep out of his eyes.
“Nope,” I reply succinctly. I’m all business this morning, no time for wasted words. “Dinner. Why don’t you go get ready for school while I get the oatmeal started.”
He wanders back out of the kitchen and I hear him thumping back up the stairs.
I flip roast out of the pan and it lands with a plop on top of the vegetables that blanket the bottom of the crock-pot. The smell of garlic and spices dance in the air, and the oatmeal starts to burble on the stove.

I start to yell down the stairs to make sure my oldest son is up, and my holler bounces off his body as he rounds the corner at exactly the same moment. His sleepy senses are not happy with my unexpected greeting, and he growls a brusque, “Morning,” and brushes past me on his way up the stairs to take a shower.

I hear the bells on my daughter’s bedroom door jingle and I know that she is up and moving. I decide to let her ease into the morning without any interruptions from me.

I begin making lunches. Soup and nuts for my daughter, leftovers, a sandwich, extra vegetables and trail mix for her oldest brother, pizza and juice for the baby. Everyone gets cookies and fruit. I decide on humus, veggies and an orange for me.

It’s 7:15, my children are just sitting down for breakfast, and I’ve finished my meal preparations for the whole day! Woohoo.

I’d like to say that the rest of the day went as smoothly, but alas, it was not to be.
I neglected to take into account the whole driving part.
I have this strange, misguided, misbegotten idea that I can get to anywhere in Portland in fifteen minutes or less. It’s not true. I’ve lived here for over twenty-five years. I have repeatedly proven to myself the absolute absurdity of this notion. And yet, I challenge it on an almost daily basis because…it works for most places that I need to go.

Today, I find that getting to work is not one of the places that falls within my fifteen minute parameter, especially when I overshoot and go forty blocks past the office.
Going home is no better. I have half an hour to get to school to pick up my son from extended day before they would start charging the $1 a minute late fee.
No problem, except, by the time I leave work I have only twenty-five minutes. Factor in the fact that the rest of humanity is clogging the cities arteries, and that every single stoplight in the entire town is red, and you can see how I might have a slight bit of a problem!

I pull up outside school and the clock on my car ticks to 5:59. I race inside, desperate to beat my 6:00 deadline and I realize that I have no idea where to find my son. A helpful parent points me toward the whiteboard that informs people of the whereabouts of their children. Only, it lists the names of the extended day teachers, not the students and I have no idea which of the six teachers listed belongs to my son.
When I finally reach the basement classroom where they are hiding my baby, he is the last student there. He is wearing his backpack and standing on his coat. I come flying through the door, panic personified, and he smiles gently and almost coos, “Hi Mummy. How was work?”

His calmness washes over me, a warm ocean wave cleansing my anxiety.

“Hi, I’m Liz,” his teacher says, extended her hand to me. “You need to sign him out on the clipboard,” she explains, gesturing to the table in the corner. I head over to the clipboard and I hear her smile to my son, “Wow, this is not a hurry up, I’ve got ice cream melting in the car kind of mom.”

I feel a warm hand grasping mine and pulling me toward the door. Soon I am lost in the story of a day in the life of a nine-year old boy and the excitement of his first day in extended day.

Life is good!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Kindness Chronicles III

Driving home from my youngest son’s basketball game yesterday, we saw a bumper sticker that said “Individual thoughts lead to mass consciousness. Be peace.”

This morning, in the Opinion section of the Oregonian there was a piece written by Chauncey Canfield in which he pondered the question posed by so many mothers who have tried to reason their children out of certain undesirable behaviors by asking, “what if everybody…?”

These two encounters had me looking at group behavior from opposite ends of the spectrum and each time, I reached the same conclusion -- group behavior is individual behavior that had been multiplied, making a HUGE difference.

Which leads me to ask, “What if everybody decided to be kind?” This is question posed by Claudia (at On a Limb) who inspired Everyday Kindness.

Imagine that world for a moment.
That is the one that I want for my children.

And so, I continue my quest to be kind. Every day. Some days it is easier than others.

At the beginning of the week, I was in a good place. I was able to let go of the anger and resentment I feel towards Patrick and actually cleared my mind enough to come up with a list of all the things about my relationship with Patrick for which I am thankful. I’ve read that list every day and have sent kind and loving thoughts his way.
Today, I ran out of kind and loving thoughts for him. Anger and resentment were happy to see me return and they wrapped me in their warm embrace. So warm, in fact, that I actually had steam coming out of my ears! I made an emergency call to my friend, Wanda, and her soothing words and much cooler head talked me back down to a more rational place.

I was able to go all week without any complaining. Actually, it was eight days! Today…well, today happened, and so tomorrow, I will start on day one. Again.

I thanked the referee at my daughter’s basketball game for her efforts in calling the game. Not only did she call the fouls, but she also made sure that the girls behaved in a sportsmanlike manner. It was nice to see an official who cared as much about the girls’ character as she did about the rules.

I caught my children doing nice things at least a dozen times this week. I made sure to let them know that I had noticed. It felt good to notice something besides the open bag of potato chips left in the TV room, the unmade beds, and the clothes that didn’t make it up from the laundry room.

As I launch into my fourth week of everyday kindness, I will also be launching myself into the world of the forty-hour work week. I wonder if the interaction with a wider variety of people will make being kind easier or more difficult.

Time will tell.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Angel Love

I love my angels.
I love the way they watch over me and my children.
I love they way they keep us safe.
Even when we have no idea that we are in danger.

Thursday night, they were working overtime.

I came home late, after an evening at a friend’s house. Parking my car in the driveway, I paused a moment to enjoy the quiet. The rain had stopped, but the air was still wet. The clouds parted just enough for me to see two stars. I wondered if they had been the first two stars in the sky that night, the ones that my youngest son baptizes each night, christening them Sam and Twinkle.

The house was still. The bedroom windows were dark and I knew that each of my children must be deep in Dreamland.

Down the street, I heard my neighbor dragging his garbage can to the curb for the morning trash pick-up. It reminded me that I still needed to put out my recycling.

I turned and walked up the steps to the front door. Opening the door, I knew immediately that something was wrong.

The house smelled hot, like skin that’s been in the sun too long.
I glanced quickly at the heat vents and sniffed the air again.

No noise. No smoke. No flames. No excessive heat. Just the smell of summer car hot.

As I headed toward the kitchen, the quiet was replaced by the sound of empty air burning.
Reaching the back of the house, I found darkness that was illuminated only by the hood light over the stove. It shined like a spotlight on the teakettle standing center stage, silently screaming.
The stainless steel skin was no longer shiny, rather it had become pock marked and scarred black. The air was filled with agony.
I rushed over and turned off the licking flame, but the screaming didn’t stop. I reached down to lift the lid and found that it was firmly soldered in place. I turned on the fan and the screaming stopped as the pain was gently lifted and ushered out into the night.

I left the kitchen and made my rounds of the house, checking on each of my children. Deep breathing came from beneath the mound of pillows and blankets in Bub’s room. Ely’s golden blond hair covered her face, stirring slightly with each breath. Ugly Dolls formed a halo around the head of my littlest, watching over him as he slept.

Assured that everyone was safe, I exhaled. I hadn't realized that I had been holding my breath. The air felt good in my lungs. I turned toward my room. I reached over and flipped off the light switch and, as the hallway turned dark, I’m sure I heard a little flutter of wings.

Smiling, I looked up and whispered, “Thank you!”

Friday, February 1, 2008

A Call for Help

I was wasting time, cruising the blogoshpere and, somehow, for some reason, the Universe sent me here

I know next to nothing about this woman, and very little about her book.

What I do know is that she is a writer. A woman writer. A woman writer with four children. A woman writer with four children who needs our help.
This may not be your type of book. You may not have the time right now to read. But perhaps you know someone for whom this book would be absolutely perfect.

Pass it on.

I Miss Him...Still

My grandfather died the year before I was born.

I miss him.

I don’t know how that can be, I just know that there is an ache in my heart that should filled with him.

I used to carry a picture of him in my wallet. I carried no other pictures, not my grandmother, not my parents, not my husband, not my children. Just my grandfather.

The sepia toned photo did not age well in my wallet. It is jagged around the edges and the crease down middle threatens to tear my grandfather in two.
The photo is irreplaceable. It should have been preserved in a frame, but I couldn’t take it out of my wallet. I needed my grandfather with me. Without him, a fissure would appear, the fault lines would shift and my world would start to tilt.

When Daddy gave me Nana’s ring, I was finally able to wrestle my grandfather’s picture from my wallet. It now hangs on the kitchen bulletin board, presiding over our schedules and blessing each of our activities.

I’ve heard the stories that amputees tell about their missing limbs and the phantom feelings that linger, and I want to yell, “Yes, yes! I know EXACTLY what you mean! I have a phantom grandfather!”

I can feel my grandfather.
He is right there.
Close enough to touch.
Standing just behind my left shoulder.
He smells like tropical weight wool and skin freshly toasted by the sun.
His breath on my neck is warm and slow, and rolls gently like the waves. In and out. In and out.

Sometimes, he talks to me.
Mostly, he’s just there. Silent.
Loving me.

And still…
I miss him.