Friday, December 28, 2007

i'm sorry, did I forget your birthday?

I love the days after Christmas.  They feel like Christmas morning over and over again because you get to wake up to your new stuff and play with it (or read it or wear it or hang it on the wall . . .)  School age children everywhere will go to school next week with crackly new jeans and shirts with the store creases still in them and new toys hidden in their pockets.  That first day after vacation we'll probably have to remove Drew from his Bengals football uniform with a crowbar.  (Why the Bengals?  I don't know).

There's a creative video on You Tube in which Jesus throws himself a birthday party and no one shows up.  It's very cheesy.  And yet, at the end, when he sat dejectedly against the bounce house all by himself, I felt sad. 

Just think, if we believe in him, and that he was actually the real gift that day - then these years since then are the ultimate "days after".  Every morning we wake up is another day to feel so relieved he came.  Just try the video.   And in light of all the present-opening glee, just try not to feel sheepish.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

How to find the magic 101

One of the "Santa" gifts for John Michael came by UPS just in time.

As I picked up a package of Pampers on Friday - and as we all know, the cost of diapers is one of the leading motivating factors for potty-training these days - a complete stranger handed me a dollar-fifty-off coupon for them.

I made a gift for someone that turned out just as I wanted it to.

It's a Wonderful Life. Every year.

There is snow here! Just enough to embody the song, not enough to be dangerous.

Two words. School. Vacation.

The feeling I get when Jake feeds a coin into the Salvation Army bucket.

Popsicle-stick ornaments.

Christmas movies on television every night, at least one card in the mail every day, neighbors bringing cookies and fudge, and every check-out person in every store or restaurant who dares to say Merry Christmas.

Michael W. Smith christmas CD - any of the three. (This guy gets Christmas like nobody's business.)

One husband, three sons, one drafty but loveable sort of house - magic, magic, magic.

I love this time of year.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

with their faces in the foreground

Today I knelt in front of the high chair and looked at our Christmas tree as it appeared just beyond the top of Jake's head while he was eating. I liked the view. Because first I saw his big eyes and blond curls and then the Christmas lights that framed them.

When I was pregnant with my eldest I noticed my senses were heightened. I hadn't read that part of the book yet to know that was scientific. I only knew that the world looked and felt and smelled and sounded - richer, now that I knew I would be guiding a new little soul through it.

I like to take pictures of the boys on the little step that leads from our dining room to our glorified back porch. In each of the pictures I can vaguely see our house stretched out behind them. In these photos I no longer notice the nails that stick up too far out of the hardwood floor, or the finger smudges on what should be crisp gray paint or the part of the living room that has to be hidden by a rug because we've torn up the hearth and not replaced it with new flooring. The whole thing is completely transformed and glorified as it fades into simply the background for their childhood.

I like the perspective my children have given me on the world. It's not that I see it through their eyes. But I see it better now that they are in it. I think about the way it appears around them, and I like the view just beyond their heads.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Tag, You're It

Today's Tag from the Good Girls is - What do you like and dislike about yourself, so - after sorting through the numerous options . . .
This is Chicken Joe from Surf's Up. I adored this character. I loved how completey unfazed he was by absolutely everything. Native islanders throw him in a pot of boiling water, and he thinks he's being treated to a soak in a jakuzzi. They add vegetables. He thinks he's been handed some dinner. They do the chicken soup dance around him. He says, "Cool. Dinner and a show." The whole movie of Surf's Up is about how deeply the penguin cares about himself and his surfing dream and his ultimate life-affirming destiny. Chicken Joe is the lovely, humorous antithesis to such self-absorbed introspection. And it's not like he's actually indifferent to life. He really does love to surf. But when it comes time for the big competition, he's like, "Dude, I don't even know where my board is - I gotta go find it. "
So what I dislike most about myself is how little I resemble Chicken Joe. I'm way too introspective (i.e., self-absorbed) about life and my place in it. Almost nothing rolls off my back, and if you throw me in a pot of boiling water and add some vegetables, I will cry and fuss and scream and later ask everyone I know why this might have happened, what I could have done differently, and whether or not they think I would have at least tasted good.
What I like about myself is, I can learn. I think it's one of the best qualities of being a human at all. I dislike the emotions and self-absorption of how deeply I take things in. But I like that I do take them in and try to learn from them and hopefully sometimes do. If I hurt your feelings - even if you don't tell me so, I will probably realize it later and not do it (at least in that same way) ever again. If I speak too loudly or too quickly or too much, I usually recognize it and deal with myself.
So, as seems to be the theme for the day, my like and dislike are kind of different sides of the exact same thing. That's how strengths and weaknesses go, I've been told.
Oh and dude, spoiler ahead if you haven't seen it, but Chicken Joe totally wins the surfing competition. And I totally took that in.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

what i did on my snowy vacation

We're on our second snow day around here, although - what with working from home and all - I don't really get those.

We went to McDonald's for lunch because I wanted to mark the day somehow as truly out of the ordinary. But it's not like we can't go to McDonald's for lunch on a Saturday, so I'm not sure I accomplished my goal.

I'm big on commemorating things. I wanted it sealed in their little minds that today was special. They should have been sitting at a desk somewhere doing math facts or getting in the lunch line in an order based on which meal they chose for the day (I learned this one only recently) or practicing for the Christmas play. But instead they're at home playing darts and Nintendo, wearing ridiculous clothing for winter months (Drew would still be in only his underwear if I hadn't intervened), watching Shrek, and consuming miniature popsicles between every meal. Being a grownup, as I have described in detail, rocks. But snow days are one of those gifts that make it really cool to be a kid. I could explain this to them, how my work day didn't change even the teensiest bit by the fact that our entire world (within a several-mile radius anyway) is covered by ice. But I hate to depress them. And besides, their blissful ignorance that having to be told to put clothes on top of the underwear is purely a childhood delight (I hope!) is part of the wonder of being a kid at all.

But in honor of the snow day I'll share a couple things I have learned lately from their school work: Did you know that "learningly" and "helpingly" are qualities to look for in a friend? And in answer to why a certain American legend was called Johnny Appleseed or The Tree Planter, my eldest answered matter-of-factly, "Because they didn't want to call him John Chapman." (At least he knew the last name, that's more than I could have sworn to). And finally - Drew thinks John is really cool. If you don't believe me, check his seat work, his art work, his vocabulary sentences, and his stories from home that he apparently shares with his teacher each day. That melts my mother heart so much - I almost wish I'd let him stay in his underwear.

Monday, December 10, 2007

two minutes

Sisters are happy things. These are my nieces, but there's a picture in our family history of my older sister and I looking kind of like this, only Felicity is pouting BIG time, and there's a couch cushion pulled out behind her from where I have just discovered her Easter candy stash.

When we were in college Sarah Dunn came up with this great concept about Two Minutes. She was talking about the way it feels when someone is right in your face telling you that you messed up in some way or failed to do something you should have, etc. (Telling you in love of course). And then you want so badly to say, "Fine. Now go away - not forever, but for at least Two Minutes. I need two minutes to stop being mad about this, to stop wanting to defend myself and actually deal with it. So go away, please, and give me my two minutes."

I was thinking about that the other day when I was thinking about my blog. My readers might get the wrong impression of me, I was thinking. Because I tend to be poetic and have a beautiful perspective on this messy thing called life. This my friends, is the beauty of writing. Not that I don't have a great perspective on life. It's just that - I don't always have it right in the moment. I need my two minutes. Two minutes to rethink my initial tendencies. Two minutes to turn the traumas into humor and come up with one very big poetic But. (i.e., but I had cancer once, and this little trial doesn't matter as much as it used to). Two minutes to ask myself, "What would Felicity do?"

And that's how writing and Sarah Dunn and Two Minutes all ties in to sisters. Because so much of what I've decided about life is because I think it's what Felicity might decide if it were her.

My other sister tried out for American Idol this summer. She got past the first horrible round in which they narrowed over eight thousand people down to about 150, by our estimate. I was so proud about that I could hardly stand it. She let us tag along to the second round and I was so excited by the mere experience of being that close to television-making, it was all I could do not to go up to one of the red t-shirted people and beg them to give me a job.

And here's the punch line for today. Besides the fact that I really like sisters. Reality TV gets pretty mocked, I know. And in some circles American Idol might as well be called "Let's all break the second commandment." But for me, it's a very happy, very moving memory in my role as proud and adoring sister. And, frankly, I wish I knew more people who had tried it. I wish I knew more people who had tried out for reality television than I know of people with cancer. That's what two minutes has given me on that topic.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

today's movie from the cabinet

I feel this movie should be required viewing for every 12-year-old girl. It's my favorite story - girl slowly realizes she's becoming a pill. Or that some part of her character has been ill-formed or that her "personality" isn't the charming, delightful, giving personality she had imagined it to be and instead she is completely self-absorbed which she finds is now slipping dangerously close to unkind. Or as the director of the movie says on the Extras (I love DVD extras), "You climb the ladder of success, only to realize you're on the wrong ladder."

Remember as a child when it feels like nothing changes ever? No one is aging - the grown-ups will always be grown-ups, the kids always kids. The good things will always be there just as they are. And the stupid, annoying things will never change either. Well, despite my sometimes dramatic hold on the here and now, I have actually come to love change. Despite my typical lost-ness through my teen years as I tried to discover who I was, I did, however, think that I was someone and that her character and personality were pretty set - once I found her. It was wonderful to discover in retrospect that even I can change. When I learn something unpleasant about myself, like my tendency to be late, my ridiculous over-generalizations of people when I am describing them, my less than excellent parenting - all those things - once I figure them out, I can do something about it and (sometimes years) later look back and say, "Look at that, I'm changing."

This movie perfectly captures that feeling. I've just discovered I'm not such a good person, but perhaps I can change that. It has a very cool scene with a closet and a wall of shoes. The Thriller scene is one of those great movie moments where you remember what there is to love in humanity. And it ends as happy as any movie has ever ended in all of movie-dom. And back to my original point, if 12-year-old girls would watch it and really trully get it, high school could be so much better for them. Because maybe then they won't start climbing the wrong ladder.

Monday, December 3, 2007

happy shoes

Today, the Good Girls want to know: What are my favorite shoes? So I'm taking a break from my normal pensive, have-I-stumbled-onto-the-meaning-of-life-yet, sort of posts to join in and tell them.

First, you have to realize, I am a horrible shopper. I rarely end up liking my clothes after the first wearing. You'd think after so many times, I would figure out what I am doing wrong and stop doing it. But, no. I heard a friend say once, "If I could afford to dress like I want to, people would be very impressed." That's sort of how I feel. In my head, I have great taste. In reality, not so much. The only exception is shoes. Felicity once described me in an essay as the girl who can pull off the shoes that she only wishes she could. Isn't that a lovely compliment? I had a pair of gigantic burgundy platform sandals at the time, and she said I looked great in them - like a Barbie doll I think she said (or was it that they would have looked like cheap Barbie doll shoes if she wore them? I can't remember, but it was a compliment to me anyway). Michael hated those shoes. I don't normally like to wear something my husband (self-proclaimed epitomizing of the song "Simple Man" by Leonard Skinnard) wouldn't like - no matter how cool it is, but I draw the exception with shoes because it's all I've got, Man. At least I'm good at that. Mostly because cheap can still look trendy. I always get asked things like, "Are those comfortable? (i.e., "Those can't possibly be comfortable"), and I always answer with, "I don't understand the question", or "Is that some kind of prerequisite for footwear?" or sometimes, "No. Not even a little bit." But I love them!

I haven't really indulged this gift in a while. One of the pairs that always leads to the above question is now missing part of the sole, and I do actually get a back ache when I stand in them too long. I was completely panicked about this because I thought my happy shoe days were over and that I had finally gotten too old for it, but Felic pointed out the sole problem, and all was once again right with the world.

Because it's been a while, these sandals are the only ones in my closet that come close to reflecting my relationship with interesting shoes. They're pretty old, but I still love strapping them on. I always feel cuter once I do, and actually, yea - they're almost comfortable.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

chicken soup for the cynical

Recently, my 8-year-old told me he likes Mondays (and Wednesdays and Fridays, and he had a reason for it - something about how much faster they go because of the schedule those days, but my point is that first part. He likes Mondays.) Being the original-thinking grown-up that I am, the thought rushed to my head, "Yea, you're gonna grow out of that one." But I didn't say it. I barely escaped it - that almost unquenchable need to pass on terrible, redundant, cynical adultisms onto the clean, every-moment-is-a-discovery slate of my children's psyche. Here are some more things I don't ever want them to assume, but which deep down I either kind of sort of believe or I find myself tempted to spew as if I believe . . .

Times goes fast. They grow so quickly, the seasons are shorter than they used to be, you blink and it's gone. They're all kind of true - I even say them, but it's really a subtle way of admitting perhaps I took it all for granted, and I don't really want to do that.

Here's one: I hope they don't take as long as me to try varied foods. I eat foods now that I don't even like all that much, but I appreciate the variety. And I wish I'd gotten to that point sooner.

Being the grownup at Christmas is not as fun as being the child. Not true. It may be harder to believe the magic, but we appreciate it more once it's found.

Jobs are things we endure but don't really enjoy. It's our own fault if we aren't in a job we love or at least like or at least have found in it a reason for which to be grateful.

Activity is basically that necessary evil called "exercise" and we do it because we have gotten too fat. At this point, my children love going to the Y. It's a total game to them. They envy Michael and I because they aren't old enough to use the treadmills whereas if we would just shoot baskets with them more often and run around the living room when the mail comes or every time that really cool commercial comes on, than maybe we wouldn't need the treadmill.

Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, and anything else that is cool and mysterious is always only a hoax. Hey, you never know.

Celebrities really are prettier people, it's not digital trickery. Growing up in the technical age, it won't take them as many behind-the-scenes featurettes to stop believing this as it has taken me, right? Who am I kidding? I haven't gotten it YET.

And finally, a few more things I will never say to them and I hope they never believe: You probably won't really be a professional football player when you grow up, it's not really that amazing that you can spell "ostrich", and it's not that socially acceptable to watch Nemo in a laundry basket.

If only I could keep all the bad away. .. .

Monday, November 26, 2007

i'll take another Zales commercial, please

It's that time again. The time of year when even the nicest, most generous people find themselves letting in the scrooge. It happened to my husband just yesterday: "It's too early for Christmas music." I hear that every year - not just from him of course. It's too early for the music, the tree, the red and green that sometimes appears vomited into the shopping aisles. I know already. It's too commercialized.

I've let in the scrooge myself before. Sometimes it's hard to find meaning in my teeny tiny checkbook balance and big fat shopping list. And that feeling isn't helped along by thinking about it all sooner. But this time, I'm fighting it. "It's Jingle Bells, Michael. It's not a Christmas song, it's a winter song." And besides that . . .

I love Christmas music. I just imagine how much we needed Him then. The world was horrible and sad, and religion wasn't saving us. The best Christmas songs make me think about that. They make me think about the sadness all over our world today and the fact that religion still isn't saving us. Then they make me crazy with happiness that He came. And it's just never too soon to think about that. You may judge me for already having the Christmas music out. But I gotta say, I kind of judge you for dissing it. Just relax and soak it in. It disappears suddenly and completely and without apology on December 26, so we may as well enjoy it now.

I got all four boys to pose for Christmas card pictures tonight. They posed until I was happy . . . and then two goofy times after that for the blooper shots. Michael still won't be putting the music on quite this soon and the little ones don't really understand either that horrible, achy feeling of need nor the wonderful feeling of having it met. But for me, it's time, People. Christmas is on.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"happy thanks-gibbing back"

I'm thankful for this street

and these feet

which aren't nearly this small anymore . . . but they still fit in the cutest little black cowboy boots you've ever seen. I'm thankful for those too. And for the thousand-and-one pairs of tennis shoes that spread throughout this house each day. I'll be so sad when I get ready for bed one evening years and years from now and there aren't any more little shoes to pick up. I'm sure I'll have other things to be thankful for then. But today, I'm thankful for all the usual things - fall leaves, Christmas commercials, cashews in my Chinese food, caffeine-free Diet Coke with a bendy straw, all the movies I can't wait to see and all the ones I watch again and again,

and being lucky in love.

But since I just straightened them - for the hundredth time - onto the little white shelf on the back porch

and because of everything they represent,

I am especially thankful for all the little shoes,

and for

the feet

that fill them.

Monday, November 19, 2007

tag, you're it from the good girls

The Good Girls have posted another Tag: Name three things they don't know about me. I decided to post it on my blog for the sole purpose of showing off the following picture.

My Three Things

(past, present, future)

One: I once sang back-up for Carmen. I'm on the left in the peach shirt, and I'm absolutely certain that is the only moment in which I was staring at him.

Two: If my house were burning I would desperately attempt to rescue our photos and all my old journals, including the current one I use for myself, and the three in which I write to each of my sons. I obsess about this sometimes. I think about buying a big fire-proof safe in which I will store them every time we leave the house for more than a few hours. I really love my pictures and journals.

Three: My one wish is to someday somehow be in a movie - on the set, at least one speaking part, and a free pass to the premiere. Just once! That's all I ask.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

boys, books, and Macy

A paragraph I read in a Dobson book once and copied to my computer:
"Your task as a mother, in conjunction with your husband, is to build a man out of the raw materials available in this delightful little boy . . . Never assume for a moment that you can ‘do your own thing’ without serious consequences for him . . . .this task must be your highest priority for a period of time. It will not always be required of you. Before you know it, that child at your feet will become a young man who will pack his bags and take his first halting steps into the adult world. Then it will be your turn. By all expectations, you should have decades of health and vigor left to invest in whatever God calls you to do. But for now, there is a higher calling. .... Raising children who have been loaned to us for a brief moment outranks every other responsibility."

It may not come as a big surprise to you: I like to write. Even when I don't feel like blogging - after tying up a couple of my thoughts all neatly onto the screen next to a picture, I feel happier. As if I had actually neatly tied my day. Because of so many moments like that, I began to wish writing could be my only job. So I started a blog, I wrote an article, I started shopping around my book - all the usual things to try and break into the bizz. One of these usuals - writing conferences. Mom and Felic and I went to one last weekend. I looked forward to it for weeks, so happy to leave town, escape my living room around which little boys swarm and yell, and be surrounded only by the writing muse and instruction about it. Then, unbelievably, the first night, the first meeting, we shared our building with . . . a boyscout troup. The speaker was very smart and educated and insipring, but all I could hear were little boys swarming and yelling. Mom thought perhaps they were earning their roller blading badge up and down the hallways. But I knew better. I firmly believed they were marching up and down the hallways quoting this paragraph.

Fortunately, I don't actually take myself that seriously any more. I totally believe that paragraph, but there is no way in heck God was scolding me through a boy scout troup.

On the other hand, when another speaker talked about our calling and how we need to focus and "follow our star", I knew for absolute certainty that writing is only a teeny tiny part of that for me. And for right now at least, boys are a huge part of it. I felt proud that I get that, and more importantly, that I love it.

Felicity took Macy with her. This is a picture I took of her as she and Felic sat across from me at a restaurant one evening. She was sucking her thumb, we think, for the first time. That moment sitting in a booth with my sister, my mom and my niece - it was totally and comlpetely satisfying for me. I really love those moments - the really small ones that go by so indescribably we normally wouldn't even call them a moment. Those are the moments when we really find out who we are and if our priorities make sense. Not so much just that they happen, but whether or not they make us happy.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"If I weren't going to be a writer, I'd go to New York and pursue the stage. Are you shocked?" Very.

Do you think the Hollywood writers feel that the rest of us should be abandoning our own pens, or keyboards, in solidarity? I've always thought strikes were just appalling - all selfishness and attitude. Until Newsies came out and then I realized that sometimes you gotta take on the giants. Now my only real opinion about them is, "But you'll be back after Christmas break right? I mean, you can't leave us out here in viewer-ville with only -gasp - REALITY."

I've been thinking lately of something Mom said recently. She said that she hasn't truly lost herself in a movie since Little Women, the Susan Sarandon version, (which incidentally also has the guy from Newsies). It made me wonder if our disbelief has gotten more difficult to suspend. Perhaps we find it harder these days to forget about the serial divorces and court appearances and, well, contract negotiations. There's a new show on one of our four television channels - TMZ, the television version. If you don't know, that stands for Thirty Mile Zone, and it's basically celebrity stalkers (photographers, whatever) trying to catch our favorite stars in stupid clothes, temper tantrums, and otherwise compromising situations, in an approximately thirty-mile radius around Hollywood. I wish they had asked me. Don't they know I don't want Hollywood demystified?

What I really want though, is to believe that Little Women was made by people who really believed it when they wrote the dialogue about how "We are all hopelessly flawed." I want to believe that the writers of Spiderman 3 had my little boys in mind when they stuffed it full of the "Make the right choices" moral. I want to believe that everyone who ever puts pen to paper, that they are trying to be the best of themselves and that they hope the same for us. Don't be concerned about me. It's not that I don't know otherwise. I watch the extras on my DVDs. And I actually pick up at least one of the magazines you probably scoff at in the checkout aisle. I know there is plenty of ugliness out there. I'm just saying, it's so nice when you stumble upon a work of art that could almost change your mind.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

My Ultimate Dream

This version of Amazing Grace is the song I have playing on my MySpace page, and I recently wrote down the thought I always have when it plays. . .

I love this song, Amazing Grace. When I listen to it and watch the pictures of my boys fade in and out on the slide show I feel such a combination of pure joy and sheer panic - because I think about the journey of my own faith, the moutains and valleys and doubts and dreams, that all eventually led me to here. I am now totally and completely convinced. So much so, that when I hear songs like this, my emotional response is intense - it comes with all that life and discovery behind it. And at that point I hope, I pray, I break out in a cold sweat at the mere thought, that my children will make it through to that point of faith as well. That one day Amazing Grace will evoke absolute peace in them. I think I have all these dreams and wishes, but in that moment I know for sure that if I could only have one thing in this life, it would be that: That my children would be with me in eternity. That I would have given God every chance to win them, and that He did. If God's real, if He is who I have realized Him to be - and I only say if because of the tiny but huge leap of faith that comes after all the teaching and decisions and process of life that taught me to believe - then I pray that He will show Himself to them as He has shown Himself to me. That is my ultimate dream.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

- Happy Spooner, Spidey, Prince Phillip Day -

(Spooner is Will Smith's character in iRobot)

We like Halloween 'round here.

Monday, October 29, 2007

A Tag-You're-It from the Good Girls

This post is a Tag-You're-It from the Good Girl Lit blog. Enquiring minds want to know: Where is my favorite place to read? So this is a picture of my corner. I like the chair with the throw draped on it if I want to feel particularly tucked into my little cottage-sized home, and the right-hand corner of the love seat by the window if I want to look out on my beautiful street and think beautiful thoughts (between chapters of course). This is where I read when I am purposefully, deliberately sitting down to enjoy a book. Otherwise, I grab my chances when I can, kitchen counter not excluded.

Lately I've been fantasizing about reading at Hastings though. It's the pseudo-Barnes and Noble for our small town, or up-scale Wal-Mart entertainment center, depending on how you look at it. I've heard Christians in my city say they won't step foot in this store because of the images that sometimes jump out at you - that's entertainment for ya. But I love it. Especially the book section. There are little reading chairs a la "You've Got Mail" ("You can sit and read for hours and no one will bother you . . ."). And through my work day, which is at home, which means that the little things that need done tend to haunt me and the little toddler that needs cared for can sometimes frustrate my work ethic, and often I fantasize about those little chairs in Hastings. I always think I will go there in the evenings so that I can read in the book section in the hopes that all those wonderful pages will somehow infuse me with literary gumption so that I can not only more thoroughly enjoy the read, but also be inspired and motivated to write well. But alas, I haven't gone even once yet. I generally stay in my corner instead because just on the other side of it are the husband and the sons. And even though, these are the very things that distract me most from both a good read and a good "write", they are just so terribly difficult to leave . . .

Sunday, October 28, 2007

the connection of storytelling

Book report time. But first: A rant. Why are people picking on Jessica Seinfeld? She seems like a perfectly nice person who cares enough about her children to pre-cook and puree vegetables for them every week. Is this really worth fussing over? I'm not going to follow her plan myself. Mostly because I'm too lazy, but also because I kind of sort of agree that it's better in the long run if you just get them used to the idea that they gotta eat 'em and that they do sometimes taste good. But, seriously, the fuss to me is too much. She isn't harming us. No one's making us buy the cookbook, and certainly no one is coming into our living rooms force-feeding our children spinach brownies - and if they were, really, wouldn't we thank them? It's not cool to me, and I feel we need to let her be.

Okay, Felicity loaned me this book because it's smart and because the idea of it is so lovely - a memoir in books. Gotta love that. And I did. So many things to thank this author for. First, that she left me free to never actually read Lolita. Based on her description of it, I'm very grateful for that. On the other hand, she did make me want to pick up some books by Henry James. And she informed me that Sheherezade (of the 1000 tales) was a woman. I had no idea.

Most importantly, she made me care about Iran. Having written a memoir myself, I expected she would make me feel embarrassed about that. That I would feel shallow and terribly distant from the real problems of the world. But that wasn't the case, and I was grateful for that too. Instead, I saw my own problems staring back at me - just dressed in a long black cape and involuntary head scarf. I saw my own tendency to blame my decision-making, my unhappiness, or my loss of identity on something that happened to me rather than on my response to it. And I saw the familiar struggle of being in a situation you want to change, but not knowing how long you can stick it out and fight for the change, while failing. It was beautifully told. And very sad, although not in the way I expected. It is one of those wonderful stories that remind us we are all connected, which as Kate quoted in my comments section once, is why most of us read in the first place - to know we're not alone.

It's kind of my greatest dream that someone - anyone - anywhere in the world would read my own book one day and realize that. Maybe someday . . .

Thursday, October 18, 2007

more things I love about October

Yesterday, October 17, was the anniversary of my motherhood.

John Michael prefers to call it his birthday, and because I'm a mother, I let him. I even give him the presents and the cake and the candles. I don't need them anyway. The thrill of the anniversary is better when it's kept inside - like a secret. Like the feeling I had when I was pregnant that first time. I knew there was something wonderful in there, something almost magic. It was a miracle, and I was part of it.

Then - four days after it was supposed to - the magic really happened. Ten fingers, ten toes - and I got to take home all of them. This was the coolest door prize ever. It took a day or so to feel really truly connected to it. But by the next morning, I was calling it him. I missed him when he was out of the room with the nurses. And as my friends Den and Andrea so poetically described it once, when I left the hospital with him, I kept turning around, looking for the parade. It seemed there should have been one. Hadn't the whole world stopped when he cried that first time?

I will never forget what I wrote in those first few days at home with those fingers and toes, that smooth baby skin, those tiny blue clothes . . .

if I never do anything else in my life, I will have been great because of him.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

when i was dying

I really like the working title of my memoir - Serenity Now. As long as Jerry Seinfeld will allow it, that is probably what I would go with if no one else along the line disapproves. It's snappy, it has humor, and it's got my name in it which captures both the narcissism of having written a memoir at all, and the fact that the whole book is kind of about people living up to their names - sort of. Maybe I'm the only one who will get that out of it.

Anyway, I've been thinking of another title lately as I've read over bits and pieces. My family likes to joke about "the cancer card". That I shouldn't be afraid to use "the cancer card" if I want sympathy or, more accurately, just need a reason to stick out in a crowd. And lately I find myself using it a LOT. But not for any of those reasons. I find myself using it on myself. All the time. I roll my eyes at me each and every time, but I keep on using it.

It's so often so useful. And it usually begins like this, "When I was dying . . . ."

I try not to use it too much when I'm talking to the masses, because let's face it, that could get really old. Me having all the answers and always squelching your perfectly justifiable vent because of something I learned about life "when I was dying." Oi vay. Why don't you just write a memoir?

But I use it on myself all the time. And usually by accident. It just creeps up - this little feeling overwhelming all the stress and drama I'm used to basking in. I can so go there to that feeling that nothing, nothing, nothing at all matters except right now. This moment. This conversation. This casual phone call with my husband, this bike ride with John Michael, this hug before bed with Jake (that's my favorite one right now). You think you can just conjure up that reality check by knowing it's true. You know, the whole "It's better than the alternative" speech. I always tried that, I really did. But it's nothing compared to actually having lived it, having been there in those really dark moments when life was literally a vapor.

And that's the reason I mostly use it on myself. Because the alternative would be to say to someone else in their moments of stress, "Try dying. You'll feel better about this then." Nea. And besides, I don't think everyone needs my dark moments in order to better relish the light. Besides the fact that they have their own dark moments, some people may actually get the hypothetical. "It's better than the alternative" may be just as meaninful for them, just as able to focus them as my "when I was dying." I think whatever works, you gotta do it. Otherwise, the stress of life really could run you completely over, and you'll end up on Oprah one day trying to grab somebody else's aha moment, and I'm convinced - that just really isn't the same.

Monday, October 8, 2007


Here's something I know for sure: I married someone way cooler than me. And before you adoring fans out there, jump to my defense (I'm mostly talking to Mom, except she totally knows I'm right about this), hear me out.

First, you have to know what it means to be cool. I'm not ugly. I don't dress poorly - most of the time. I usually know things about pop culture and sometimes even real culture (although not so much), and I definitely have a sense of humor. To understand what I mean by cool, I'll have to share with you the moment in my life in which I realized it myself.

I was on a bus going on some church trip or another. My friend Mark sat in front of me. My brother was doing his Forrest Gump impression in the parking lot - not the voice - the run, to which my sisters and I would stand and yell, "Run, Forrest, run!" in Jenny's southern twang from the movie. Mark chuckled along and then turned to me and said with a sad, condescending sort of fondness, "You Nickersons. There's not a cool one in the bunch is there?"

In that moment, I totally got what cool is. And I'm so not. I'm never aloof. If I try the aloof thing, it's obvious to everyone that I'm either very upset about something and introverting in order to protect myself or else I'm - you know - trying out the aloof thing. I'm a ham, especially when I'm nervous, which as we all know is a death combination to any attempt at coolness. I get upset easy, cry at commercials, freak out over the little things, worry what everyone thinks about me, all the time, worry about whether or not I'm thinking rightly about everyone else. It's really exhausting to be uncool. But I trudge on. Analyzing and re-analyzing life every thirty minutes or so, stumbling upon the secret to it every 15, announcing my age, my financial situation, my dreams, my emotions, and whether or not I have to pee, to everyone and anyone, anywhere, all the time, who will listen. It's so uncool.

My husband on the other hand, is totally cool. The real thing. Actual - I-was-homecoming-king, scored a touchdown on the starting kick-off, acted bored at school but got really decent grades anyway, rarely-get-upset-by-the -little-things, never start a joke I can't finish - cool. I'm not sure if he didn't really know me when he chose me, or if I had other qualities compensating for the lack of cool. I suppose it's possible that these cool people actually like having a little awkward exuberance around them now and then. Or maybe - I mean, this is just a theory here - maybe none of us are really all that cool.

This is a picture of my middle son, Drew. He's not cool either, and I so love that. Once you discover you're uncool, you gotta just embrace it. If you've never run like Forrest Gump, yelled like Jenny, posed on the lap of a statue of Ronald McDonald, started a joke you seriously could not finish but kept talking anyway in the hopes that you would stumble upon it eventually - well then, you'll just have to take my word for it.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

happy birthday, Den . . .

And you're so right. October is the Thursdaysly of months. Weren't you lucky to be born in it? And today, your birthday, is both a Thursday and October. I hope October in Wisconsin was much more Octobery than October in Missouri today. I tried to picture you studying away at philosophy in that campus by the lake. I put those long boats with varsity rowers on the lake in my picture and I added color to the leaves. I hope that's a little close to the truth and that you raised your head from the books at least now and then to breathe it in.

Today was just a regular day for me. I've been out of town visiting Charity, which was just heaven really. I love to get out of my routine now and then and remember how much bigger the world is than my little desk on my little square of office carpet on the little back porch room of my little white house. A song kept going over and over in my head that Charity had been singing, Feel the rain on your skin / No one else can feel it for you / Only you can let it in / No one else, no one else / Can speak the words on your lips / Drench yourself in words unspoken / Live your life with arms wide open / Today is where your book begins / The rest is still unwritten. It made me want to write and write and write until I really did have a book written. But mostly I just love the sentiment. It made me appreciate every monotonous detail of my life, because they're mine. And because if I realize that the book begins today - and every day again - then the possibilities are endless and beautiful.

This blog is my outlet most of the time right now, I suppose, for writing. And I certainly was thinking writeable, philosophical sort of thoughts. But I didn't want to say them to the world today. And every time I began to write here, all I could think was, happy birthday to Den. I don't usually remember friend's birthdays very well. Mostly because I am amazingly self-absorbed. But yours was seared into my brain some crisp fall years and years ago when Michael and I lived in a tiny apartment and kept a burgundy coffee mug just for our friend Den. You're one of those really rich friendships in my life, and on Thursdays in October when I am just inspired to appreciate life and live it more on purpose, you're one of those treasures that comes to mind. Remember when you gave me Peter Pan? If I drank coffee, I would sit in a chair tonight and drink it while reading Peter Pan. And then I would wish hapy things for you, my very good friend.

Maybe tomorrow I'll start the book.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

the best things happen while you dance

I want to hate reality t.v. Jimmy Kimmel said it all when he said that there are more people on reality t.v. now then there are people actually living in reality. But first of all, I don't hate it even when I expect to. And second of all, Dancing with the Stars hardly counts - what with the celebrities and all. I love this show. Each season I think - eh, I don't think they can make me care again. But then they win me over every time. I love that ballroom dancing is getting its day. I mean, you have to admit, it hasn't exactly been high on the cool factor in anyone's mind before now. And, really, with the tight pants and the way overuse of the words "hip action", I still wouldn't exactly call it cool. That's not why I watch it - or at least, that's not what wins me over.

No, it's the sheer delight. It's forgetting there is anything bad or ugly in the world at all because for those three minutes (might be more like a minute-thirty, because let's face it, they're new at this, and some of them are old) - but anyway, while they dance, they sweep me right up with them into another world. It's a Fred Astaire musical, it's all the best Disney moments rolled into one - it's the color part in the Wizard of Oz. I seriously welled a little bit more than once already this season. It really is beautiful, I think. So much to worry over and stress about in this life. So much to take too seriously - like ourselves. But then somebody gets on a dance floor in a beautiful dress, smiles like it doesn't hurt, and for the length of one whole song, tells us otherwise. Life is beautiful.

I don't pretend to be difficult to convince. But still. I dare you to watch it without smiling at least once (and not just because the pants are too tight). And if you really give in to their efforts to woo you, I swear you'll get off the couch when it's over and forget for a moment that you aren't one of them. I rolled my eyes at their audacity to have it on three night this week. But from the very first opening number, I could see how hard they were going to try and convince me they could dance my troubles away. And after night two, they've totally won. I believe them.

Just try it - just this once, Take a deep breath and say it. "I. Like. To. Move it." Don't you feel better now?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Cinnamon Trident, anyone?

I got a call from the school nurse yesterday. My 7-year-old wasn't feeling well, which I knew when he left that morning. When I went to get him he had that sad, sheepish head droop we have to wear as children when this situation arises, lest the grownups around us sense we are exagerating our symptoms and make us stay at school. I say exagerating because he really was sick - red throat, low-grade temp, "listless". But he had the head droop too which plainly said I could stick it out if you make me.

But I'm not that type of mom. My own mother kept me home part of the morning once in second grade simply because I couldn't stop crying. I had no physical ailment at all. And I don't remember now what was wrong. But she hung onto me until I had control of myself and then took me to school late. My children have her to thank for the fact that I'm more than willing to give them a break when they feel they need one. So John came home yesterday. And he stayed home today. (Although if I'd realized the miracle Tylenol Cough and Cold could produce, he'd probably be doing math problems at his desk as we speak).

His poor, sad desperation yesterday to prove to me that he was sick (all afternoon he kept reminding me how glad he was that I brought him home because his head really did hurt or he really couldn't move very well, etc.) reminded me how glad I am to be a grownup. Our entire childhood and high school years, adults try and tell us we should enjoy the carefree years because it's so much worse out here - presumably in the real world. I completely disagree. I like my freedom. I like having less to prove. And don't tell me we're not free because of our bosses or our children or our mortgage or our basic obligations to society as a whole. We are free.

We can carry our own pack of gum, any flavor we want, all the time and take a piece without asking. We can choose dessert even if we didn't clean our plate, and we rarely pass up any snack no matter what the time of day, how hungry we are not, or how fattening it is - if we want it. We go to sleep when we want. We read what we want, watch what we want, get in the car and go places when we want. We make choices every single day to mess up, speak slang, sound hateful, be lazy, or play Solitaire - just for 5 minutes! - while at work, just this once, because we can and we trust ourselves to repent, move on, and make the nobler choice the next time.

Getting that high school diploma really was one of the happiest bits of liberty ever handed to us, and it's just plain rude to tell our children otherwise. I suppose it's partly the kid in me that knows this, but: Being a grownup, rocks.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

little red dresses

So it turns out, yet again, I'm not dying. I've been waiting the last few days to hear from my surgeon because he and his team were comparing some studies of my shoulder to see if the new spots were somthing to be concerned about or just changes from the radiation I received last year. Having waited on answers like this before, and then not always heard the happiest news, I was trying to prepare myself for the not-so-good. I was wondering if maybe this time really would be the beginning of the end. It didn't feel dramatic in the moment, it felt real. The normal stressors of life don't matter so much when you're dying. They don't need solved, and you begin to wonder how long you'll even have to endure them what with the leaving earth and all that is probably so eminent. I begin to think about the purest and best things in my life and how best to suck the marrow from them in the time I have left. Now, like the day I found out my cancer had not spread, I find out I'm not dying at all. I'm quite alive. Which means - I gotta deal.

I still want to find the purest and best things and figure out how to give them the most of my time and energy. But it was easier when I was dying, because I could literally drop anything that wasn't pure and best. I certainly didn't have to think about it. Now I have to face every stressor. I have to face my own heart and attitude towards the stressors. I have to go ahead and keep analying the crap out of life like I always do - whereas when I was dying I could kind of think - well, I'll know all the answers soon, there's no sense trying to figure them out anymore.

I hope I don't sound ungrateful. I'm exactly the opposite. I'm so happy I'm not dying. And I'm so happy that I know what it's like to almost be dying. Because I know what it's like when the stressors really truly don't matter. Which will surely help me to face them - now that I'm living.

This is a picture from my little sister's wedding, which was my first big wonderful life event after finding out the first time that I was going to live a while yet. Those happy red dresses will always remind me of that time. In some ways living is harder than dying. But it sure doesn't feel that way once you realize you get to live.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

shoes and ships and sealing wax

I like things.

I used to feel badly about this, as if every material possesion I loved was one more thing between me and God. I don't feel that way now. When I touch or see or enjoy something beautiful, something tied to some great memory in my life, or something that makes me laugh, I feel anything but far from Him. See my beautiful Swedish candle holders? They hang in my window, two in this one, one in another. I love them because my friend thought of me all the way in another country, bought me these gifts, and carried them back across the ocean for me. I read once that when trying to reduce clutter, you must throw out anything that is not either useful, beautiful, or which holds sentimental value. I haven't achieved any such purging yet, but I try and think this way. These candle holders satisfy all the rules.

My grandmother recently moved out of her home and will be living with her children throughout the different seasons of each year. And during the move we all went into her home and sorted through her things. And we took what we wanted. She kept a few items for herself, but the rest of the house was up to us. As I carefully chose a gorgeous black elephant from her elephant collection and touched the bindings of each of her books, I couldn't imagine it - Outliving my love for things. I assume it will happen of course. I think surely we kind of let go slowly as we move closer to the next life.

I've found that my happiness is sort of tied to things, but not in a way that concerns me, or I think, would concern God. I noticed in college that when I was especially at peace, I then had a list of wants - always little things - a book, that CD I heard recently, a new journal and pen. It was as though the truly important things, love and friendship and faith, were secure and my soul was free to have a wish list. When the important things were rocky, I wanted nothing but for them to be fixed. I was too gloomy to wish.

So now, whenever I think to myself, "Oh wouldn't it by nice to have . . . ", I pause and smile at the sheer realization that I must be in a peaceful sort of place. And it holds true for the things I already have as well. If I can quiet myself enough to enjoy the shape of that beautiful black elephant and to watch the sun streak through the Swedish candles - it's very good. I will be able to let go of them when the time comes. But for now, enjoying them is a sign for me - that all is well with my soul.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

the Dharma initiative

I read here that we should all adopt the idea of blogging without obligation because once we feel it's obligatory we won't do it anymore. Isn't that just the way of us? I started a blog to find my voice. Which technically I can do with or without readers, but the "disciplining of my craft" I think will be better accomplished by some consistency. And then, I like readers. And I don't think you'll stick around if I don't update rather often. So I probably won't miss more than a day or two between posts. That said, I kept the last one up longer than usual because I liked it so much and because Matt called it a "delightful little piece", and that made me smile right down to my toes.

Now - today's is all punchline. One of my favorite lines in television history - and easily one of the most quotable in every day conversation - is from Dharma & Greg. She was trying to become friends with her mother-in law who was off to play tennis, and Dharma said, "Oh I love tennis! Well, not really to play . . . or to watch. I'm just really glad it's out there!" I quite agree - I like it in the background; it has nice noises. And here are some other things that fit so nicely into the Dharma category of my life:

I love dogs! Well not really to play with . . . or to touch. I'm just really glad they're out there.

I love New York City. I guess I'll never live in it, and I'm beginning to wonder if I'll ever visit. But I'm really glad it's out there.

Paris, London, George Clooney's villa in Italy, and the little country roads in England where sheep cross.. . . See above.

I love paychecks. Not really to think about . . . or to pursue. I'm just really glad they're out there.

Rock music. Not really to play . . . or to listen to. I'm just really Glad It's Out There.

Soccer, Alaska, Jeopardy, seafood, coffee, the evening news, fly fishing, and people who actually like to cook - - - G I O T.

Monday, September 10, 2007

if we all were quakers

John came home from second grade today with an informational sheet called "Author's Purpose". It taught that authors may write to entertain, to inform, or to persuade. Of course I pounced on it because I was wondering where I would find myself in this list. I don't think I found me though.
I was sitting in my living room looking at our movies recently, not because I was planning to watch one or find another one for my awesome movie-from-my-cabinet reviews, but because our doors are broken on that cabinet so you can't help but look at them - especially when I sit by my favorite window out of which I can see my front street and Dave's house (see 08/31 post). Anyway, I was looking over the titles, the comedies, the dramas, the suspenseful, the children's. That very idea of purpose struck me in that moment. I was thinking that probably every movie ever written, or book written, or painting completed - all that artsy stuff -It's because somebody thought they had something to say. It's like the whole world is a Quaker church meeting, and the art produced is one person . . . standing up. I know - some people seem to say such stupid things. But I bet they mean it. They probably have a mission statement typed out and laminated and thumb-tacked to a cork board by their computer, "Life is stupid. We might as well laugh."
The writer of Pete's Dragon had a wonderful purpose I'm sure. If nothing else, it has some very catchy songs. Which is the only reason I have that picture up today - because I've been singing one of those songs all day, the one in which the Dragon sings in his own language and eventually the boy answers, "I - love - you - tooooo." It has nothing to do with anything. Except that Jake, who's 1-1/2, he sang it back to me today. I almost kissed his cheek right off his face.
If I could bottle that feeling into a purpose and put that into my books, you can bet I'd be standing up.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

More things I love:

Friday night football is one of my favorite all time things. That is, high school football. I knew my husband when we were in high school. The number 89 still gives me a thrill because it was his - and in football, you gotta know the guy's number or you'll never know what's happening out there. A friend of mine wrote a poem about it once - (friday night football, not the number 89) - but I don't have his permission to use it, so I won't.
I also love small towns and their yearly festivals. I'm not in the mood to tell you all about how much I love them because unless you can relate, you'll just want to make fun. It's tempting I know, but there's just something about them . . .
More than anything this weekend, I loved my kids reminding me every moment how easy it is to enjoy life. The Corn Festival in my hometown takes up about one courthouse lawn - all sides, and then spills some into the adjacent school lawn and the streets on either side. Yet, after we had been there about five minutes yesterday, my oldest son said, "Man, we need a map." And during the tractor portion of the parade - that's where people drive by on tractors in case the phrasing threw you - my middle son was able to pause long enough from candy retreival to put a finger toward my face and say, "You little jokester! You said this parade was short!" Suddenly I remembered that to him, it may as well have been Thanksgiving Day by Macy's and to John, we may as well have found ourselves plunked down in Tomorrow Land looking for the Haunted Mansion (which is in the Fantasy Land portion of Disney World, you know, or maybe Adventure Land - I can't remember for sure because for that place you actually do need a map.)
Remember the days when it felt like vacation just to go to the movies for a night? Or even more miraculous to stay in a hotel - with a pool! Well I can remember it, because frankly, it's still true for me. It takes so little. Especially because just when I'm about to get all grown up and big city (I live in a town of 17,000, that big city comment is sarcasm) and mock the fact that at Dotty's Ozark Funnel Cakes stand I overheard someone suggest that the Cow Chip Bingo might be rigged, it's at that point that I think instead of how happy I've made my children for the day, and how fun it has been to see old friends, and how much Drew made me laugh when he told me to order him "A Root Beer if they have it, and if they don't have that then Sprite, and if they don't have that, then just keep going down from Root Beer."
If you don't know what cow chip Bingo is, this picture won't exactly explain it, but I will tell you that I can't imagine how you would begin to rig this game, and if someone did find a way to rig it and went to all the trouble of doing whatever it is you might have to do to rig it, well, frankly I'm just really grossed out and apalled.
There are plenty of times in life when you gotta settle for less, but this weekend for me was all Root Beer.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Another movie review from my cabinet at home

I love this movie. I love the actors. I love the empty checkbooks - children hungry every moment of the day - Hi-C splashing on the shirt reality of the thing, I love the rainy day in New York. I espcially love the concept. I totally believe in that whole "what a difference a day makes." I stayed home from work one day (back when I left home to go to work) and I watched this movie probably three times in a row. Another reason I love it is because it was completely dismissed in some article I read once as one of those movies these two actors made but probably wish they hadn't. Usually when the critics say a movie is too much fluff - I'm there.

One Fine Day is like Pride and Prejudice condensed into one 14-hour period in New York. They are put out with each other from the first moment, "If you'll excuse me, I have a day." But they are attracted to each other of COURSE. And then they need each other and then they tease each other and then they thank each other and then he forgets about the fish and she spills the spaghetti sauce (and jumps back so adorably in her little lounge outfit - I attempt to imitate this scene almost weekly), and in the end the Wizard of Oz song plays in the background.

And, seriously, it's worth it just for the bag. We love the bag, my Mom and sisters and I. Whenever I manage to have exactly what my child needs for any given moment, I call it a Michelle Pfeiffer moment. I mean, she creates superhero costumes out of the items in her purse! And when George Clooney says, "Where do you get a bag like that?" I mean - it's just brilliant movie direction. I don't actually ever have those moments. I don't really even try to. I'm lucky to have diapers in tow. But I still so love that bag.

This movie is exactly what the title implies. I can't technically relate to any given part of it - I don't work in a skyscraper in New York, I'm not a single mom, I've never met George Clooney, and I do NOT have the bag. But it still inspires me to expect serendipity, which is both the word that means "a happy accident" and the lovely little ice cream place-slash-novelty shop featured in the movie.

If none of that moves you then surely, surely, you can appreciate the part where she thinks he has forgotten her name (which is Melanie), and he turns around, walks back to her, leans in , and says "I know your name, Mel." Which I think is the most beautiful little moment describing what it feels like when someone chooses you.

Who wouldn't love this movie? If you don't love it, I think it's because of your Captain Hook complex. No such thing? Yes there is. And you have it.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Know when to fold 'em

I wonder if Jake gets up in the morning and thinks, What are my toys doing back in those baskets? Now I have to scatter them all over the floor like I like them aGAIN. It would be strange I think to wake up every day to the world back in order without having had to do it myself.

I do a lot of mundane activities several million times a day and wonder sometimes why I don't ever pick one of those ducks up and just throw it - gently and humanely - out of the row. You know, "If I have to put this Blue's Clue's puzzle together one more time . . . !" (And, yes, this picture is of geese. But it's soothing to me, and the duck one was . . . animated.)

When I just had one child but was still in that stage where that seemed like a lot (silly me), I was complaining to Mom about living in a 24-hour disaster zone, and she gave me the best advice: Pick one little part of that zone - like the living room, and pick it up ten times a day if you have to, so that there is always one place that stays controlled and peaceful. It worked brilliantly and over the years I've added other parts of the house to the plan so that almost the whole thing stays in some semblance of order at any given - I don't know - quarter - of the day. (That's right, it's not a million times a day, or ten, I get exageration from Mom too.) So now I've added a second part to the advice: Do all of those things have to be done ten times a day? Maybe one of those ducks could go.

I released one the other day. Until then, I had kept a little glass vase on the child-size wooden table in the family room. It had an artificial bouquet of red flowers and baby's breath. Jake took those flowers out and dumped them on the floor every single time he got a hold of them. And every single time I saw them on the floor, I picked them up and told myself - he's not going to win. This is just one little feminine touch I am determined to keep in this room, and it's worth all the times I have to pick it up. But the whole thing began to wear me down. The fake baby's breath was all dry and flaked off all over the carpet every time it was terrorized. The bouquet looked less like a bouquet and more like a stick drawing of a bouquet every time I stuffed the stupid thing back in there, and it finally seemed like one thing I really didn't have to do several times a day. I could free myself of it and let Jake off the hook. One day I'll replace it with a bulkier flower maybe that doesn't flake and maybe doesn't even come out of the vase . . . I'll find a way. But for now, there's a little red car on that table, and I'm perfectly fine with that. It's so much easier to pick up.

More . . . on writing of course.

I finished A Wrinkle in Time. I loved the concept about fighting darkness and how artists are people who have done this over the years - well, them and Jesus. Now I'm reading this book, Gilead, because I've heard it recommended more than once, and well - it won the Pulitzer Prize. I don't think I really know what a Pulitzer Prize is because I was surprised to find myself reading a book that had actually won it.
In Gilead, the writer says that when you write, "You feel you are with someone." I never thought of it that way. I thought I wrote to feel alone. Or at least, to thoroughly explore ideas with only myself listening, because myself is so agreeable and encouraging toward my ideas. Even this blog, which has proven to have a reader here and there, (hi, Mom!), I usually begin it with one sentence in mind. I think to myself, "I love Thursdays." And then I think, If I keep writing about Thursdays will I eventually hit on the ultimate meaning of life and perhaps solve all the world's problems and my own mood all at once?
I was alone for a couple of hours yesterday. And I just love being alone sometimes. The quiet is so restorative. But in those moments I always wonder if I only enjoy being alone then, because I don't usually have to be. And then I worry about getting old and my children moving away and my outliving my husband, as wives tend to do, and I wonder if I will hate being alone in those days. How typical of me to add the bitter to the sweet.
Anyway, even though I thought I wrote to be alone, I think I was wrong. I write here because I'm trying to matter. I write in a journal for my children because I hope they care one day. I write books because I want someone to read them. And even my journal - I'm not just writing to my future self. I think deep down I hope one of my children's children's children - you know.
I haven't read very far into Gilead yet. But it's a lovely book. Just a bunch of wonderful thoughts written lyrically and woven into a story. And I've been thinking that if I could write just one book in a lifetime that was so worth reading, I'd feel proud. "You feel you are with someone." I think maybe that is true. At least, when I write, I think I'm hoping someone would want to join me there, eventually.

Friday, August 31, 2007

In which I write a Pooh sort of entry

( this is a picture of Drew several years ago in one of the trees that are the view from my porch.)
I went to my thinking spot today, and I was plagued by mosquitoes.
There was nothing but bills in the mail.
And to top it off, a lovely gentleman at the park today commented on Jake's "large, hazel eyes." I knew they wouldn't stay blue.

You can't imagine how much better I am, though, at handling such a day than I used to be. First of all, after years of being told how miserable our attitudes can make other people feel, I finally realized that I care - so I try harder. Secondly, the thinking spot is still wonderful. I just caught it at an awkward moment; we all have them. My spot is my front porch, because from there I can see huge tall trees - which remind me of bigger, stronger things than my troubles - and Dave's house which is like a postcard of all that is sweet and wonderful in the world. It's "not a through street" - does that make sense to big city people? Not that any of them are reading this - but that simply means that it's really just one long block and then you have to turn right or left at one of the ends in order to get anywhere else. Well, that's not a simple way of explaining it, but my point is - it's very quiet, almost like a private drive. I feel like the world can't get me there unless they try very hard, and if they're trying that hard, then I probably want to be gotten anyway. It's a lovely street.

And finally, of course, there's the alive thing - in that, I'm glad I am. So I got through the day not just tolerably but still loving my porch and quite sure that the bills will get paid and absolutely certain that Jake's eyes are beautiful no matter what color you call them. And . . . at least it's not a Wednesday.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

a note on Thursdays

I think Thursdays are the week's birthday. I love Thursday like I love Halloween. It's not technically the best day maybe, but it's the last little moment before the best ones. And anticipation is almost always better than the actual thing you're anticipating. Thursday is Weekend-Eve, which makes me so happy. For me it really is Weekend Eve because my work week is Sunday through Thursday. I suppose by this theory, then, Wednesday should become my new Thursday, but - well - I mean come on, there is so little to love about Wednesday. I put a real picture up today. These are my happiest thoughts. They totally get me through Wednesdays.

But I was thinking especially about that youngest one, gleaming at us angelically through black and white. He wanders around me while I work through the day - spilling things, ripping things up, pulling my hands off the keyboard while I try to type, leaving fall risks every few feet from here to the living room, putting things in the VCR, wanting held when I'm busy, ignoring me when I remember he's the best thing on the planet - you know how it goes. Well, I was kissing the life out of his poor little cheek today just before I put him down for his nap, and I was very aware that perhaps he had me all giddy in that moment because he was about to go down for a nap. Anne Shirley in Anne of the Island once discovered a letter from her mother that said of Anne: I love her best when she's asleep, and better still when she's awake.

That completely ridiculous use of superlatives throws the reader off from the first sentence which proves my point. There is something about the fact that they eventually go to sleep. Evening comes, bath time finally ends, albeit with me soaking wet and exhausted, and then comes that wonderful happy snuggle with him the cleanest he will ever be from that moment until this time the next night, and he's giggly and busy and wonderful, but then he goes to bed.

I don't know what humans would do without sleep. I usually thank God profusely for that scientific phenomenon every time I finally sink into bed at night. But now that I have children I get it even more. I love them best then. Or maybe right before then - kind of like Thursday.

And of course - I mean, look at those faces - of course - it's better still when they're awake.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Or as Jamie would say, "There's a song that's inside of my soul . . ."

There are some things in life I just love - the singing of the national anthem at a sporting event for one. I mean, isn't it amazing for an entire crowd of people to be that respectful toward one thing at the same time? Especially lately when our country is so polarized. (I don't have a label created yet for political commentary because it's probably never going to happen, so I won't expound). Anyway, the anthem moment, the way people in small towns wave at every passing vehicle as if to acknowledge we all belong somewhere, and - the reason I began the list at all today because it's the point to my post - catching someone singing in their car. I love that. I never really thought about it until one day when I was really soul-weighty. It was during my year with cancer when fear of the unknown and fear of leaving my children sort of hung underneath all other thoughts and kept them from floating. Then I saw someone singing in their car, and I realized like never before, now that is a person free of worry. I vaguely remembered that feeling, and I hoped I would get it again someday. I'm very, very aware now when I feel like singing in the car. Kind of like when I was nauseated for at least five months of my last pregnancy and I told my husband, "Do me a favor. Sometime well after the delivery [of this little monster, I implied but certainly did not mean], just casually ask me one day, 'How's your stomach feel?', because I know I will forget this moment. I will forget how awful this is. The nausea will fade slowly one meal, one day, one "what-dolt-called-this-morning-sickness" at a time, and I will completely take for granted the desire to eat and the thrill of not throwing up afterwards."
That's how I feel when I sing in the car now. It reminds me that sometimes in life I haven't felt so happy or so free, and what a wonderful thing that in this moment, I do. This picture is from a good movie soundtrack. It has nice singable songs in it. Dare You to Move by Switchfoot is one of the best sing-in-the-car songs . And there are nice pop/love songs on it and of course the teary, moving, kind of haunting Only Hope, also by Switchfoot but sung on the CD both by them and by Mandy Moore (in character as Jamie Sullivan, Moore explains to us on the DVD commentary for the movie). Anyway, I've felt like singing in the car lately. And I didn't take it for granted. Just like the fact that I wanted, ate, and did not regurgitate all my meals today, all day long. It's a beautiful thing.

Monday, August 27, 2007

with great power comes great responsibility, which kinda stinks for me

I think deep down we all assume as young women that something will magically transform us from people to moms as soon as we have children. It does happen actually. It comes in small defining moments starting with the first time you realize the little squirming bundle actually does belong to you and isn't just some cool parting gift they're sending you home with from the hospital. Some of the moments are pretty magic, and after eight years I have fully surrendered to one such super power. I used to get so annoyed when things were lost in the house, because it happened eighteen times a day. "Mom, where's my Batman?" "Mom, where's that ship I was flying?" "Mom, where's that [indescribable toy that apparently came from a restaurant or something and does some indescribable thing]" I will always answer with this: How could I possibly know that? You are the one who was playing with it. But when I can no longer ignore their exasperated, if completely unsystematic, searching, I finally put down what I was doing and join them. And almost without fail, there it is. I find it after about two tries. It's like I get a vision of the stupid thing and where exactly it has managed to lodge itself. My husband lost his work keys once and I just sat down and waited for the vision, and it came. I sat straight up, lifted the computer chair cushion, reached inside it's liner, and there were the keys. "How in the world did you do that?" my husband asked. Well: I'm Mom, SuperFinder. (I vaguely remembered Jake with some keys at some point that day in my peripheral vision, and I vaguely remembered his sticking his hand in the liner at another point in the day - I put them together and, wah-lah, the vision).

The thing is, I used to really fight it. Every time I found something I would think, "Darn it, I found another one. Now they'll never quit asking me where stuff is." So again and again, "How should I know . . . . etc, etc., and then, Oh here it is." Aargh. Well, I've surrendered to it now. I'm quite proud of it. Now when I find something I just brag, "It's like they call to me! I am the world's best finder! I had no idea what you were even talking about, and I found it! I'm so good at this, really, someone should pay me for it. I know, I know, what would you do without me? And thank you, I'm here all week."