Saturday, September 9, 2017

Precious moments

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I am increasingly aware that life is so very precious and that joy is often found most in the smallest of things.  Like the gladioli in the picture above.  We planted them last year and they did nothing.  Literally.  Nada.  We forgot about them.  And for whatever reason, a few of them decided to bloom this year.  Well, two to be exact. But they are stunning.  One is a deep fuschia and one is a paler softer pink. My grandmother loved glads.  Looking at these two on our kitchen altar makes me smile and feel her spirit close to me again.

Yoga class renews my spirit weekly.  I don't love yoga as much as I love zumba but at least it is an hour that I can give to my body.  To stretch, to bend and to take an hours pause in our busy life.

Laughter.  The silly jokes the kids make up these days. Some "cringy" as KC puts it; some surprisingly witty.  I cherish the time together as a family. As the kids have gotten older and involved in a wide array of different activities, time for all of us to be together is even more cherished.  I know that time comes ever closer when it will be just Chet, Kirsty and I again at the table.  This is how it should be and I am proud of their confidence-their friendships and their passions.

Fiona has been struggling greatly lately.  The outward symbol of her anger is my refusal to let her pierce her navel.  The reality is that a peer left the house and this is the deepest cause of her unhappiness. To her it is another example of someone succeeding in a way she has not yet.  It is hard to face that, so it is easier to find something to be angry about and someone to pin it on.  I did not actually say no to the piercing, but I did say we needed an okay from her doctor. But it wasn't a "yes, jump in the car, we gotta do this NOW!" kind of answer so she became enraged.

This is always the hard part with Fi. She goes from happy to enraged in a nanosecond.  She had literally had a wonderful time at home and called me when she got back to the group residence asking about the piercing.  Fi is prediabetic which makes her more prone to infection. She has also some issues surrounding self care and is not reliable about keeping a wound clean. So the lack of a yes has been the catalyst to spiral her into a very angry state.

I am not sure how to best help her with this.  She has decided that I am the root of all that is unsatisfactory in her life.  I am not willing to wear that cloak and have told her so.  Loving her and caring for her does not mean I can or will agree with everything she wants to do. She is entitled to her anger, entitled to her feelings of frustration.  I get that. I am trying to give her some space and hope that at some point, she will be in a place where we can talk things through but so far, nothing close to that is happening.

So I will look at my glads, listen to music that I love and breathe deeply.

Friday, September 8, 2017

The kids have wheels--bike wheels that is!

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling It's been a long bikeless year for us here.  Last year, our bikes were stolen out of our shed.  It was traumatic at a number of levels.  For KC it was particularly painful as he had the previous December won a really beautiful Trex bike at our city holiday event.  It was a gorgeous bike, far beyond our price point.  He had barely ridden it as snow came early and then in spring, it was stolen.

It was obviously our fault.  We should have locked the shed.  But our city has not typically been a place where you had to lock things up.  So this new found knowledge brought pain as well.  Most times, our city has big city opportunities but kind of a smaller city feel.  There are festivals in the center of town, a farmers market weekly down there, free concerts on the common in the summer.  Food festivals galore throughout the year.  The list is really endless. But though they may lead to seeing friends and neighbors, we don't live in Mayberry RFD.

Despite all that, the opiod crisis is strongly felt here and likely contributed to the bike thefts. Lissa's bike was taken as well as Robs in the same sweep.  Mine was not because it was hanging up and far too difficult to remove quickly.

A few weeks ago I got Lissa a new bike.  It is a rather inexpensive big box discount store model, but she is growing so much that it does not make sense to invest in a pricey bike right now.  I was saving for one for KC when our friend (who is also KC's godfather) heard of the situation and offered a free used bike for him.  It had been given to him by someone and he has not gotten into riding as he thought he might.  So for the price of a tune up, my son has some nice new wheels again.

At first, he was afraid to ride the bike.  This one is bigger, but truly fits his growing, oh-so-tall young mans body.  But he is feeling all clumsy elbows, knees and gangly these days.  The bike seemed gigantic to him.  I assured him it was not and he could do it.  Sent him up the sidewalk listening to his dramatic discourse on how he was going to fall and break a limb right before dance classes resumed. (laughing in my head at the ranting!)

Tonight he and Lissa went for a bike ride and as I  suspected, the lure of freedom,the feel of the breeze as he moved his bike along the sidewalks, overcame his fear.  He came home with a gigantic smile on his face and said "it's back!  my confidence is BACK!"

I told him how happy I was (watched Lissa roll her eyes in the background--she's been out riding for weeks since she got her bike) and we talked of a family bike ride once my bike gets tuned up. I'm looking forward to it. There are some nice bike trails in our area and it will be fun to explore these together.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Growing faster and faster

Today I am very aware of how much our family is changing as the kids grow older.  Yesterday, Lissa went with a friend to an amusement park in a nearby state.  She wound up spending the night at her friends house and I picked her up this morning.  She eagerly regaled me with stories of all the "thrill" rides she went on.  She had a really excellent time and I am glad for her.

Last night after he finished work, Rob went to a friends house and was there till late, watching the Mayweather/McGregor match.  I was still slightly awake when he got home so he was able to tell me who won.

Today at noon KC left to go to a friends house for a party and won't return til 9ish.

All of these are good things.  We are doing our job as parents and our kids are fledging and growing--bravely trying new experiences, forging relationships, dreaming dreams.  It is exactly what I want, yet the moments are bittersweet  all the same.  Small hands no longer clasp mine, in fact almost all my kids are now taller than I am.  There are many things I love about parenting my kids as they get older.  The more in depth conversations we have; the movie nights we share together.  Jokes that have an increasingly more adult grasp of linguistic wordplay.  These all make me smile and are moments I treasure.

But I am very aware that their orbits are no longer firmly around me.  The gravity of friendships, interests, and new experiences has caused them to loop outward into their own orbits, only rocketing back to me periodically. KC is all ready talking of a part time job next year when he turns 14.  Lissa wants to volunteer at a local doggie day care when she turns 12. Whether I am ready for all this or not, time marches on. . .

Thursday, August 24, 2017


The eclipse was a big deal in our house.  Although we were not in a path of totality we eagerly made eclipse viewing boxes with the kids. We all talked about the eclipse.  I was at work on the day of the event and our maintenance super brought up a welding mask so we could all look.  It was cool. I am looking forward to the next one in 7 years which will have a path to a state near us and where we could potentially see totality.

After having myriad conversations with the kids about not looking directly at the eclipse, why we don't look at the eclipse etc etc, you can imagine my shock when I watched our current president squint up directly at the eclipse while aides shouted to "put on the glasses."

In the grand scheme of things, if he chooses to damage his vision, it is not my concern.  What concerned me was what appeared to such oppositional behavior.  I have been to the oppositional rodeo a few times as a parent and it is not fun!  But for a leader with such huge responsibilities to exhibit such behavior is terrifying.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Kayaking and phones that don't swim

Last week Lissa and I left mid week for a camping trip with dear friends of ours.  Our two families have camped together now for more years than I can count.  Our kids have been friends since they were young preschool aged wee ones.

In years past I had all the kids with me but this year marked the first time that it was only Lissa and I going.  KC wanted to stay here in town and complete his week of dance camp.  Chet opted to stay home, saying sleeping on the ground didn't appeal to him at the moment.  Rob had to work.  Lissa was still very excited though--so excited she opted to skip dance camp on Wednesday so we could hit the road early in the morning instead of after dance camp was done. (she was only supposed to be at camp through Wednesday, KC went all week)

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, sitting, tree, outdoor and natureSo we did and I loved the time that it was just she and I .  It was such a different dynamic that rarely happens in our large and busy family.   She too, looks so grown up in this picture, that I snapped right when we got to the campground.  Time flies, it really does.

Unfortunately, this is the only picture I have of the days we spent together.  I took a number of great ones but on Thursday of our vacation we went kayaking.  First time for both of us. Our friends suggested it and they have kayaked on this particular river before.  We set off and most of the way was really delightful.  It was a six mile journey with lots of stops for the kids to play, snack snap pics, jump in the river, etc.  However as we journeyed on the skies began to darken and I worried that a pop up thunderstorm might be headed our way.  I expressed my concern to my friends who were stopping to do more river play.  We agreed that Lissa and I would journey on ahead (there were many other kayakers from the same outfit on the river so I knew I could not get lost or something weird like that)  I had been paddling for hours and felt relatively confident.  The river was low--I had to pull us across shallow areas numerous times.  So we agreed to meet up at the take out location and Lissa and I set off.  Sure enough shortly after that it began to rain, but thankfully NO thunder.  So we were safe, though damp and kind of chilly.  Lissa was getting tired and doing far less paddling.  But we paddled on and then rounded a corner on the river.  A tree was leaning out over the river and I remember telling Lissa to push us away from that with her paddle as we were headed too close to it.  I don't know if she did or not but the next thing we knew, the tree had ensnared us and we were being pushed backward by it. The kayak began to fill with water as it tilted and we capsized.  Apparently said overhanding tree disguised a rapid little current of water there.  It was not over our heads but it did terrify poor Lissa.  I held onto her and the kayak and all our belongings went down river.  We had life jackets on so we were safe and I was not letting go of her because she was hysterical.   Someone who was playing on the banks a short distance from us saw the mishap and came to assist.  I passed Lissa across to him so that she had hands on her the whole time.  Then I climbed out of the river myself.

Amazingly all our belongings except my  beloved NFL hat and our sunscreen were recovered.  Lissa was not hurt. I got an epic bruise on my right arm but it has never pained me.  We were fine.  Shaken but fine.  My friends arrived to find us all ready loading up back into our kayak ready to paddle the last wee bit to the take out spot.  I felt it was really important for Lissa to see that this could happen and we would not tip over again.  Regardless of my efforts though, she is not feeling any kayak love.

My phone was drenched and died despite my immediately plopping it in a box of rice pilaf in my camping kit when we hit dry land.  Hence my lovely shots are lost and remain only in my memory.  But I remember my tall strong daughter on a giant boulder in the middle of the river. I remember looking down at polished river stones in amazingly clear water, deer prints on the sand bar, and laughter.

The event was also a bit of PSA for life jackets.  I made Lissa wear her jacket and I wore mine.  My friends did not and Lissa was miffed.  I said that sometimes stuff happens and you don't know when it might happen, but that this was a way to make sure we stayed safe.  It was indeed a key part in our overall safety when the accident occurred.  So yes.  Wear the life jacket people.  I am a good swimmer. I am still glad we had them on.  I also learned a bit too late, that Otter box makes a "dry box" that would have kept my phone safe and dry.  I'll have the "phone life jacket" next time too!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Summer musings

I have been reminded often this past season to live life deeply, and to remember that there are not always second chances. A tragic murder where I work took place.  A domestic violence situation that flared suddenly into tragedy with a young woman winding up dead.  Her life was snuffed out and many others were also forever damaged by this.  I remain forever grateful that long ago when my family member was involved in an abusive relationship, that she eventually fled.

It is not easy.  It took six years.  Six years of late night calls, tearful conversations and more.  I had given her a debit card with enough money for an emergency run to a hotel room if and when things ever got dangerous.  She would always assure me that things were never that bad, that he was sorry.  Things would change. She would change. He would stop drinking. Things would be better when he got a new job and was given credit for the amazing work he did.  The litany was endless.

I was very young- between 20 and 26 during the years this took place.  It used to make me so intensely angry.  I could not understand how she could let this happen.  How her love for this man could supplant what seemed to me just common sense.  I am a different person than she.  I am a martial artist. I absolutely would not for any reason stay in a relationship where I was afraid or had been harmed.

For me, the hardest part of those six years was staying in relationship with my sister while she stayed with the abuser.  Not that he tried to distance us, he didn't. (which is an anomaly in abusive situations.)  But watching her stay where she was unsafe, listening to the nonsense come from her about why it happened--those were the hardest things.  I would offer to pay for the divorce.  I would offer help in securing her own safe apartment.  I would offer to help get her a car so she could get a job once she was on her own.

And it still took six years.  With a persistant and steady family support, it took six years to leave. It wasn't about me.  It was about her believing she could do it.  Finally when her young daughter was threatened, she left.  I did what I said I would do.  She finished her education and got a good job.  Her life is different and she is alive today, a mother and a grandmother, and married to a man who loves her and treats her with kindness.

The fall out from this incident, and another in our city just a few weeks before culminated in a domestic violence vigil at the apartment community where I work.  Experts who can help those experiencing domestic violence spoke.  Many who know work as advocates have previously experienced the horror of dv first hand.  Their stories were chilling and yet they were also stories of hope.   At the end, under a nearly full moon, we lit tiny battery candles and placed them in the grass outside.  We sand Amazing Grace.  We said their names, so that they will not be forgotten, so that they will be remembered as more than that final act against their defenseless bodies.

I was very emotionally depleted by the end of the vigil on Friday evening.  But this weekend has been so healing and restorative.  Saturday I started the morning with yoga.  Then spent the day doing errands and chores.  I helped my wife with two of her cleaning contracts. And today, was just amazingly special.

As a two mom family, Mothers Day has always been about my wife.  I help guide the cooking and festivities to honor and celebrate all she does.  When the kids were very young, there needed to be help in making gifts, etc.  Now there is still coordinating that has to happen.  So long story short, we don't do anything to honor me on that day.

Instead, at some random date when we can get together, we celebrate Ooma's Day. And today was that day!  It started with tea and blueberry muffins in bed and continued with a hike up a local mountain.  There were gifts in there too, beautiful thoughtful gifts. But what I treasure the most was todays hike together.  We have not hiked much in recent years. My wife has some mobility issues caused by her frequent ankle breaks.  So it was really special to hike on a stellar weather day.  We noshed on the summit and then made our way back down the mountain to our car.  I feel restored, my well has been replenished and I am ready to face the new week.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Thinking and living deeply

There are the days when my emo teen feels like he will drive me round the bend.  Days when his sister "the tweenager" does the same.  There are also some wonderful conversations and experiences happening.

One convo that I treasure was with KC about a week ago.  He is thinking about the fact that next year he is old enough to get a job.  He wants a job  phone and knows he has to have a job to obtain said phone.  There are several markets in our community that are good first jobs for kids.  Rob worked at one of them and that may help the hire process as Rob was a great worker.

KC was concerned about how to address people.  He knows that if he is stocking shelves people will likely come to him and ask questions.  His concern was that in todays society, saying sir or ma'am might not be polite.  "What if someone is trans and I can't tell?" was his question.  I was so proud of him for thinking deeply about this, for having the compassion to see that speaking to people in the way they see themselves is important.

We talked about how the interaction in the job he is likely to obtain would not necessarily require sir,ma'am or anything to help someone out.  A friendly smile and a comment like "oh we have those in aisle 2 should I show you?" would work out just fine.  If it was someone he was meeting where a more in depth relationship/conversation was to unfold, it was totally fine to either use their name or ask how they preferred to be addressed. He is my sensitive, deep thinking soul.  But in particular this level of sensitivity makes me have hope in the harsh world we presently reside in.

Last night the two kids and I went to our church to help stock for today's monthly food pantry.  There is a ton of set up work to do and we have always had dance commitments that kept us from helping. With no dance in the summer and no camping trip this weekend we were free to help.  KC was a huge help lugging boxes, breaking down and disposing of recycling and keeping things organized.

Lissa and I worked together packing large boxes of eggs into one dozen boxes.  Then when we finished, she wandered over to a table where a bunch of store brand small pies were located.  Her sharp eye picked up on the fact that she saw one pie with mold on it.  She then decided to make it her mission to check every single pie to make sure it was safe and good quality.  There were a LOT of pies probably about 100.

I had finished my task and things were wrapping up.  We had a 30 minute drive home ahead of us and had worked for 2 hours.  I confess I was tired.  I asked her if she'd like me to help her finish up the quality control.  She looked at me and said "I've got this. I'm just fine.  Go find someone to talk to!"  (My love of chatting is fairly legendary in our home!)  It was clear that she really owned this job and that it was not fair to jump in and help.  I took her advice and found someone to chat with for the remaining 10 or 12 minutes that she needed to complete the job.

I am grateful that all my kids seem to mostly live with compassion and think of others.  We need that in this world.