Friday, December 31, 2010

Another New Year

Just once, before I get too old to think this sounds anything other than amazing, I want to spend New Year's in Rio de Janeiro.  It's summer there now, and folks celebrate the new year by wearing all white.  When the clock strikes midnight, everyone jumps into the ocean, and comes out all shiny and new, to start over again.  I like this idea. 

But, for now and this year, resolutions will have to suffice.  I make resolutions every year and usually keep them.  Last year, I resolved to make new recipes each week and did so, for several months.  My sushi fell apart until I found the sticky rice that holds it all together.  My krumkake iron dripped butter onto the stovetop and lit my stove on fire.  My creme brulee was tasty, if not carmelized as it should have been, and so on.  Some successes, some epic fails.  The point is, I think, to keep trying. 

I have only two resolutions this year:  to try again, a little harder, to publish my book, after I tweak it and remove some elements.  I came very close last time, with two agents reading it and liking it, just not loving it.  Michelle Edwards from pub knitting told me that is remarkable for a first novel to get that close, and it will be publishable, once I find the right home for it.  Encouraging news.  My second resolution is just to seek out the happy, those people and projects which make me happy, and not let the unhappy moments get me down for long.  When I was young, I thought of adult life as a happy constant, with the freedom and income to have whatever I wished whenever I wanted it.  The reality is we all lurch from one happy moment to the next, with lots of downtime in between.  Christmas was one such happy moment, as all Christmases are now with my family, and tonight should be another, with different friends grouped at different places, and me hopping from one to another all night.  We can't jump into the ocean at midnight, but I'm sure we'll make plenty of noise.  And then, all start over again, trying to be better people. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

For John, I See Bees Everywhere

And, I got nothing.  Not about the title, anyway, just had to throw that in there to see if one of my most fun coworkers will actually read this blog, and not just send me youtube links via facebook.  There are more websites than just two, John, and personally, this little blog is mighty and cute.  Just like me. 

So, titles aside, the last few days have been pretty good.  I should always just spend time with my family whenever I get blue.  My four brothers, sister, mom, and friend Beck (who has been my friend so long and with my family through holidays and deaths that she is now family) can always get me back to myself, my best self.  Friday was spent skiing with Cathy, Sarah, Lindsay, Mark and Loren.  I fell down a few times, but as I wrote Louis, even falling is fun.  Then, I went home to a mysteriously shoveled driveway.  Whoever did that for me, thank you.  On to Loren's and Katie's, singing zombie Christmas carols and making jokes with my family at each other's expense.  One of the highlights was my mom, announcing she wants to be a coyote.  She meant cougar.  And she didn't really mean it. 

Watched movies with Mark, Karl and Mom on Christmas Day, and got to cuddle Cathy.  This rarely happens, anymore, and is a great gift when it does.  It's Cathy's friends who run toward me to deliver the first hug of the day, sometimes knocking me over.  It's Cathy's bestie Matt who dances with me like the Charlie Brown Christmas.  Cathy herself is usually aloof, but on Christmas she had several nice gifts, two she especially liked, and that made her inclined to let me hold her on the couch and rock her a little.  She's not too big yet; never will be, whatever she thinks. 

So, yeah, this is an uneventful blog.  I've not been ruminating or brooding or anything for a few days, though I probably will write a broody blog after I get my last Christmas gift, a big one from Becky.  She is sending me to a local psychic for an intense life reading.  She has promised to come with me for this, and even though I am still at heart a Catholic girl, there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, not to wonder what psychic Betty Bouda can tell me about myself.  If she, too, tells me I need to work on myself first, I will take it to heart. 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Thinking Ahead... holidays other than Christmas.  So, earlier today I posted a cranky missive titled "New Year's Resolutions", which I took down soon after.  The resolution remains the same, to seek out the people who make me happiest and not worry so much about the rest, but the reasoning behind it doesn't need to be shared.  It will be a great new year.

And, now I'm thinking ahead further, to Valentine's Day and all that involves.  I've already taken the single woman's precaution of making my married friend Cindy agree to go to a movie with me that night, so that's covered; I will not be that single woman on VD Day, alone in my dark house, eating chocolate and tears.  Instead, I will be the kind of single woman out with a friend, as I am most days.  That's not so bad. 

In fact, not bad at all.  Love isn't confined to coming only from boyfriends, or on a certain day of the year.  Love is getting texts from Cat and OJ, worried about how I fared without them this weekend.  Love is Becky and Abbi each letting me come over at any hour. Love is Jeff, forcing me to do absolutely midevil torture with weightlifting equipment, and then making me try on gear today, so he could buy my Christmas gift in the right sizes.  Love is Becky at the movie theatre right now, saving my seat.  So, I better go. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Being the Cool Mom

I used to be the kool-aid mom, had the house in Springville where neighbor children would go to stain their mouths red (or whatever the color of the day was), eat snacks, make forts out of boxes, try to build treehouses with yarn, and so on.  I was the kool-aid mom.

Now I get to be the cool mom, by default, because most mothers of my daughters' friends are older than me.  I seem more accessible to Cathy's and Sarah's friends, like the same music they do, let my girls color their hair with sharpie marker, write on their jeans, and wear aviator goggles to school.  As long as they do nothing permanent, I don't see the big deal in letting the girls express themselves. 

So, Cathy started texting last night while out shopping with her friends, in all caps because she was excited, "I LOVE CHRISTMAS SHOPPING FOR MY LOVED ONES."  When Cathy got home, she also told me how one topic of discussion while she was out shopping was... myself.  How cool I am, how her guy friends think I'm cute.  Thanks, Andrew!  Call me in five years.

After my craptastic year, hearing Cathy share this was the best gift ever, better than anything she could have bought.  Even if her friends also said that I remind them of the mom on Weeds.  Not so sure that's a good thing!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Santa Claus

This year was supposed to be different. 

We've had untraditional Christmases before, the girls and I, like the year Cath was ten and Sarah seven.  They had watched so much television that year, with frequent pleas for help from Childfund (what used to be Christian Children's Fund), for underpriviledged children around the world.  The marketing ploys of those commercials worked, because at the end, when the narrator asked, "Can you help?", Cath said, "Sure, we can" and came to find me and ask for money.

We talked it over, and I told Cath it was more money than we put in the collection basket at church, more money than we usually spent on most things.  It was the same amount of money I usually spent on the girls at Christmas.  So, my little girls made me a deal.  If they were still committed to the idea one month later (a long time in the life of a child), we would adopt a child in need for Christmas.  One month later, they still were, we did, and five years later, we get regular mail, photos, and pictures she's drawn from Binti Conteh.  The girls still enjoyed a nice Christmas, with a few gifts from their dad and me, and gifts from relatives, nicer than Christmases spent by billions of children.  But, it was a smaller, quieter, and less ostentatious Christmas than they'd had before and since, by choice.  I was so proud of them that Christmas.  I still am.

This Christmas was also going to be different.  I looked ahead in about October and realized this was their year for Cath and Sarah to spend Christmas with their dad.  Rather than have rushed gift openings each place they went, and make Christmas all about STUFF, I asked them if they wanted experiences instead.  What if, instead of stuff under the tree, we went shopping in Minneapolis when we visited Kirk at Thanksgiving, and they spent their Christmas money early.  Then, on Christmas Eve, before their dad came, we would as a family go skiing with the aunts and uncles and cousins.  It sounded perfect.

But, their dad had other plans, is too busy to have them at all this month, including Christmas.  I had an "Oh, shit" moment driving home with them, with Sarah texting her dad and passing this message along.  What had I done, to try to make their Christmas better, and instead, made it worse?  I had no gifts for them, hadn't even thought about it.

Here's the Santa Claus moment of this story.  Each year, even the year we adopted Binti, something always came along to make the girls' holiday all right.  Gifts, or money, flowed serendipitously from somewhere else.  So, in the car driving home from MN, my mom patting my arm because I was upset I had ruined Christmas for my kids, Mark called.  He offered to take us to Germany.  The next day, our store manager posted the amount of our quarterly bonuses and Christmas money our company gives us.  It was unexpectedly generous.  It wouldn't matter that I let the girls shop and spend their money early. 

So, the girls get it all this year, shopping with Mom at Thanksgiving, AND skiiing with relatives, AND stuff under the tree, AND we just got a recent photo and vaccination info from Binti.  They are happy, I am happy to make them happy. 

After Kiyaya and I decorated the tree, while Kyra put Sarah's hair in corn rows and Cathy watched a movie with Matt, I left the decorating stuff out for a few days.  While I was at work, one of the girls found in the box and hung up a little chalkboard decoration which lets them count down the days till Christmas, and wrote on it, "13 days".  They still count it down, still get excited about the holiday at twelve and fifteen.  And so do I, at thirty-seven, but my focus has shifted, forever, to making things right for them and being a proper Santa Claus.  Sometimes, I think I get help from the real one.

Friday, December 10, 2010


Cliches become cliches, overused so much they become a joke, for a reason:  They are usually very true.  Before I became a mother, I heard how it was such a lifechanging experience, and that I would never be the same,and blah, blah, blah.  I didn't really comprehend how true this was, or maybe I just wasn't listening.  I was only twenty-one, after all, when Cath was born. 

And, then, she arrived, all five pounds of her, covered in hair like a monkey and with a plaintive cry that was like a vise on my heart.  When I held her, I had the first inkling how lifechanging she would be, and am still figuring out how much she and Sarah have the power to rock my complacency.  I knew, when I held her, that someday I would die, and was okay with that.  What I used to fear most was my own death, but suddenly, I loved something more, and knew I could never, in a million years, keep on living in a world she was not.  I was okay with the thought of ending, as long as she kept going.

Then, Sarah was born, and I thought, "Okay.  I have one of these, I know exactly what to expect."  But, two girls could not be more different, from day one. I had to learn parenting all over again, because I had never parented a Sarah.  They've asked more times than I can remember who I love more, and there is no answer to that.  I love them both most. 

So, when Sarah ran away from school on Tuesday, because a really cruel seventh grader was spreading rumors about her that Sarah just couldn't combat, my mom called me at work to tell her Sarah was safe, at grandma's house, but very, very upset.  And, my world rocked again.  She is fine, now, and back in school after I met with the principal, and took Sarah shopping and we talked about how much middle school sucks, for everyone.  That's a cliche that is universally true; middle school just sucks.

But, sometimes, high school sucks, too.  And so does home life for a teenager.  And, throughout Sarah's little drama, I kept thinking of Jake, who died last month, because his life was so hard, he hung himself in the boys' bathroom at school.  How must his parents feel?  And how could he have done it, broken the little neck his parents held when he was too small to hold his head up himself? 

I am so lucky to have my kids.  I sometimes regret having them so young, but have to stop myself, because if they weren't born when they were, they wouldn't be exactly the souls they are.  And lucky, to have my heart broken regularly by them, even when they don't mean to.  Whereever they go in life, when they hurt, I hurt, too.  They take my heart each time they take a step.  They changed my life. 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

My Sitcom Life

Occasionally, when telling a story and trying to ratchet up the funny, I will exaggerate, just a little.  No harm done, as long as no one gets hurt and everyone knows the truth eventually, right?  So, full disclosure:  it's much funnier to say that my ex-boyfriend's gift of an Ab Lounge was his idea, but it was actually... his idea, but as a favor to me.  He had the decency to say he had not noticed my weight gain. 

But, some stories need no exaggeration whatsoever to be funny and awful, just my word that these are the facts, ma'am, and just the facts.  Such stories comprise my life, my crazy, sit-com life, complete with a laugh track (when my friends are around).  I'll probably over time change this blog into just a confessional of embarrassing moments, which might be therapeutic for me, and helpful to others to know their lives are so much better by comparison. 

So... My worst moment of recent months was going to a fortune teller at a haunted hayrack ride in the middle of nowhere (first clue this night would suck), all of my friends were not allowed on one ride, so we waited for the second hayrack (second clue), by going inside a gypsy wagon off Highway 30 (third clue), to have our fortunes read via tarot cards (fourth clue; I mean tarot is the Velveeta of the fortune telling world.  Even Psychic Sherry off Blairsferry Road reads palms, for an affordable $15 walk-in fee).  So, Cathi and Orlando got nearly identical fortunes, and very good ones, which promised each a wonderful love life.  I also asked about mine (should've known better), and after pulling card after card (and staring horrified down at her card table), the fortune teller gave up, fixed the blame squarely on me that her cards sucked, and said, "You have to work on yourself first."  Thank you, Dr. Fortune Teller. 

So, I am going to start (today!) working on myself.  After being called fat for the second time in three months (and in my entire life), I bought myself an elliptical for my Christmas present to myself, and really, a gift to the world.  If I lose weight and consume fewer resources, with my great big, fat ass, then I'm doing a favor to mankind, and more importantly, to womankind.  Men can be such gomers. 

But, not the men I love.  See previous blog, written in a MUCH better mood.  So thanks to  Cath and Orlando, for always having my (baby got) back.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

My Guys

So... I love men.  I really do, and I know that sounds wrong and whorish, which I am not.  I just like the company of men, as often as possible.  It's not that I don't love my female friends.  My closest friends are women, and there's nothing like a girl friend who understands exactly how I feel when I tell her, "My ex boyfriend just gave me an Ab Lounger because he said he noticed I've gained some weight."  Women friends can understand immediately what you mean, and how you feel, and answer you back with a hug and a look, and one word:  "Men!"

But, most of the time, I don't group men into an unfeeling bunch of douchebags, all equally bad.  From having four brothers, I know no two guys are at all alike, but there are common characteristics among the guys I like having around, and I was lucky enough to have a bunch of guys around this week, who made this week GREAT!  So, I had Thanksgiving with three of my brothers, my good friend Abbi's boyfriend John, my new friend Andreas, and good friend Jeff, as well as Katie, Cindy, Mom, the girls, Selah, and Kendall.  I got to play football and have the familiar experience of Mark hitting me in the face with a ball, drawing blood.  I got to play Uno with the guys and watch them cheat like crazy, making a stellar impression on Andreas, who is not an American and probably now thinks all Americans cheat at cards.  But, we all laughed till we cried, ate and played all day, and Andreas was the last to leave, after giving us his email, cell, and address so we can come visit him in Germany.  More on that in a moment...

Then, I got to see Kirk and Jared while I stayed with them in Minneapolis, and the girls and I attended a McCaffrey (awesome cousins!) wedding reception, and we found the coolest vintage clothing stores in the Twin Cities.  I love that my kids are cheap dates, and happy bargain shopping.  Kirk was himself, one of my favorite men in the world, and Jared was as cute and great as Kirk said.  Happy to see them, sad to leave them.

Now, for my big awesome news.  On the way home, Mark called to tell me he wanted me to research airfare to Germany so he could take me and the girls there over spring break.  I'm going to Germany!   It was second on my list of things I most wanted to do in life, and I get to go this spring!  The girls are ecstatic, and already talking about seeing Andreas again.  I am so happy, and grateful for my brother making this dream come true.  Having brothers is a wonderful gift, despite how awful they were when we were little, I love them dearly, and love making friends who become like more brothers to me.  I am so happy right now, cannot wait to find good flights and fly!! 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tattoos and Titles

So, how old is too old to get your first tattoo?  I am so far unmarked, except for scars, which all come with stories interesting only to me.  When most of my friends were getting tattoos at the appropriate ages of their early twenties, I was applying eye liner to my daughters' faces to draw on cat whiskers.  Getting a tattoo never occurred to me, until I went back to work with people my own age and younger, and realized how many things I'd missed during my twenties, tattoos high on the list among them.

But, what should I get?  This took some thought, and it was only last week that I texted my friend Justin (he's very tattooed) that I finally had it, something I could wear and not regret ten years from now.  What I wanted was a small, white bird, flying up my back into a sky of skin that stretched up high... Like my scars, this tattoo would have a story.

When my father died, my friend and former teacher Ruth Michaud paraphrased an old Bess Streeter Aldrich poem into a card.  She wrote:  "Rough ways and stony ways, I think it was he trod, But now all I see, Is a white bird flying, Flying high, Flying up to God."  I can quote her version by heart, have written it into sympathy cards I have given.  I love that poem, I love the friend who wrote it for me, and I loved my father.  That's what I would mark onto myself, but once I decided on the idea for this tattoo, I realized how unnecessary it was.  No one could see a tattoo on my back unless I chose to show it to them.  And no one would know how deeply scarred into me are loves I own and those I've lost, unless I share the stories, which I already kind of did.  The book I wrote and still hope to publish is all about my dad, and losing him. 

I don't need a tattoo, not really.  Some things are marked more deeply than with ink, and matter more.