Thursday, April 28, 2011

Cathy's Muted Rebellion

So, on Easter Sunday, after the awesome green hair/purple hair worn by my daughter and my pastor, we came home to our Easter baskets.  There were no surprises there, for those readers who do not know, I must confess that I am the Easter Bunny.  At least in my house, I am.  I am rarely surprised by what goes on there, but Sunday was a day for surprises. 

"Mom, you're in a good mood now, right?" Cathy asked.  This is never a good sign.  My good moods rarely last after bad news, like that she wants another piercing, or that she fed our dog the lunch I packed for work, or whatever it may be.  But, she was so excited, and when she pulled me by the hand and asked me not to get mad, I tried not to.  She had been hiding something from me, something small and alive, under her bed.  His name is Kid Cuddy.  He is a hermit crab.  He had been living in our house since January.

Cathy thought it would be great fun and rebellious to buy a hermit crab, buy him a carrying case so she could take him places with her, like on walks, feed him and clean his cage every night after I went to bed, and see how long the secret could last.  "I'm such a rebel," she kept saying, with pride, as she recounted her elaborate deception, and which of her friends found out about Kid Cuddy, and when she had told them, and so on. 

And then, she asked me to blog about this.  Usually, I am asked NOT to blog about things, because my girls find stories about them embarrassing.  This time, she was so proud she pulled one over on me, she wanted the world to know.  I don't mind sharing that I knew nothing about the crab under her bed.  I'm just glad it wasn't a hobo. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Blessings

The girls and I went to church this morning, for the sunrise service at Linn Grove Presbyterian Church, a tiny 150 year old church a few miles up the road from us.  Linn Grove is the sister parish of our old church in Springville, which we loved so much that we never transferred to a Mount Vernon parish, but could not get our act together on Sundays to continue attending as we should have.  The two churches share a pastor, Karen Downey-Beals, who spent one memorable Christmas with us, when I thought we should all take turns reading "A Christmas Carol" by Dickens.  It was the worst holiday idea I ever had, but was saved by us giving up on the book, and playing a shared story game instead.  Sarah had just learned to write the word "poop", so it was the only word she wrote in the pages passed to her.  Once, Karen also wrote "poop", in solidarity with Sarah.  Beautiful. 

We wore, as people do, our favorite and most appropriate Easter clothes.  I chose a pink dress, white sweater and heels.  Very conservative.  Cathy wore a dress, black tights and a shiny blue lip ring.  Less conservative.  And Sarah wore a dress she made last year with Grandma Hartelt, over skinny jeans, her winter boots, and the hair she dyed green two days ago.  Much less conservative.  Kind of edgy, actually, but she looked pretty and had no holes in her clothes, so off we went.  Driving there, I thought about how Sarah has started questioning her faith and where in the world there is a place for her.  She thinks of church, with its mostly conservatively attired and mannerly congregation, as being no place for her.  Imagine all of our surprise to arrive at church and find that Pastor Karen had dyed her hair purple, in solidarity with all those kids in the world who want to stand out and be different.  There was another girl there, with purple hair cut short (the night before, we learned).  And Sarah.  Pastor Karen didn't know Sarah's hair was green, didn't even know we would make it.  And, yet, there she was, in all her glory, absolutely beautiful in purple hair. 

(The other little miracle of today was when I remembered our other association with Linn Grove.  Cathy did a project on it historic place in our community, complete with video tour.  A week later, the church was robbed, and many of its heirloom possessions gone forever.  The church caretakers had no proof even of the existence of the silver and the safe, and so on, except for Cathy's video.  Insurance ponied up, and the little church got back, not its treasures, but compensation to buy new ones.) 

Sometimes, the miracle is in the timing.  And for a miracle in the form of hair dye to occur on this, most holiest of days, made me smile all day.  If I could have, I would have totally high fived God.  And if He works in mysterious ways, like hair dye, He might've high fived me back. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ms. Versatility

So, Giselle nominated me for Versatile Blogger award.  Yay and congrats to Giselle for being nominated first, after your very first blog!  Here is my cool pic:

I am going to follow the Versatile Blogger directions and tell 10 things about myself and nominate some of my favorite bloggers. 

1.  I have two beautiful daughters, who bought new bike helmets tonight at Target.  They chose matching kitty cat helmets, one in blue and the other purple.  Very cute.  : )

2.  We also bought oodles of crafts at Hobby Lobby tonight, including cloth for Sarah's quilt and Trey's, prompting the text exchange with Trey over how long it actually takes me to finish a quilt, according to Cathy.  "Years," I admitted, at least according to Cathy.  I think it took a year for me to finish her most recent quilt, with help from my mom after my machine pooped out.  Which brings me to...

3.  I take on too much and it takes me a long time to finish half started remodeling projects, books, crafts, etc.  I work fast once I start, but am distracted by #1, my two beautiful and very busy daughters.

4.  I also get excited by many different things, too much for one person to have time to do well.  In the past year, I've wanted to run a half marathon, join roller derby, join bike rides with Lisa W., finish my four quilts for which I have fabric, and learn German...

5.  I want to learn German so I can read in German, travel there someday (soon?) and read Faust in German, so I can understand the meaning of life.  I dislike the sound of French spoken aloud, think it sounds like people lying, but really love sound of German voices, perhaps because...

6.  I am half German, have German citizenship through my dad, and wrote a book based on his early life and his last years, what he may have remembered as he was forgetting everything else.

7.  To be fair to my Norwegian and Irish hybrid mom, who is thoroughly American except for her love of lutefisk and lefse, I am researching pioneers, Norwegian and Irish immigrants, and the train business in the 19th century to write a book for my mom.  This one is not a sad mystery, like my dad's book.  For my mom, I am writing a love story. 

8.  And who better to inspire a love story than my amazing new boyfriend?  Life is full of surprises.  At different times in recent years, I've thought of wanting to have a loving relationship like something I should get over, like a ten year old who did not receive that pony for her birthday.  If I could get past wanting that, maybe I would be happy with everything else I have in life.  I did kind of get past actively looking for someone, maybe because the right person (Trey) was just around the corner. 

9.  For years, I've thought of having a new person in my life as having someone with whom I could be as close as I am to my family, someone who would get along well with them, and someone who I could trust to do the right thing even if no one is watching.  I have four brothers and one sister, whom I love very much. 

10. I like blogging, obviously, about my family, daughters, boyfriend, dog, and everything else which occurs to me. 

My favorite blogs to read:




Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Monsters, Seen and Unseen

Last night, there was an automated call to my cell phone from the local superintendent.  She informed parents that a ninth grade student had died yesterday, name and details withheld for now, and events would be cancelled for the night.  More information would be forthcoming. 

This was eerily reminiscent of another call, five months ago, when Cathy's friend Jake died by choice, hanging himself in the boys' bathroom at school.  Sure enough, more information was shared, the ninth grader was revealed to be a small boy named Tyler, and he committed suicide.  It's Mount Vernon's second suicide in less than six months. 

As a parent, I am heartbroken for his family, scared of copycat deaths in the school, worried for my daughters, and at a loss as to WHY??  As a former teenager, I remember all too well WHY, how dire life seems, how clueless parents and teachers and peers can be, as I hid the animals within, those monsters of fear, self doubt and nameless, limitless emotion.  I wish I could tell every teenager that life WILL get better, just hang on and wait it out. I can start with my two, and hope they believe me.

Because life does get better.  Even when it is hard in ways we cannot fathom as a kid, we adults have learned tools the children do not have.  We understand that we were not the first people to walk this earth and love, and lose those loved, and eventually, to die.  We share this world and become more tolerant as we age, because we have met more of those people whose space we share. 

Another hidden monster, no less scary and dangerous than teen angst, are those hidden diseases which come out and throw our adult lives into chaos.  As all my readers know, last fall after I went blind, the neurologists diagnosed me with multiple sclerosis (many scars).  It was probable before that episode; after it, it was definite.  This is a scary, scary MonSter. 

But, I am not ready to die.  Knowing that I can, and will, has been the strangest gift of my life, to value life each day until it's gone.  I wish I could tell this to Jake and Tyler, wish they had known my girls well enough to be welcome guests in our home.  I wish...

Recently, I made a new friend.  Life is all about connecting and being surprised by beauties and sorrows.  Giselle, my brave friend, has written about her struggles with the MonSter.  I want to encourage my few readers to check out Gislle's blog as well, now listed on my page to the right.  Her monster comes out much more often than mine, but she is dealing with it. 

I wish those little boys had known their monsters were not unique, and others could have helped them fight them off, or wait them out. 

Very, very blue today. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Conversation Pieces

In our house, the girls and I have lots of stuff with stories.  We have a magic 8 ball bathroom scale, which no longer gives you the correct weight, but gives up a good guess every time you shake it.  Our weight veers from a pound up to 400. We could throw it out, but why?  It's funny, and our clothes tell us when we are gaining weight, anyway.

In our car, we have the next to last Mimzy.  It was passed out among other Mimzys after Sarah and her friend Hannah went to see "Meet the Robinsons."  Sarah did not get the last Mimzy, we think Hannah did, so ours must be the next to last one.  Still, a very special childhood souvenier.  And maybe magical as well.

We collect plates and china, nothing valuable, but fun and interesting to us.  I love Smurf and Care Bears glasses; too bad they break so easily anymore.  We also collect interesting china plates, most from my dad's province of Upper Silesia, others from around the world.  I have a plate stamped on its back with "Made in American Occupied Japan."  It must have been made soon after the war and traveled to Iowa, where I bought it.  It might be the last intact plate of a set, with a story all its own. 

Then, there are all those stories we carry with us, to haul out and dust off and share with someone new.  Trey and I spent a great weekend with some of my family and, just as importantly, with each other.  There were things I learned about him, when he lived where and how his life progressed to bring him to the Midwest and to me.  And, I know he learned alot about me, as I chatted with family and shared nuggets of funny and a few things more sad than funny. 

And that's the thing about conversation pieces, and the stories we share.  We all have items and moments from our pasts to share, but they are useless without someone to share them with.  Most of this past weekend, I kept thinking, "I am completely happy right now.  There is nothing I would rather be doing, and no one I would rather be with than Trey at this moment."

If anyone reading this weighs himself (herself) at our house, do not be alarmed.  If you are in my car and see a small cloth bunny staring at you, do not make direct eye contact.  Please don't break our oddball china collection, but if you do, we then have the joy of shopping for more mismatched pieces.  If you come over and ask about the weird things we own, both tangible and remembered, we will tell you.  If you ask my girls, though, they might just make something up. They are conversation generators all on their own.