Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Most Exquisite Joy and Pain

When people talk about their children, then often say that their most exquisite joys AND pains in life come from dealing with their children and their problems. As this month and year draws to a close, I can attest to this.

I had a feeling that December would be dangerous. But I thought it would be because of the candy, chocolate and sweets and all the negative things that result from making merry with food over the holidays. It wasn't that at all.

It's been a ________ month. I leave the space blank because there are too many adjectives to choose just one. It's been a month of stark contrasts. Ups and downs, highs and lows, despair and joy, anxiety and contentment. To pick even a few descriptive words would not do this month justice.

I know it's been insane because I haven't done half the stuff I usually do in December. I only realized this on Christmas Day, after it was far to late to engage in any traditional, nostalgic activities. I just kind of sat there, stunned by how different this year had been.

There was no baking or treat-making. I didn't read "The House Without a Christmas Tree," a book I've read every year of my life since I was 12 or so. I didn't check out any Christmas books at the library for the kids. We barely made a dent in any of our own huge stash of holiday books.

I didn't watch "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" or "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," my two favorite Christmas classics. I got to the part in "Christmas Story" where Ralphie has just shattered his glasses shooting his new BB gun. Then something else got in the way. So I missed the "Fa Ra Ra Ra Ra" part. Bummer.

The thing was, I didn't even care. Really. I was sad about those things for about one second, and then I realized the beautiful gift I'd been given instead.

It started with my shoulder surgery on December 9. I spent about three days in a pain med fog. I don't remember much of what anyone said or did during that time. I don't remember anything that my daughter Adrienne told me during those few days. Could I have done anything to help her if I had registered what was going on? She wasn't feeling well and was trying to study for finals and was agitated and anxious.

By the 15th I was feeling good and I was up and around, but then Adrienne snapped, broke down, and crashed, and our whole family was shaken in the aftershocks. Thus began the sleepless nights, the intense worry, and hours of conversations between Darren and me where we sat, sifting, sorting and asking questions.

It is interesting how men and women differ in their approach to crisis. Darren responded by actively trying to define and explain our daughter's problems through research and talking to people. Let's take care of the problem. Let's solve it. Let's get through this.

I would talk to people and then would feel completely overwhelmed by the enormity and complexity of the issues. The more talking I did, the more muddled and foggy I felt. Ideas and thoughts bounced around in my head like a pinball, back and forth, over, under, through, and then around all over again. EXQUISITE PAIN.

And like many women might, I wondered how a mother could miss such an elephant in her daughter's closet and proceeded to flog myself with a guilt-infused whip.

Our one commonality was deep love for our daughter, and our desires to make everything better. This time it would take much more than a Band Aid and a kiss. I couldn't pull her into my lap and help her fall to sleep nor could I even be with her for a period of days.

There were the two nights of valium that shut my brain off. It couldn't take being awake anymore.

And the day when she was home with us, back in our house. EXQUISITE JOY. All within a week.

Then Christmas came. We were together. I didn't care about anything other than that.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Surgery Jitters

Hi all,

It's been a good long while. I seemed to have fallen out of the blogosphere and let real life take over for some reason. Don't know exactly why.

So I have this problem shoulder. It's about as trustworthy as me actually following through on my new year's resolutions. I dislocated it AND injured it about 18 months ago when I fell into a rock bed in the middle of the night trying to get to the outhouse on a youth campout. Since then it has been playing games with me. It's very clever.

For example, a year ago it popped out of the socket and I endured five days of serious pain until it was finally put back. It was so far out and had been so long out that I actually had to have general anesthesia in the operating room to get it back in.

I was finally starting to trust it again because it had been behaving so well for an entire year! Then last month it decided to pop out again while I was exercising. See what happens when I try to be good and exercise? I wonder why I even try.

There I am doing the squat machine. POP! "Uh, Lynnette, (my friend and exercise partner) I have just located my shoulder and we need to leave right now and got get it put it back in."

Lynnette drove me to the doctor's and waited with me for nearly two hours until Dr. Mortensen was available to put it back in. By the time she had to leave Darren was there to watch and support and go for pain meds. We thought all was well. While taking an ex-ray to be sure in was in the right place, it popped out again. Dr. Moretensen prescribed some Lortab and said he'd be back in an hour to get it back in--which he did.

An MRI a few days later showed that the ligaments around the Labrum (the socket that holds the bone where it's supposed to be) are all ripped and torn and floating around. We opted to have surgery to repair it in January because it was just going to keep on coming out. I wanted to avoid being laid-up during the holidays.

So last Sunday I was leaning on the bench at breakfast and it popped right back out. "Ha, ha, ha, aren't I funny?" it seemed to say. This time I had to go to the ER to get it put back in because it was Sunday and Dr. Mortensen was probably teaching Gospel Doctrine at church. That took most of Sunday morning. We opted to move up the surgery since the likelihood of it dislocating again randomly was HIGH. Read: dangerously high.

I could just see myself ripping open a gift on Christmas morning, and ripping my shoulder right out of the socket if we didn't take care of it sooner. I didn't want to spend Christmas day in the ER.

People are treating me like a china doll at home and work. My students at work ask me why I'm not wearing my sling. People run to open doors for me. They ask if they can carry things for me. This is nice, but I feel like an old lady. The next thing you know they'll be shouting because they think I'm hard of hearing.

So, Wednesday I go under the knife, whoops, I mean scope. I get to come home the same day if all goes well. I get to wear a sling day and night for 4-6 weeks. I get to have two months of physical therapy after that. Along about April I should be back to normal, though it may be more like June.

I've never had surgery before, but I'm not worried about the surgery or subsequent pain. I am good at dealing with pain. I can tolerate a lot of pain. I had three out of four natural childbirths! (Sorry that was totally irrelevant, but I just needed a brief self-esteem boost!) I am worried, however, about wearing a sling for four to six weeks. I am worried that I will not be able to bear that burden.

It might help to think of some pros in this situation (if there are any). It might be nice to relax before Christmas and just sit around the house, and not run around all crazy and insane. It will be nice to have family and friends available to help. And of course the sooner it's done, the sooner my life goes back to the way it was before my injury. That's a plus.

Lessons I've learned from this:

1. Never get up in the middle of the night to use the outhouse when you are camping with teenagers, not even if you think the dam's about to burst OR FOR ANY OTHER REASON.

2. If you must go, camp right next to the outhouse.

3. Never go to a youth conference that involves camping.

4. Never decorate above your cupboards by pulling yourself up to get stuff up there. Bo-ing! Pop goes the shoulder!

5. Never decorate higher than you can reach.

6. Never decorate.

7. Never do the squat machine at Curves. Only do machines that work the lower body.

6. Never exercise.

7. Never get an ex-ray immediately following your shoulder reduction (put back in the socket procedure).

8. Never lean on the bench during breakfast while you are reaching for a napkin.

9. Above all, never think you can outwit, outmaneuver or manipulate your shoulder in any way. It is going to do exactly what it wants to mess up your life.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Dangerous Descent to December

Chocolate's gonna kill me.

I woke up this morning to the smell of chocolate in the air. Not hot chocolate, mind you. Real chocolate, pure chocolate, Halloween chocolate. Hundreds of pieces of chocolate that made their evil ways into our house last night and the leftover that I didn't give away that's still sitting in a cute basket on the couch.

You know that Halloween smell. Stick your nose into your kids' Halloween bag and breathe. There's your childhood right there. Do you remember the excitement of looking through all your loot, dumping it on the floor, trading with your siblings, stashing it away, eating 1 or 5 or 10 pieces a day depending on your disposition?

Remember how your Mom would come into your room in March and find 80 little wrappers under your bed? Do you remember running home from school every day in November to eat some candy? Do you remember counting your candy before you left for school and then when you got home? And when you accused your Mom of stealing your Hershey's she said, "How dare you accuse me of stealing chocolate?" But then you found a bunch of little wrappers in her bedroom garbage can?

My Dad never had this problem. If he knew there was Halloween candy in the house he didn't give it a second thought. Men! He had a talent for carving some really swell pumpkins with wavy eyebrows and silly ears, but that was about his main contribution to the whole Halloween thing. Oh and he had this awesome Frankenstein mask that he pulled out to scare the neighborhood kids on Halloween. But the candy thing? No.

That's what I remember. And that's what I smelled coming down the stairs this morning. Memories. Memories of when I was a kid and the reality of motherhood today and that horrible temptation I have to steal, plunder and pilfer my kid's Halloween candy.

Oh it is real. I want to offer big bucks for them to toss it in the garbage. Because I know myself. I know how I will think about where they have "hidden" it. And that it will not be hidden at all. It will call out to me like a kid who can't find his shoes or homework or soccer ball. I know it will irritate me until it is out of this house.

So I think of all that chocolate sitting around, and how long it's going to take to actually be out of the house, and then I think of the glutinous Thanksgiving feast later this month. And December? December's like a a big ho ho fest of candy and treats and stuff you hate to eat and love to eat all at once. It's the month when you feel sick about what you just ate but are forced to think about the next thing you have to make for the event tomorrow. And you go off to the stores to buy more stuff to make food that you feel bad about eating.

Help! Someone beam me to a planet where food isn't necessary to live. Oh, and can that planet also let me shave my head? 'Cause having to have cute hair every day is REALLY getting to me. Oh, and if that planet must have food, can the men be in charge of it? The ones who remain fit and trim for years on end and have no idea what it's like to fix food day in and out for a family and for every stinkin' event in a lifetime?

I am feeling a little put upon about the food thing about how unfair it is. And I am worried about what the next two months could do to my body and brain. Plain and simple, I dread what could happen.

And so, this morning, after I tossed a couple of Hershey's kisses into my mouth because if I smell chocolate I also have to TASTE it, I realized something else about today!! It's fast Sunday, and I just blew it.

I can't win.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Trip up North

A few weeks ago I got on a plane with my mom and sister and went to visit my brother in Seattle. It was a great family reunion. I had never seen Seattle in the fall. I had no idea the color was so spectacular. It was gorgeous even though it rained nearly the entire five days we were there. Here are a few highlights. Credit for photos goes to Judy (Mom) who not only remembered to bring a camera but took most of the pictures.

Here is my little brother Mark, standing in front of some amazing fall color. Apparently people in Seattle don't use umbrellas, they wear hats!

Mark, me and Lisa at Snoqualmie Falls.

Lisa, Mom and Mark at Snoqualmie Falls.

Something you don't see every day of the week!

Mouthwatering produce at the Pike Place Market in Seattle.

Don't stand too close or a flying fish my slap you in the face!

Mom has found some amazing color as well. It wasn't hard.

My new concoction for a dessert. Vanilla ice cream (the real stuff, not reduced fat) and gingersnap cookies smothered in caramel sauce!

Mom, Lisa and me at lunch at a fish and chips place near the Pike Place Market.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Moment of Silence

Yesterday we observed a moment of silence in our home. We paused to observe a rarity that my children have never seen in their lifetimes, and may not see again. We reached a milestone that I never thought we'd reach.

We accomplished something that I had pushed so far on the back burner that it was not even near the burner anymore.

For a fleeting few minutes and for what seemed like a blink of an eye our entire home was clean AT ONCE! That means that all the rooms were dusted and vacuumed, the floors were mopped, the bathrooms clean, the laundry done and the beds made. OK, all the sheets on the bed were not clean, but only I knew that small fact. The surfaces were free of clutter, stuff was put away, there was a HUGE bag in the garage waiting to go to the DI.

This has not happened for 18 years, folks, since Adrienne made her way into the world in July 1991. Even then we had a 500 square foot apartment and we couldn't get it all clean at once. IT HAS BEEN 18 YEARS!

I wanted to do it just to see that it could be done. Never mind that I worked for hours on it Friday and Saturday, and put off other things I should have been doing. Never mind I didn't sit down all day Friday, and I was cleaning a bathroom at 10:45 on Friday night. Darren was a little disappointed that I ditched him for the bathroom, but hey, I had my goal, and I wasn't letting it slip through my fingers. He got over it. He likes clean, maybe even more than me.

When are you coming to bed, he asked me, while I was still feverishly scrubbing the tub. "Enough is enough," he said. "It's not that important."

"EXCUSE ME," I said sternly, "I AM THIS CLOSE TO A GOAL THAT I RELEGATED UNATTAINABLE IN MY LIFETIME. I WILL NOT BE DISTRACTED!" Hell hath no fury like a woman on her knees with Comet and rubber gloves. Rubber gloves means it's a serious operation.

The next day he vacuumed the stairs for me and did some other odd jobs to help me reach my goal. I thanked him by raking leaves and picking beans. But it blew so hard yesterday it doesn't even looked like we raked leaves at all.

"We have too many trees," I told him, when I saw the array of color on the lawn.

"You don't think that in the summer," he replied.

"I know, I love them then."

My house is not large. It is small compared to many McMansions in this valley. I have no idea how those people clean their homes. I would not want that job. I am just grateful I could clean my modest house, all of it at once, maybe just once.

I am not a goal-oriented person. But I was a maniac for those few days, for some odd reason.

Probably just once, I am thinking since, today while looking around, I am seeing a few out of place things.

Two loads of laundry that produced themselves while we were sleeping.

Some crushed leaves on the newly vacuumed carpet.

Bed sheets that won't be washed for a while yet.

Unmade beds.

Sunday newspapers all over the living room floor.

My shoes from last night in the middle of the floor. So even I can't keep it up let alone the rest of the family.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Autumn Musings

Happy Birthday to my Mom today! I won't say how old she is, except to say that it starts with a seven!

I love fall. I think it's the best time of the year. It's my birthday time and it's beautiful and sunny but cool outside and the colors make me feel warm and toasty and content. Out my front window there is a dust of snow on the tips of Mount Timpanogos, and then red bursts of color mixed with green dot the rest of the mountainside. Just like this picture to the left taken by some amazing photographer. It is a postcard-perfect scene, one that should be caught in the act of violating the beauty code.

There is the thinnest slice of time before the color's all blown away and the trees and bare and the reality of winter barges in like an alarm clock after a bad night of sleep. The feeling is that it's over too soon, just like that night's sleep, and isn't there anything at all we can do to hold on to the best of seasons or turn the clock back another hour?

That's how I feel every year at this time. I try to enjoy it while I can and hope that winter doesn't blow away my positive energy like the leaves.

Nathan is through with the fall soccer season. I feel kind of wistful about it. I love to watch him play soccer and have since he was five years old. When he does some amazing footwork that would put me into traction and then scores a goal, I feel like shouting to the crowd, "Hey! I birthed that kid! He actually came out of MY body!" But I refrain. But I'm proud as a peacock that that kid is my own flesh and blood. Amazed really.

What a FANTASTIC soccer season they've had. The Raptors finished fifth in their AA division. The boys are all so nice and such good sports and their parents are all so nice and such good sports (no easy feat), and our coaches, Ryan and Doug, are classy, kind, mellow and not obnoxious. We are blessed to be playing with the Raptors for the third year in a row. Best of all is what great friends the boys are. Friendship among players is one of the main benefits of being on a team like the Raptors. It's right up there with other things like learning sportsmanship, improving skills and getting into shape.

I love working with the resource kids for two hours a day. I don't have time to get burned out, and I have time to do other things, although I still can't seem to manage to get everything done that I want to. I think this will be my problem for life, and in talking to other women, it seems that it will be their problem for life as well. One of the great mysteries of life is how to get it all done before you're too old to get it done. I ponder this as the calendar moves stridently toward my forty somethingish birthday.

Any ideas on how to get everything done that you want to without losing sanity and sleep? A woman who I was talking to a couple of weeks ago said, "Just don't." OK then. Maybe she has a point.

So, the kids I work with at school are so entertaining, to say the least. When a math problem asks them to describe which method they used to solve the problem, they write pencil and paper, instead of multiplication, division, etc. Amen. They are exactly right. It cracks me up.

Watching general conference in my pajamas last Sunday and eating aebelskivers(Danish pancakes) with the family was another fall highlight. How cool not to shower until 4 pm, and even then just to put on sweats and no makeup. I was happy as a lark.

Other happy news is that there are no more peaches or pears on my trees anymore to yell at me to do something with them. I am not hearing, "Hey you! Lady! Pick me! Crush me! Make jam with me! Freeze me!" when I walk by. I am like Barry Manilow singing, "Looks like we made it, through another bumper crop. . ."

My counter tops are no longer covered with fruit that is ripening and losing their vitamins by the minute. Oh, but I do think the most divine thing in the world is homemade pear jam with powdered sugar on aebelskivers. And so I am grateful I listened to the pears and did something with them, even though it would have been easier to let them just look pretty on the tree.

And I think all the tomatoes have frozen! Oh, poor tomatoes! So sorry I didn't do anything more with you when I had the chance. Ahem.

I am going to Seattle next week with my mom and sister to see my brother and sister in law. No kids, just us. I can't wait. I love Seattle, even though it will be cool and rainy. Seattle is just a great city. Darren is taking the kids camping down south, so he will be happy as well.

For all these reasons, I love fall.

Monday, September 21, 2009


I am struggling to learn a whole new language. I'm not learning to speak it, but just to understand it. I'm not listening to CDs and I'm not attending a class, and my training is happening within my own four walls. If you're not jealous, you definitely should stay that way.

This is way worse than college French, or Spanish when we lived in South America. You see, South Americans smile and engage you when you try to speak to them in their language. They are encouraging and helpful. And my French professor, ooo laa laa, was tres tres magnifique!

I'm learning Teenager, a language of short, curt, surly phrases that I can't quite hear, much less decipher. In this language I have two seconds to understand and then respond to what is being said before the speaker is gone, vamoosed into the land of written communication that doesn't require annunciation, eye contact or even waiting for a response.

I am beginning to sound much older than I am, like a granny whose hearing aids are not adjusted right. I am routinely saying, "What?" or "Say that again" or "AH dint undastan a woood you jus sed," like that chicken farmer on Napolean Dynamite. I feel old and clueless, like I am a sagging remnant of anything worthwhile or cool.

Just when I feel that my self esteem couldn't plunge any farther into the toilet, I realize that Darren can't understand anything our teenager is saying either. And that he is also saying things like "Come again?" "WHAT?" and "I CAN'T UNDERSTAND YOU!" And this is a guy whose youthfulness, energy and language skills are legend. This makes me feel slightly less pathetic but not much.

When we press for more detailed answers from our teenager, such as "I am going to go to Heather's house, and I will be home at 10 pm" AND demand that she look us in the eye, she acts as though we've asked her to give up her cell phone for life. When we ask her to repeat herself, you know, come again?, she looks at us as if we are one step away from the nursing home down the street.

The language of Teenager has only one and two-syllable words. Most of them are "yeah" "no" "later" "OK!" or "duh!" One would think that would make it more understandable, but it doesn't. It requires saying "what?" more than any other language, routinely feeling stupid and throwing oneself on the couch and swearing under one's breath when the teenager has left the room.

Once in a while my teenager's eyes will look up at me. Yes, look AT me. I remember how pretty her eyes are. She'll smile and her teeth are white and perfect and straight and I'll remember how much her braces cost and how that smile really lights up her face.

I notice her hair, how it's this beautiful spun gold color that people would pay big bucks for. She's got this lower body hip stuff going on that I never had and don't know where it came from. She's just beautiful. And I want to freeze the image and pretend that when she opens her mouth something fluent and interesting and pleasant will come out.

And that I will be able to understand it and not look like a washed-up has been, cowering into the couch with my Metamucil and crossword puzzle.

She says something in Teenager and I say, "What?" She glares at me.

"Are you going deaf?" she asks.

"Undoubtedly," I respond. "But only when you're speaking."

"What?" she asks.

"Are YOU going deaf?" I ask.

"Whatever," she says and vanishes to find someone who can communicate on her level.

Oh, my gosh, that was three syllables!!! I take a celebratory swig of Metamucil, adjust my reading glasses and start to work on 2 down. A eight letter word for improvement.

Progress! No duh! Maybe things are looking up.

Monday, September 14, 2009

My Little Red Piece of a Not Minivan

Cars are a pain, and did I mention that cars are a pain? If not, I'll just go ahead and set the record straight on what I think about cars. They are a pain! They are just something you have to fork over tons of money for and they break and they cost money to fix and they need gas and an oil change, and new brakes and cleaning.

Three years ago our minivan needed a new transmission and we forked over the bucks for one. Now the transmission is acting up again. Jerry, the transmission mechanic, says he's gonna have to "rip apart the tranny" to figure out what's wrong. We told him, no, the minivan is going to sit in the driveway to think about its bad behavior until we figure out what to do with it. A transmission is supposed to last more than three years, we told Jerry. He agrees. That's why he'll throw in the free labor and just charge for parts. Wow, what a deal! Thanks Jerry.

In the meantime I finally have, however, a car that is not a pain. It is bright red and it is a Toyota and it is fun and sporty and cool and everything my minivan has NOT been for the past 10 and a half years. I drove it out of the lot on Friday night at 11:16 pm with a grin on my face as wide as the Mississippi but in debt up to my eyeballs. Oh well.

It has a CD player. It has automatic windows. It has a remote that opens the doors! It has 8 cup holders! These are new innovations I thought I'd never see in my lifetime!

Don't get me wrong. Minivans serve their purposes. Like when I had four young kids and carpools and lessons and shagging kids all over the planet, yes, I needed that minivan, and it was good to me. I was grateful for it. It went with us a lot of places. Across the country and back, to Disneyland and back a couple of times, up north to the cabin multiple times. Camping all over Southern Utah.

I drove it to the rec center so many times for swim practice, that it can get there by itself. The daughter we drove to swim practice 756,987 times is now away at college. And I've decided I will never again be in another carpool as long as I live. My kids have fewer activities now. So I just don't need that big of a car anymore. And I don't WANT a car that big anymore, but I still can't help reminiscing about the good times in the minivan.

The minivan has had a thousand wet towels on its seats over the years. It's had at least infinity crumbs from various foods ground into its carpets and seats. It's had all manner of baby fluids on the seats. It's had multiple car seats strapped into its seats. It's heard hundreds of arguments, been hit a couple of times, had the garage door shut on it, and been left running with the keys inside and the doors locked.

You could say it's been around the block a few times.

It's been through the car wash dozens of times, and it should have been there more. It's sat on its side on a snowbank in Wyoming. It's been vacuumed to death. It's been fixed to death, serviced to death and gassed up to death. Yet it's not dead. It's still hanging on, all 160,000 miles of it. Poor old girl. It's almost like I should take her out and shoot her, to put her out of her misery. I just don't have the heart to do it. There still seems to be a some life left in her.

So she's going to sit.

Since I got my new car three days ago, I have to keep pinching myself. When I wake up in the morning I say, "Oh yeah, there's a cool car in the driveway that I can drive today, and I bet it won't break down because almost new cars don't do that." That is a most pleasant way to start the day.

I feel spoiled rotten. But I also will feel safe this winter and when I get stuck in the snow I will be able to get myself out. And I will not have to worry what's going to break next, or how to juggle things so we can leave the car to be fixed.

I'm the first to admit that I need that peace of mind. I have better things to do than wonder what's going to break next.


Friday, September 4, 2009

Nothing to Fear but the Parents

I don't like to write about politics often because it puts me in a very uncomfortable minority most of the time. But since Obama is trying to indoctrinate our children with his political socialist/communist/fascist agenda, I say so what if I spout off a bit. If the president can then I can.

Life in America has reached a low point. There is fear in the air. Some parents across the US are pulling children out of school on Tuesday because President Obama is giving a live speech on the importance of education. There is fear among conservatives that he will attempt to politically indoctrinate our children with his evil values. That evil man! That in the guise of a speech on education IN THE SCHOOLS that subversive messages will weave their way into the minds and hearts of our children. Messages that will mimic those of socialist leaders.

That while America's school children, educators and parents are listening, he will somehow emit waves of leftist propaganda that will lodge itself in their permanent psyches. That they will be forever tainted by the words he speaks. That after they listen to a speech on the value of education, school children will somehow desert the values with which they've been raised and enlist to be part of the Obamacommunist regime.

Maybe America's school children will start campaigning for universal health care after the speech, or turn green and demand tighter environmental standards or lobby for gun control. And while they're at it, they might as well let the hardened criminals out of prison and open up our borders so we can all have a great big melting pot party in Texas! Yee hah!

It is amazing what President Obama will be able to accomplish in the short 10 minutes he is planning to speak about education. Not only is he evil, he is talented!

PaaaaaaaLeeeeeeese. How is it remotely possible for any of this to happen? Get a grip people. You can read the speech beforehand. You can discuss it with your children. You can pick it apart word for word and decode his hidden agenda.

Let's talk about Obama's values. This is what I have been hearing him say for months:

He wants universal health care. He wants everyone to be insured and be able to take care of themselves and their families. Why does this liken him to Fidel Castro? Health care in this country is a disaster. And it needs fixing. This is not propaganda, this is truth. That this is such a partisan fight saddens me.

He wants a clean environment. So do I. I want to drink clean water and breathe clean air. We know what happens to people when these basic rights are not met. We can protect businesses and the economy and promote a cleaner planet. Other countries have done it, and so can the US.

He wants students to get a good education like he did. He wants schools to do better at providing a top-notch education. George Bush put all kinds of government controls on states' curriculum in his No Child Left Behind program, and people did not react with the same vitriolic hatred that they're spewing at Obama.

If George Bush would have ever given a speech on education for American students, I'm sure he would have said many of the same things Obama will say on Tuesday. His father George HW Bush gave a similar speech in 1991. Study hard. Get good grades. Set goals. Go to college. Find something you love doing. Be a good, productive citizen. These are basic American values. This is NOT a partisan issue. This is not socialist rhetoric.

Parents who pull their kids out of school on Tuesday for fear of political indoctrination are teaching their children a lesson that will negatively influence them far more than anything Obama says in his speech.

First they'll learn that if they fear something may not be to their liking or correspond precisely to their comfort level, then they don't have to listen to it. That they don't even have to try.

Second, they'll learn that it isn't important to listen to others if we don't like them or agree with them. That you shouldn't give a person a chance. That you don't have to respect A DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED president at all.

Great values to teach your kids, all you parents who are so into VALUES! Think about it.

Does everyone who your child associates with daily meet your high ideal? Maybe there are lots of people who should not be part of your child's life. You just never know where evil may be lurking!

They say parents are a child's most important teachers. It's too bad that in this case fear and misinformation are clouding their better judgment, leaving them with very low marks.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tire Marks Across my Back

I don't think I can get through this post without waxing cliche-ish. It's just not possible to describe what it feels like to watch your oldest child pack up and move out. As many have pointed out to me, she is only moving 10 minutes away. I know this makes me the biggest wuss on the planet.

So I'm wuss. I don't care. I am what I am. She was my baby. She was my child. She is my daughter.

Let the cliches begin.

I feel like I have been run over by a tractor.

Enjoy it.

It goes so fast.

You turn around and they're gone.

Some day you'll miss the noise.

Your life is forever changed once you become a mother.

You thought you knew what love was, and then you had a child.

Adrienne was born on a humid day in July in Madison, Wisconsin. I was swollen and red as beet. I remember wondering if a person could die from being so incredibly hot, and if that was dangerous for the baby.

The last week of my pregnancy was spent praying that the God of air conditioning would find me and take mercy on me and lying in oatmeal baths to alleviate the itching of the pup rash that had made its home across my stretch marks. When I wasn't in the bath I was lying on the couch watching Wimbledon next to a rotating fan. The days stretched on like a nightmarish movie. My due date, July 3rd, came and went. So did July 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th.

Oh the misery. The swelling, the itching, the stretch marks that ran parallel purple highways down my belly that got bigger every day, the heat, the husband who tried so hard to help, but found that there was no possible way to help. "Just keep bringing in the ice cream and stack it right here," was all I could say to the poor man.

We will induce you, the doctor said on the 11th. Bless you, I cried. Nineteen hours later, on July 12, Adrie was born, yanked out of my body with a vacuum extractor, looking like she'd been through a womb war. She was even redder than me. I was besotted, instantly in love.

The next morning when I called the nursery to ask where MY baby was, they said to please come into the ICU. I called Darren who had gone home to sleep, and we met in the ICU. She has a low body temp, they said, and it is a possible sign of infection. We need to admit her and run a bunch of tests.

A low body temp. In this heat? How was that possible?

So began a week where I went home from the hospital without the baby. A week where I came back every few hours to feed her. A week where I had to wear scrubs to touch her. A week where nothing was wrong with her, but just to be sure, every tests known to human kind was performed on her. A week of poking, prodding and no conclusions. A week of many prayers from friends and relatives all over.

"We're taking her home," Darren and I told the ICU doctor six days later. "She's fine." Her heart rate had dipped in the night and so he wanted to do one more test just to be sure. "We're picking her up in the morning, then" we told him.

Next morning with my Mom trying to keep up, we stormed back to the hospital for the 100th time to get our baby. There was no question that we would not leave without her. Discharge papers, blah, blah, blah. Nothing had ever been wrong with her and I think we knew that from the start. What a ridiculous start to life she had had.

We got home, a week after she was born, and it was so hot that Adrie and I sat sweating on the couch, gazing at each other.

"Go buy an air conditioner," I told Darren.

Darren likes to tell people I locked him out of the house until he bought an air conditioner. I don't think I locked the door, but there was no questioning the seriousness of my request.

An hour later he came home with a window air conditioner. Adrie and I sat in front of it, sweating less, but loving each other more as each moment passed.

And so today, cliches beginning again, we will move her in to her dorm room with her roommate from Georgia and her meal card and with whatever else she has managed to glean (both good and bad) from living with Darren and me for 18 years. We can do nothing now but hope we loved her enough and taught her enough.

I know for sure we loved her enough. I hope the rest will work itself out.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

There's No Place Like Home

Dorothy was right. There is no place like home, where you feel good in your skin, where you know where everything is (well, where it's supposed to be), where your body curves into the mattress in just the right way, and the comforter brushes your face with cottony familiarity.

Home is where you know just how much to leave the window open at night for the coolest breeze or how many steps it takes to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Home is where the light switch is the just the right height, and everyone breathing softly in their own beds makes for your own peaceful sleep.

Home is where you fall asleep listening to crickets hum along with the sprinklers.

We are home from the UK. Wow. What a summer. It was a fast-paced, pound-the-pavement, do-everything-you-can kind of trip. A trip where you spent the money because it was a once in a lifetime. A trip where you'd wake up in the morning and say, "I'm in London, yes I'm in London. What's on today's agenda" . . . and then do it all over again the next day.

While in London, Leah memorized all the subway lines and how to get from point A to B. She studied the maps and put stickers on all the sites she's visited. She made more BFFs than a person should ever have. She touched the lives of 40 students by being a cute little girl who celebrated her 8th birthday with college students. She sobbed her eyes out when we had to say goodbye.

Nathan played soccer all the time, and improved his dribbling and passing by playing with the students. He learned all about rugby and went to several games. He learned where to get the best deal on a futbal jersey and how to haggle over it with the shop owner. He learned that it's OK to be bored sometimes, and how to entertain himself. He learned how to talk to adults, and look them in the eye with confidence.

Sammie made 40 new friends who treated her like she was one of them and not a 15-year old who was along for the ride. She saw what it takes to have fun and study for good grades. She had more fun than any one person should ever have in a summer. She learned how to be a loyal, caring friend.

Adrie got a 4.0 in her two classes and learned how to live in a dorm setting. She learned to manage her money well, and budget for what she wanted. She learned that her family is there for her no matter what, and we always have food even if the dorm servery doesn't!

Darren learned that he misses the great outdoors and could never live in a big city like London permanently. He learned that British history is fascinating but not the best subject to try to get through in 6 weeks. He learned that it's probably not the best idea to go abroad when you're chair of a university department. You just pile on your workload without the compensation. And you have so much work you can't get out to do all you want to do.

I learned that I can be a good friend and Mom to college-age students and that I relate well to them. I feel so good I was able to be helpful to them when they were sick, homesick, hormonal and sad. I learned that I love the theater, and that I have never been so moved when the music and theater combine together in just the right way.

It was the kind of experience we won't soon forget.

But there is no way to keep up with that kind of pace, even the most energetic types. No matter how glamorous or exciting the scenery and agenda, there's still nothing like opening up your own humble front door after crossing the ocean from other places. The dents in the wall don't look so big anymore. The carpet that needs cleaning still feels much softer than I remembered. The stairs, which used to seem so daunting, now appear like nothing compared to the 52 I had to climb to get to our flat in London.

Home is where the dishwasher humming means I don't have to wash dishes and the washing machine is always available. Home is where the kids are having water fights in the back yard, euphoric because they're with friends again.

Grocery shopping is easy and cheap. I don't have to carry them home. There is ice in abundance for every drink I want. Tap water doesn't cost money. Darren's garden has more tomatoes than we can ever eat. The raspberries and peaches are coming on. I'm gearing up to make jam.

Home feels good.

Friday, August 7, 2009

England's Lake District

Darren said this hike near Windermere Lake in the Lake District was the best of his life! This is high praise indeed!

Nathan had another idea of how to enjoy the Lake District, even if it meant no clean undies for the rest of the trip! He couldn't stand that the students were jumping in, and would not be told no.

It was BJ, Melissa, Katie, Sammie and Garrett who got the ball rolling, and plunged into the freezing lake. All of the sudden Sammie looks like a college student to me, not a 15-year old, which she is is TODAY!! Happy Birthday darling!

Grassmere in the Lake District is the most charming town I've ever seen. We also visited Dove Cottage, where William Wordsworth lived and wrote. "Daffodils" is perhaps his most famous poem.

"Daffodils" (1804)

I WANDER'D lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o'er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the Milky Way,

They stretch'd in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company:

I gazed -- and gazed -- but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

By William Wordsworth (1770-1850).

Thursday, July 30, 2009

In Blarney Scotland!

I am still seeing plaid scarves, tartans and kilts a week after we left Edinburgh. I saw so many in those two days that my brain is aswirl with the patterns and colors of Scotland, land of the Lochness monster, malt whiskey and hagris (cow's stomach). The most amusing T-shirt in one of the tourist shops was a drunken Lochness monster, rising out of the lake in a a plaid tartan playing bagpipes. The most revolting thing was cow's stomach which is part of the traditional Scottish breakfast spread. Those who tasted it said, no, it does not taste like chicken.

By the way, you pronounce it Edinbura, something I would never have known had I not visited the place and pronounced it wrong to the locals. I was surprised at the number of foods The Scottish put malt whiskey in. The funniest one was fudge! The bookstores have whiskey tastings, like wine tastings in the United States. Yes, this is a my own generalization, but to me Scotland appears to be a country of jolly alcoholics, judging from the number of pubs on within spitting distance. Kind of like the number of Mormon churches in Orem, Utah.

In comparing the Scots to the English, which they don't like, it's quite a sensitive subject, you see, I find the Scots to be loud and lively, with a distinct sense of fun. The English are quiet and more reserved and don't like to call attention t to themselves. But the Scots seem not to mind the limelight.

Edinburgh Castle seems to be the crown jewel of the city. It also contains crown jewels worn by some of the monarchs, dating waaaay back into the nether reaches of time. It is where Mary Queen of Scots was born and crowned queen as a baby.

Three-hundred fifty pound cannon balls that must have obliterated everything in sight!

This little Scottish terrier is named Greyfriars Bobby. He is significant because in the 1850s or therabouts he was the epitome of loyalty to his master. When his master died and was buried in the local cemetery called Greyfriars, Bobby would lay on his grave every day for 14 years until he died himself. I bought the story and read it to the kids and immediately got choked up because I didn't realize such loyalty existed. As humans beings we visit graves of loved ones sporadically, maybe once a year, or maybe not, but now I want a Scottish terrier. I know, totally irrational, but I still want one.

THE cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter on napkins. It has a great view of Edinburgh Castle from the back where she wrote. Some of the students had lunch here, and reported that it is very good. It was fun to see the origins of Harry Potter.

Baa Baa White Sheep all over the hills. Talk about free range sheep! This is sheep country, and they are fat and fluffy, the happiest sheep on earth, apparently. All our sheep photos were taken from the bus window, and so they are a bit fuzzy--just like the sheep! I will have to rely on my sheep salt and pepper shakers as a ceramic reminder the real thing! Oh, and my cashmere scarf which I told Darren I would have FOR LIFE and that it was definitely worth the price. He said it would absolutely be worth the price if I didn't lose it, which is highly probable, I must admit.

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Trip up North

We returned Friday from one amazing, fast-paced, see everything in five days kind of trip. Here are just a very few of the highlights. I will get to Scotland, land of white, fluffy sheep and malt whiskey in a couple of days. That deserves its own entry.

Sammie at the Jorvik Viking Centre in York.

The Shambles in York, the oldest medieval street in Europe.

From the top of the York Minster, a cathedral that took 275 years to build.

The winding staircase leading up to the top of the York Minster. Nearly 300 stairs! Talk about motion sickness.

The magnificent spires of York Minster.

The ruins of Fountains Abbey, an enormously wealthly sprawling place that engendered much anger against the Catholic church. Many felt the monks should not be living so lavishly, and that the church had become corrupt. Henry VIII was responsible for destroying some of it during the 1500s when he tried to make the Britons Anglicans, not Catholics.

Darren at Fountains Abbey.

Fountains Abbey was the perfect place for Nathan to release all his energy. He and Leah scrambled all through the nooks and crannies of these ruins and it was a glorious English summer day, about 70 degrees, and we all thought it would the perfect place for a wedding reception, a very expensive wedding reception.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Queen was at Home

We knew we'd get poured on, but we went anyway. We knew there would be loads of tourists like us, trying to see the changing of the guard. We knew there would be confusion about if they were really going to change the guard given the weather. We knew if we lost each other we'd truly be lost. Thank heavens I had my multi-colored umbrella, the one that stands out among a sea of black ones.

But you just can't go to London without seeing Buckingham Palace. It isn't as interesting architecturally as other palaces. It's design is RAAAAWTHER dull. But there is a living queen inside the castle and she's been queen for nearly all her life, and that's really something. Whatever their opinion of the monarchy as an institution, I doubt many British people would make light of her years of service.

What we actually saw: policeman on horses telling people to clear the way, policemen on foot telling people to clear the way, a few fuzzy black-headed guards through the gate and the Union Jack flying on the top of the palace, signifying that the Queen is in London.

"When the flag flies up there, that means the queen's at home," I told Leah.

"Maybe she's in there right now!" said Leah.

That led to just a few hundred questions.

"What do you think the queen's doing in there?"

"What does the queen do all day?"

"How many rooms are there in there?"

"How many bathrooms do you think are in there?"

"Does the Queen have kids?"

"So Charles will be King someday?"

"What are the guards guarding her from?"

I told her sometimes she comes out on the balcony and waves to the people, and that they all cheer.

"Maybe she'll come out today! Let's watch and see!"

So we watched for a bit and then walked around the park for a bit and ate a cookie until the crowds died down and then made our way home. First we stopped at some overpriced tea and crumpets, queen-type tourist shops with fancy T-shirts that say "Pussy Cat Pussy Cat Where Have you Been? I've Been to London to Visit the Queen," and such.

Not sure if the guard was changed or not.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Les Mis in London

These three cousins in this picture are primed for a night on the town at the Queen's Theater. They are seeing Les Mis in the West End and it will be one of the most memorable nights in their lives. Sammie, Adrie and cousin Kailey are "living the dream." They are so excited that they can barely stop smiling. Their excitement is tangible in this photo. They curled each other's hair and put on high heels even though it was quite a bit of walking to get there. They did makeup and much changing of clothes.

Darren and I were thrilled to share this memory with them. We kept talking about how grown up they looked. We wished that Alan and Kim, Kailey's parents, could be with us to watch them.

When we discovered we'd be able to see the play on Thursday morning, an energy shot through all three of them. Adrie had been wanting to see this play more than any other. While many of her fellow students were going to play after play, she was waiting, hoping for this one.

The girls didn't care that our tickets were in restricted seating, that they'd have to crane their necks in odd positions to see. They promptly went into the theatre and bought a Les Mis T-shirt. When Fantine began singing "I Dreamed a Dream" I hardly dared to turn to look at them for fear I might miss one note of that gorgeous song. But out of the corner of my eye, I could see their faces lit up with the pure contentment and joy that comes when one is soaring.

They didn't want to leave the theatre at intermission, instead they preferred to review the story and characters among themselves through wide-eyed grins.

As I sat watching, I wondered how I managed to live my whole life without ever seeing such an incredible piece of theatre. When it was over and my face was completely wet, I was almost angry. I wanted more. This is unusual for me. I am normally glad when plays are over since I have such a hard time sitting still for very long. Not this one.

I want to go back. I want to pay £50 to sit in the middle and see every inch of the stage. They say that art trumps life. And days later, as the songs go through my head, I am inclined to believe it.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Platform Nine and Three Quarters

"Excuse me, sir, would you mind telling me where I might find Platform nine and three quarters?" This is the very King's Cross Station where Harry Potter came to board the train to Hogwarts. The trolley is permanently stuck to the wall.

The London Wall is the fortress the Romans built to keep out invaders. It was buried until the bombings during WWII uncovered the remains.

Stonehenge remains a mystery. How did they move the rocks 250 miles to this spot? Was it the Romans?

Anyone for a BAAAAAWTH? More Roman ingenuity.