Wisdom Comes Suddenly

Hokusai Says

March 18th, 2014 · Comments Off

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A picture that brings me immense joy, taken moments after the girls asked me to marry them, Summer 2011.

*Whenever I get stuck…you know the feeling…just kind of stuck in a mood, or a place, or a circumstance out of my control…I read this poem my Dad gave me many years ago. It’s thumb-tacked in my storage closet, and it seems to jump out at me the times I need it most. I sometimes take a day, and just ponder these words. To borrow the words of the author, Roger Keyes, I envision them living within me, and through me. And I wait patiently for life to take me by the hand…*

Hokusai Says

Hokusai says look carefully.
He says pay attention, notice.
He says keep looking, stay curious.
He says there is no end to seeing

He says look forward to getting old.
He says keep changing,
you just get more who you really are.
He says get stuck, accept it, repeat
yourself as long as it is interesting.

He says keep doing what you love.
He says keep praying.

He says every one of us is a child,
every one of us is ancient
every one of us has a body.
He says every one of us is frightened.
He says every one of us has to find
a way to live with fear.

He says everything is alive –
shells, buildings, people, fish,
mountains, trees, wood is alive.
Water is alive.

Everything has its own life.

Everything lives inside us.

He says live with the world inside you.

He says it doesn’t matter if you draw,
or write books. It doesn’t matter
if you saw wood, or catch fish.
It doesn’t matter if you sit at home
and stare at the ants on your veranda
or the shadows of the trees
and grasses in your garden.
It matters that you care.

It matters that you feel.

It matters that you notice.

It matters that life lives through you.

Contentment is life living through you.
Joy is life living through you.
Satisfaction and strength
is life living through you.

He says don’t be afraid.
Don’t be afraid.

Love, feel, let life take you by the hand.

Let life live through you.

- Roger Keyes


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Last Winter Weekend 2014?

March 16th, 2014 · Comments Off

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At 4am, the wind woke me up, and I took it as a sign that the 24 hours of gentle and not-bone-chilling breezes were gone. We’d wake up to freezing temperatures, if not downright snow. It often snows in Indiana in March, so it’s silly to bellyache about it. It comes. It goes. It’s pretty grey, but it’s usually the finish line.

I know we’re all thinking it this year: IS it the finish line? Are we getting close? Snowsuits are still hanging in lockers, and school delays happened as late as last week. Access roads to my house are both frozen and flooded, at the same time.

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As I balanced the girls snow gear over the heating vents (for the one billionth time this year), I couldn’t help but hear a scary voice inside my head ask, “What if we’re now in some permanent state of Alaskan weather? What if the cold never leaves and the snow is here to stay? What if 50+ inches of snow wasn’t all Mother Nature has in store for us?

This was winter’s last weekend in the Hoosier state, technically speaking. The Spring Equinox arrives this week. The girls played outside in everything from tshirts to winter coats, and they spent most of the weekend covered in frozen mud. I wasn’t sure if I should make a pie or a cake to celebrate the end of winter, so I made both. Then I made fried pickles, because I find they go with everything. Kidding, they don’t go with anything, but I’ve been feeling like a rebel lately.

A big, cold, muddy, frozen rebel. But we’re still here Indiana. Battered and driving the world’s filthiest cars…but we’re still here. I know our collective wishes haven’t made the snow melt, and buying snow blowers didn’t tempt the Fates to send sun…so maybe, just maybe…we’re due for some good luck. Godspeed my friends. Godspeed.


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The Rare Hand Bidet

March 12th, 2014 · 2 Comments

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I intercede so often, living in this house of inventors, you might call me a Professional Interceder, or “PI” for short. That’s not a coincidence in acronyms. But there are days I simply wear out, and grow lax. There are days I look the other way, and almost ALWAYS…WITHOUT FAIL…to my detriment.

Today? I wanted to make a little dinner in peace. The girls told me they needed the free time to “work on their invention”. Swell. I should have blinked when they ran out to the garage and disassembled Greg’s Shop Vac, but I didn’t. Kelly’s request for tape, scissors, and an empty egg carton seemed benign enough. “Don’t make a mess!”, I casually called up the stairs. The extra wide tubing trailing up the stairs should have caught my attention, but I was busy trimming asparagus. What can I say? Garlic and red pepper cream sauce coating prosciutto, asparagus, mushrooms, and angel hair pasta just turns me on.

And then I noticed Sara’s sketch, casually lying on the kitchen island. WHAT THE…?!!! GIRLS! WHAT ARE YOU MAKING UPSTAIRS?! [insert me overhearing Kelly say, "I don't know Sara, I think that might hurt..."] COME DOWN HERE THIS INSTANT AND DEBRIEF ME ON THIS “INVENTION”. At this point, I was assuming the worst: surgical tools.

Sara started to giggle, and said, “Oh Mommy, NO. Hold my sketch like THIS….”:

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And she went on, “As you can CLEARLY see, this is ME, sitting on the TOILET. I am inventing a system that will allow me to wash my hands while I am still ON the toilet. It’s a real time saver.”

Kelly: The water is currently draining into a bowl on the ground. That must be improved. I’m in charge of this part of the project. Got any ideas?

Mommy: Um, well? No. Bathroom inventions are not my area of expertise. I smell my sauce thickening. Carry on. As you were. Well done.

Do you think I should update our Real Estate listing? “House comes with rare hand bidet. Installed Winter 2014.” This should be fun to explain to the home inspector. “Let me explain. You have to hold the instructional THIS WAY…”

 

 


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Memory Book #4

March 12th, 2014 · 2 Comments

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This is the first day Sara tried to dress herself. Everything is on perfectly backwards, and well…you can see what’s a-happenin’ with her arm holes. I fixed the arm, but let Sara walk around all day in the backwards clothes, out of pride.

Last week, Sara begged me (and begged and begged) for a bikini. She asked, “But when Momma? When do I get one?” I informed her she’d have earrings and makeup before I bought her a bikini. I should have watched my words; she’s now begging for earrings and lipstick. Add in the discussion that cousin Avery is almost double-digits, and isn’t that the coolest thing EVER (almost=Avery will turn 10 in 7 months), and I’m left wondering: where is my 2 year old in her backwards clothes?

At this moment she’s in a fuzzy Justice sweater and cowboy boots, reciting the first 6 digits of pi. And telling me she can’t decide between a peace sign bedroom and a mermaid bedroom. Her sister has a brush stuck in her hair, and they’re fighting about who gets to ask for “fairies” for their Spring Independent Research Projects at school.

But their clothes are facing forward. Sweet, sweet memories.

 


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Memory Book #3

March 11th, 2014 · 2 Comments

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The day we ripped up the carpet and put in wood floors, I let the girls “decorate” the carpet with markers. I might have joined in. How cathartic! Quite possibly their favorite art day EVER.

Note to self: before we move into the new house, throw away our markers…


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I’ll Have The Bighorn & Grits Special

March 6th, 2014 · Comments Off

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Thank you so much for you supportive comments today. What a huge ray of sunshine you’all are! As tough as this eternal winter has been (on everyone! you included!), there have been moments of levity. And by “moments of levity”, I mean, “Kelly makes me laugh until I pee my pants”. Sometimes she knows she’s being funny, and sometimes she’s just quirky. And sometimes she cries for days, because she’s very good at being 6. But what I love most about Kelly is she never lets you see it coming. I LOVE being surprised.

Kelly was assigned a project to be done at school during her Health & Nutrition Unit. She had to make a 4-day menu. I can’t tell if she was being funny, or just? Adventuresome? This kid would eat Mac N Cheese for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so I’m pretty sure she was going for the A+ when she stated she’d like “Camel” for lunch with a side of “Duck”. It goes well with cheese tortellini and peaches. And eggs. And yogurt. And snow peas.

I couldn’t stifle my screams of laughter when I flipped through this project and saw she’d like to have Bighorn Sheep and Grits for dinner. The pizza and cornbread as side dishes only added to my joy. Cornbread. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.

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Artichokes, peas, and tuna would be a healthy snack? Far different from the grapes, cheese, and crackers I gave her today. Geez Momma, spice it up a little, would ya’? EVERYBODY ELSE gets to have artichokes for their afternoon snack!

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Day #3 included her usual: broccoli, yogurt, cheese, a taco, a roll, and…um? What am I forgetting? YES, she loves to have EEL with her dinner. We culinary Hoosiers…known for our sweet corn and eel. Delish. This one is my fault. The girls know I ate eel several times in Asia, and they love a particularly funny story about the time I was attacked by eels on our honeymoon. I was in Mexico at the time, so I guess it makes sense to make eel tacos?

After a good, deep belly-laugh (and ingesting Kelly’s grade, which wasn’t horrible, but wasn’t her top performance…hmm…perhaps next time she’s asked to make a 4 day menu, she shouldn’t stop at Day #3? But then again, after looking at her work, I’m assuming she was FULL), we sat down to watch a few minutes of “Les Miserables”. I’m carefully skipping around, showing them the more gentle scenes, introducing them to the songs, the characters, and Victor Hugo’s plot. Kelly is not one for complex plots, even though she can 7-degree with the best of them:

Kelly: I don’t want to watch Les Mis. I don’t understand it. Well, I kind of understand it. I don’t understand what they’re saying, but I can watch their faces and figure out what’s going on.

Sara: Kelly, let me make it really simple for you: Les Mis is just like “High School Musical”…for adults. It’s the adult version of “High School Musical”. The only difference in Les Mis, is the bad guy jumps in a aqueduct and dies.

There you have it. My children have a full, culturally-enriched education. They know how to pair their pasture-based proteins with grains, and they are the best critical evaluators of classical literature I’ve ever met. Had Javert only sung, “For so it is written, on the DOORWAY to PARADISE…”,  while singing and dancing with his friends on a basketball court, Sara’s analogy would have been spot on. Well, that, and Gabriella Montez would have to be a dead prostitute…but let’s not split fine hairs.

Happy Weekending! And Bon Appetit!

 

 

 


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ENDURE

March 5th, 2014 · 5 Comments

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2014 has almost stolen my voice. My friends and I have time for two things, and two things only: we are either laughing or crying, but we waste little time on idle chit-chat. Waxing over coffee about the minutiae of our days will have to wait. If there is one thing this year has made clear: there is simply not enough time. I have friends, acquaintances…you name it: some fighting for years, some for months, some for weeks, and some for hours. Cancer waits for no one, and sometimes the answers to our prayers are not what we had in mind.

In the midst of the madness 2014 has rained upon us, Sara has fought an evil as well. It seems her personal tagline is destined to be: “there is always one more thing”. I may have mentioned her latest struggle with an autoimmune skin disorder called Lichens Sclerosis. A better name would be “the rash from hell that scars like a spiderweb and breaks skin down into infected ulcers”. I’m a critical care nurse, and I’ve never seen anything quite so pernicious and nasty. The stress of the pain and itching brought on migraines. It’s been an extremely trying illness that has lasted for months, the earliest symptoms lasting well past a year. Luckily, just at the turn of the year, it morphed into a form that was diagnosable, and she is probably a month from remission. Which still includes medications, but not so many that I have to keep a chart on the fridge. The best news is that Sara’s skin has healed, and while still raw and prone to infection, she’s in no pain and has no itching. The migraines have moved from a daily onslaught to clusters, and seem to be dissipating with stress-management and diet changes. The bad skin she got from me. The migraines she got from Daddy.

But the grace to endure, she got from God.

It was just today this word came to me: endure. I have struggled to make any sense of 2014, and the ever-growing list of things I cannot control. I heard the word “endure” this morning, and like ribbons descending onto my story, it strung my current reality into something more logical. We were meant to endure this season, both literally and figuratively. Endure the endless weather. Endure the illnesses that will walk our loved ones home. Endure the changes in geography which are turning our lives upside down. As I walked Sara into yet another appointment with a specialist, in the cold, winter morning, I heard it in my mind…”Endure. She is a living testament to enduring. 2 Educational Psychologists, 2 Counseling Psychologists, 2 Math Tutors, 2 Pediatric Urology Teams, countless gifted Teachers, an Occupational Therapist, a Visual Therapist, a Surgeon, a brilliant Pediatric Dermatologist, 2 amazing Pediatricians, 2 loving Pediatric Nurses (who take my many, many calls), enough money spent on her meds, education, and medical care to pay for her college…twice. And Sara. Who Endures. Sometimes patiently. Sometimes bravely. Sometimes loudly. Sometimes with the fury of a thousand winds. But always enduring.”

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When we got home this evening, there was a thank you note waiting for Sara, from Haiti. As many of you know, Sara has been saving money for Haiti for 4 years, and she sent her precious $40 with a family friend doing Mission work at a school. Sara, who lives for gym class, bought soccer balls and some gym equipment for the students. She wasn’t sure what to expect. I don’t think any of us expected a note from the Father of the Parish and the students, telling us they want to come to school now, because they can play soccer and games. We didn’t expect the most beautifully handwritten note, telling Sara they will “pray for her, and pray for her again”. We didn’t expect the children would use paper-thin scraps of wood and make her a card, depicting children praying.

One little girl with enough challenges to fill a lifetime, saw outside of herself, and connected to other small children also enduring. Penny by penny, she changed their story. In so doing, maybe she changed her own. She gently hugged this card, and whispered, “this is the most precious thing I own. I will keep it forever. Mommy, will you frame it for me?”

I’ve been banging my head against the wall all winter, waiting for the bright spot. Or the laughter. Or the wisdom that will make this suffering make sense. But that’s not what it means to endure. It means to persist without yielding, under unchanging and unpleasant circumstances. Mental toughness is not about expecting the Universe to tally-up when this season ends.

I think the light in this tunnel is we are simply meant to endure together, and do what we can to help with the load. An 8 year old in faded cowboy boots taught me this lesson, for the low, low price of $40, and some soccer balls she spent 4 years wishing over an ocean. Well I’m be damned.

Wisdom Comes Suddenly.

 

 

 


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15 Ways HGTV Ruined The Housing Market

March 3rd, 2014 · Comments Off

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My Realtor, Jennifer, mentioned the buying and selling process *might* give me some bloggable material. I doubt she would have predicted Sara and Kelly attempting to spray glue their glitter projects to my living room floor while the house was on the market, but she’s a long-time reader. She may have seen that coming. I’m so glad Jennifer has a sense of humor. She’s been great at helping me enjoy this process (when I’m not busy wiping down things my family insists on touching).

I summarized what I’ve learned about the housing market in my latest piece at Indy’s Child Magazine:

15 Ways HGTV Ruined The Housing Market

If you are a Dayton reader, you can view it in the Dayton Parent Magazine here, and if you are a Cincinnati reader, you can view it in the Cincinnati Parent Magazine here. If you are not from Ohio, you CANNOT read it OUTSIDE of Ohio. Buckeyes have rules, you’all. Just kidding, they’ll let you in. Tell them you know me. IT’S COOL OHIO! THEY’RE FRIENDS OF MINE!


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Memory Book #2

March 3rd, 2014 · Comments Off

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More than hours spent rocking babies, more than numbers of diapers changed, more than dishes washed, and more than tiny tshirts folded, this house has seen one thing accumulate in numbers too high to be calculated by any method known to man: stuffed animals. Loveys off all shapes and sizes, of all names and species, have crossed my threshold and taken up residence on my floors. In my corners. Under my beds. And in my way.

Long live the “stuffies”, and may they forever stay in storage. Although I know it’s unlikely, as Kelly asks about their whereabouts daily, via a roster naming each one by uniquely by Phyllum-Class-Order-Family-Genus…you get the idea. Her Elephant is in storage, and God help the Momma who made her put him there.

Thanks for hanging tough with me during this wacky in-between phase in my writing. My Mac is unplugged and “staged” where it refuses to work via a wireless signal. Therefore, in order to work within my iPhoto files, I have to carry my quite large, dinosaur of a Mac downstairs, and plug it in a corner where there is no place to sit. A huge bamboo tree has taken up residence in my writing corner. But on the bright side, at least I can write in the shade. Plastic bamboo creates quite an ambiance, once you get used to writing on your stomach on a hard floor.

Are we done yet? Wake me up when this is over…

 

 

 


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Memory Book #1

February 25th, 2014 · 1 Comment

 

While we’re deep in the house showing process (oh yes, I have a plethora of jokes to share on this topic, more to come, I promise), I thought I’d assemble a Memory Book of the house. Here is a video of Daddy and Baby Sara, in the unpainted kitchen, about a year after we moved in. Why paint? We’ll be transferred in a year or two for sure. Baby Sara can now design, build, and test her own Science Fair exhibits, and the kitchen has been painted not once, but twice. We’re no fortune tellers, that much we’ve learned.

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