Thursday, May 31, 2007


As promised. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.


Thank you internets! I've gotten some cool suggestions for the stairway. Once I cull the suggestions to my three favorites, I'll let Craig choose. I'm nice like that. And I'll post pictures once we're done. If I'm clever I'll remember to do "before" and "after" pictures.

These four-day weeks taunt me. When the kids were little, I worked part-time, and it was great. I was gone just enough to get that much-needed break from small hands and mouths and voices and diapers and being touched out. I got to engage in conversation with adults, and I got to enjoy the feeling of being good at my job (and being recognized for it).

Our family's economic reality, however, meant that once the children were big enough, I needed to work full-time. Many people in my generation are not doing as well as their parents, and the cold, hard truth is that we probably never will. My friend Anthony sent an article to me yesterday...pages of statistics and facts and analysis that gives substance to my thoughts and concerns.

I'm not going to dance around it. Six or so years ago, Craig and I were drowning, financially. I will rest most of the responsibility for that squarely on my own shoulders, as I was in charge of the finances and I didn't do my job well. However, a moment of clarity (no, I don't remember the moment at all) changed how I was dealing (or not dealing) with the money, and things got better.

Last Friday I made the final payment on a signature loan we took out in that era. I'm horrified to think of the interest we paid on that loan. But it's paid off, six months early, because I got very, very serious about our finances a couple of years ago. To say that I feel lighter is a huge understatement. Making that payment every month reminded me of a period in my life marked by a lot of fear. Fear that the mountain of debt would swallow me.

Improvements notwithstanding, I'm not saying that we're all living happily ever after. Yes, we have retirement savings to which I contribute at a fairly aggressive rate, and we're putting away money for the kids' education (though not as aggressively as I'd like). Our credit is very good, thanks to my obsessive bill-paying (and a few letters to creditors asking for some mercy in their reporting). But we still don't have much of a cushion; our income and our expenses are nearly identical, which doesn't leave room for savings. And I'm not sure that I'm willing or able to make the lifestyle changes to save more. We're already frugal. We don't drive fancy cars or wear fancy clothes, and we don't eat out much. I even walk to work! We both work more than one job.

So what's the deal?

It's our career choices. We both could have chosen more lucrative careers. But we didn't, for good and not-so-good reasons. Part of it is geography. We wanted to remain in Memphis. Part of it is the kids. We didn't want them to be in day care, and we think it's important for them to come home from school and have a parent there. Part of it is circumstance. Hiring freezes have kept Craig from getting a tenure-track position. Part of it is education. I majored in art; he majored in psychology and communications/film. And that takes us back to geography.

There's more, though. There's a mindset. There's ambition. And neither of us has a lot of ambition, at least not in regards to career. Because any career that would bring in the type of income that would change our tax bracket would also change our lifestyle. It would mean less family time, more stress, more responsibility. It would mean aftercare for the kids on school days, and worry every summer about what they're going to do while we're at work.

And I sometimes wonder if we're winning the battle but losing the war. If we sacrificed some family time now, if we were willing to put up with more job stress now, would we have more time to spend with our grandchildren, unencumbered by stress about money? Are we limiting our children's futures by not having enough money to send them to private colleges? Will they resent not getting cars for their sixteenth birthdays?

Perhaps, though, they'll learn from us. They'll learn that life is the result of choices. And even if you think, in retrospect, that the choices you made were not the best, you have the opportunity, every day, to make the best of your circumstances.

We have a good life. We own a house: it's big enough for us, though modest. We have good health insurance. We have never gone to bed hungry. We pay our bills and give to our church. And most of the time, it feels like enough.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Okay, first, that kind of House. The season finale last night? Was awesome. Best television I've seen all week. Of course, there was very little competition, since we watched University of Arkansas baseball on TIVO all weekend at the in-laws' house. I heart House and his grumpiness.

But I really mean the other kind of house, like the one in which I live.

It's not a done deal yet, but there's a good chance our house is going to be on the Downtown Home Tour this fall. We were invited to be featured last year, but the timing didn't work out.

This means I have some work ahead of me. Yes, our house is only two years old, but we have children. And pets.

The walls along our staircase aren't working for me. Along the wall without the rail, I hung a triptych I had painted as my senior project in college. I put it there when we first moved in because the wall needed something and I couldn't figure out how to make the ladder cooperate to hang anything higher. The paintings don't work there at all. It's a high-traffic area. So the paintings get bumped all the time, so they're askew all the time, and my low-grade OCD can't handle that.

The staircase walls are immense. At the bottom of the stairs, the ceiling is vaulted (for lack of a better word). So the walls go from the floor of the first floor to the ceiling of the second floor, over twenty feet. Repainting the entire wall is not an option. But I'm thinking of painting the area under the rail (roughly 3 feet, from the stair treads to the rail). Something interesting. Maybe stripes (the current color and a slight variation? or something more dramatic?). And I've looked at wall words. But how would they look going uphill? Maybe just several different words, rather than a phrase? Wallpaper is not entirely out of the question, since the area below the rail is not huge. I've hung paper before, and while it's not fun, it's not the worst thing in the world. (Taking it off, however, might be the worst thing in the world. Which is a good argument to skip that idea entirely, despite how awesome this or this or this might look.)

So, the goal is this: interesting wall treatment for staircase. Needs to be durable and cleanable. And needs to match the carpet (greenish tan). And be accomplishable by Craig and me this summer.

Open to suggestions.....

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Parenting in a fishbowl

Nobody said parenting was easy. Most people, instead, say it's the hardest thing they've ever done. It's exhausting, exhilerating, humbling. And it changes you.

But this isn't a post about the lovely and transformative powers of parenting or a flowery exposition about how much I love being a mommy. (I do, but that's not what I'm here to say today.)

Our modern, middle-class world is very different from life just 100 years ago, and is so totally different from the many centuries and millennia of human culture before that. Where humans used to live in tribal groups, we now live in cities and towns with larger populations but more separation between nuclear family units. Where humans used to live in multi-generational groups, we now have mom, dad, and two kids (or any other variant thereof - please don't flame me and say, "What about two dads, or single moms, or whatever else?" They're in my mind. I promise.)

New mothers used to have a lot more experience with small children. New mothers used to have sisters, aunts, and other women to show them the way. If a woman could not nurse (or raise) her own baby, another woman would step into that role. And I'm sure that was great.

But that's not who we are now, as a species. Or at least not in middle-class America. (Yes, I know there are exceptions. Stop arguing with me!!) Most young women have not seen a real, live birth until they give birth themselves (and maybe even then they don't see it...I didn't). Most young women have never witnessed breastfeeding (except maybe as very young recipients, if we were lucky). Many young women have never changed a baby's diaper until they're changing their own baby's diaper (this one shocks me, since I was the queen of all babysitters as a teenager). (And I'm not even going to describe how much less most young men have experienced of providing child care.)

So we're not terribly well-prepared to be parents.

That being said, most of us muddle through all right. When I shared the pulpit on Mother's Day with our minister, Bill, he made a good point. He said, "This is what I’ve seen, anyway, not having any children. I’ve noticed that parenting advice from people with children to people with none tends to end with something along the lines of, “you’ll be fine, you’ll figure it out.” Sometimes there is a lot of advice leading up to that point, sometimes too much, but it often ends there, with a gentle realization that mothering or fathering is something that has to be lived to be learned." (Full text here.) And he's right. Most of us are fine. We do figure it out.

But we also sometimes have a hard time, and the well-meaning advice we receive from the audience (family, friends, the internet, that woman in the grocery store, etc.) can make it worse. Other bloggers have written about it, and the new word "assvice" was coined.

So what do you do when you see that young mother struggling at the grocery store, toddlers on the go, holding onto her temper by an ever-shrinking thread? Do you speak? Do you hold your tongue? What if she asks for help?

I've been that mom, and I've seen her, too. I've received all kinds of advice, as much of it good as bad. I've certainly given my share as well. But I've clammed up, too, and sometimes I regret my silence.

What I try to remember is that the older lady in the grocery store who complimented my children, the hygenist at the dentist's office who told me I'm a great mother, my mom telling me that she loved watching me interact with my kids, their words stayed with me.

And I try to be that older lady in the grocery store. I make eye contact with that struggling young mom. I smile. I sometimes even tell her that she's doing a great job.

Because sometimes just keeping your head above water is enough.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Herding cats

That was the theme of the weekend.

We visited Craig's side of the family for the weekend. This side of the family is jarringly large to me, since my family of origin consists of my mom, my dad, my brother, and my grandmother. I have cousins and such, but don't maintain any type of relationship with them. No drama or bad blood or family feuds, really, just never have had much communication with anyone besides the four. My brother is unmarried and has no kids, so we're a small group. We have no trouble getting a table when we go out to dinner. And the adults outnumber the kids 3 to 1 when we're all together.

But Craig's family is different. His mom is one of four daughters, and each of the daughters is married with kids. Ever since we started dating, I was accepted into the fold and a bit overwhelmed by their sheer numbers. Craig is the eldest of his generation of cousins, which number six, along with his sisters (so there are nine in his generation). Almost all the cousins have children. And after his father died, his mother married a man who had three daughters, thereby adding three to Craig's generation.

Both of Craig's sisters, as well as his three step-sisters, live within a 30-minute drive of each other, and of his mother and her husband. All of the sisters have at least one child, and our children are the eldest of that generation of cousins.

And this weekend, we had a mission. We were going to have all the kids photographed at the same time, by a trained professional. That's eight kids. The eldest is nine; the youngest is three. And the distribution works so that there are three three-year-old boys.

It was hilarious. It was mayhem. It was a bunch of little kids in blue shirts (two of the kids had matching hair). And it was too early for any of us to have been drinking quite yet.

The good news is that we got several good shots. The bad news is that my scanner is not working right now. Will it ever work again? I don't know. (And if someone can tell me how to upload pictures from my husband's camera phone, I'd sure love the help. I've tried to make it work all evening and my brain hurts.)

Going out to lunch after the photo shoot was an amazing feat. We were a party of nine adults and seven children (one of the kids, the youngest, went home immediately after the pictures). Rather than waiting an hour for a table (which would have almost certainly ended in tragedy), we opted to be seated in the bar seats, spread out among three high tables and at the bar (only adults could sit there). And, unfortunately, our servers did not seem to understand the first rule of dining with children: bring the kids' food out first. But we escaped, unscathed, and the rest of the weekend went fine, with the typical (and to be expected) flareups of preschoolers acting like preschoolers.

When I watch parents of preschoolers, I count myself lucky to not have any. When I had them, I know I enjoyed it. But raising little kids is hard. Physically and psychologically. As they transition from infants to full-fledged children, these little people are difficult. Sure, they're also cute and funny and all that, but they're mostly, as Dennis Leary says, more like drunk midgets than anything else.

So weekends like this one have a wonderful result: I appreciate my own children so darn much afterward. My children who shower independently, who go to bed when I tell them to, who eat their food, who almost never scream or cry or hit or throw tantrums, who make jokes and help out with dinner, who sit nicely at the table even when the food is taking forever to arrive. Sure, we have our issues, but parenting older kids is much more verbal and cerebral than reactive and physical.

To you moms (and dads) of little ones: stay strong. It'll be over before you know it, and you'll emerge on the other side with these fantastic young people who will amaze you. And they won't need pull-ups. Ever.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Why my hands are purple

There has been talk throughout the month of May in my house about blue hair dye. (Wow, three prepositional phrases.....)

My kids, as we already know, sport "fun hair." To me, it's a harmless way for them to explore their individuality and be a little tiny bit subversive. (Because that kind of subversion is okey-dokey with me.) Plenty of people, particularly adults, think Craig and I are a bit strange or indulgent or abusive or just plain nuts to not only permit, but to encourage, this hair thing.

I already wrote about picking your battles. That's my number one rule in parenting. Kids are kids...they're bizarre and illogical and emotional and unpredictable. They don't know better. And they learn, just like everyone else, through trial and error.

Having a mohawk, having purple hair, having neon blue hair, having piercings, having tattoos, wearing all black...all of those choices have consequences. Now, the consequences may be very different depending on what kid you're dealing with. Getting stared at? Might be awesome for a kid who likes attention. Might be horrible for a kid who'd rather blend into the woodwork.

Part of my job as a parent is to let my kids learn how to be adults in a safe way. Like learning to swim in a shallow pool. Allowing, and facilitating, this kind of exploration is a big part of the job.

Am I saying that every parent should dye the kids' hair blue? Heck no! I'm feeling safe saying that most kids don't want blue hair. Most kids don't want mohawks. What I'm saying is that when there's no good reason to forbid something, why forbid it? Having neon-colored hair does not pose any health or safety risk for the kids. It does not hurt them socially. It does not impact their academic progress (especially since Tuesday is the last day of school).

I also firmly believe that kids who are encouraged to safely explore turn out pretty great. My son's teacher has talked to me at length about him. When he came to her classroom on the first day of school with a mohawk, she didn't know what to expect. But he's been a model student. And she sees that the "fun hair" is nothing more than fun. It's not a statement. It's not defiant. I'm quite willing to admit that if my kids were troubled or difficult or anything besides who they are, I may not be so willing to dye their hair fun colors or give them wacky haircuts. But since they are so confident, well-adjusted, and well-behaved, the fun hair gives them a bit of edginess that really suits them.

So this morning, at 6:00 a.m., we broke out the blue dye. We had intended to do their hair last night, but it didn't happen. Alex was the first to get the dye....he has a mohawk already, so there wasn't much hair to color. I only did the ends of his hair because he's got fairly thin hair and I didn't want to get blobs of blue on his scalp.

Susie has long hair and we already know that it absorbs color very well (the "washes out in 8 shampoos" purple we did in January stained her hair pink permanently....when I bleached streaks in preparation for the blue, the pink part remained pink, just lighter). I was careful to get as much of her hair as possible, knowing that different parts of her hair would accept the color differently.

The rinsing, shampooing, showering portion of the process was stressful. Blue everywhere. Blue hands, blue faces, blue necks. I was really, really worried that their skin would be horribly stained (like my hands). And Susie has SO MUCH HAIR! We used about half a bottle of shampoo to get as much of the colorant out as possible. I darted from bathroom to bathroom (shampooing Alex's hair was a breeze) and was so relieved to return to Susie and see that her skin was not blue anymore. We conditioned her hair, rinsed it, and decided we were done.

Two (dark) towels each, then dressed. When my daughter looked at her hair after it was rinsed, shampooed, rinsed, shampooed, rinsed, shampooed, rinsed, and towel-dried, she gave me a big hug and said, "I love you! You're an awesome mom!"

I wasn't prepared for how beautiful she would look with blue hair. She really, really looks amazing. It sets off her fair complexion and it's so shiny and lovely. We predicted that everyone at school would want to touch her hair at least once today.

So, in summary: blue hair, good! Mom who helps kids get hair blue, thanked! My hands, purple! Lesson learned? More gloves next time. (I'm really hoping for a next time. This was fun.)

This is the time that I really should post a picture, but I had to get ready for work so didn't take one. So I'll add one later.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

One more picture

And here's the last Gilbert & Sullivan photo that I'm willing to share. I'm the orange and pink fairy.

Parenting advice

Last night, I joined the open thread at Mamapop for the finale of American Idol. If you like chatting with hilarious people in your computer while you watch reality television, I highly recommend this. (And just because American Idol is over doesn't mean you're out of luck; a new open thread for "So You Think You Can Dance" is beginning in mere hours.)

The conversation often moves away from the onscreen action (especially when the onscreen action is boring and full of filler, and YES I'm talking to you American Idol!), and last night was no exception. I mentioned my son's repeat of his mohawk (hooray!) and that we purchased some blue hair dye (waving to's supposed to last 6 you'll probably only see it in pictures) yesterday in honor of the last day of school.

And Tracey asked me for parenting tips so her kid would turn out as cool as mine.

I realize that this was not a request for parenting advice. It was a cute comment, possibly inspired by the wine the camaraderie we were enjoying. But, because I tend to take everything too seriously, I thought I'd go ahead and jump at the bait.

My tips for how to raise a cool kid

1. Be honest, but age-appropriate, when they ask a question.

2. Laugh together. As much as possible.

3. Watch kids' television together.

4. Watch grownup television together.

5. Make sure the music they hear is music you want to hear. Kids love love love punk rock if you play it for them. Encourage moshing.

6. Don't fight battles that aren't worth it. She wants to wear her plastic barbie high heels to the grocery store? Great! They'll hurt her feet enough that she'll never wear them again, and you've just totally won the war. Without even doing anything. You can even look like the best parent ever if you have a backup pair of shoes in your bag. If you're extra lucky, she'll throw the stupid plastic shoes in the garbage before you even get to your car.

7. Play on the floor with them. Even when they're big enough that you don't have to. Tickle wars are particularly awesome.

8. Music lessons. Start as soon as you can. I'm not trying to program my children to be professional musicians (DOCTORS! LAWYERS! NOT musicians!) but early exposure to music helps their brains develop in all kinds of ways. And music is something that is self-reinforcing. There are many small victories and masteries in music, whether piano, guitar, or violin (or anything else, for that matter). Each chord, each song, that the child learns results in greater confidence. I'm a big fan of confident kids.

9. Encourage that wacky thing that makes your child unique. Alex makes up funny dances all the time. And we love it. We video them when he lets us. Susie had a flair for putting together outfits at an early age. And we encouraged her to dress herself and didn't edit the outfits (except a few times, like school pictures).

which leads to...

10. If your kid wants a mohawk, go for it. I assure you, a seven- or eight-year-old child who wants that haircut is a kid with confidence. If your kid wants purple hair, go for it. It's actually very pretty. And, gulp, if they both want blue, awesome! The people who stare at them in the grocery store? Are just jealous.

So there it is. I don't know that it's a formula for how to get a kid who wants a blue mohawk at age 8. Thanks for asking, Tracey.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Sick day = crafts day!

After yesterday's bout with the stomach bug (which resulted in taking half the day off at my boss's urging), I took another day today as I was not feeling even close to 100% this morning. Maybe it was the awfulness of American Idol. Or maybe it was a virus. Same difference, right?

So today, I was left to my own devices as the kids were at school and Craig was chaperoning a field trip. Which means I got crafty. (And I watched Ever After, too, but that's just 2 hours of couch quality time.)

Here's what I made:

A throw for my bed

These pillows

A cover for our body pillow.

I have this problem with fabric. I buy it, sometimes in very large quantities, then it sits in a storage box, sometimes for years. Some of the fabric had an intended purpose when it was purchased, but much of it just tickled my fancy for "something, someday".

The Chinese fabrics were purchased last summer. I had bought a large amount of one fabric for our bedspread. And I made that the same day the fabric arrived in the mail. But the other fabrics were for more nebulous purposes....maybe pillows, maybe something else. And nothing got done.

But this week was the seasonal "changing of the quilts." The quilt with the Chinese brocade is very heavy, which was great in February, but not so much now. So I got out the quilt my Grandma made for our wedding, but we're using it face down (because the colors I selected in the early 1990's doesn't really go with the stuff in our new bedroom). That expanse of white needed something, but I wasn't sure what. So I dug around in my boxes of fabric and realized there were two fabrics I was "saving" for something. Perfect for a throw. And I had just the right amount of trim to go around. And enough of the red fabric left to make the heart-shaped pillow.



Looks pretty good, right?

Oh, and these red pillows are from that big fabric purchase (but I didn't make them). They're the traditional Chinese "Lovebirds" pattern with the symbol called "Double Happiness". So sweet!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


It's my 200th post. Time certainly flies.

And in honor of this not-really-an-occasion, here's the meme I've been waiting to do. Because I can do it now, since I have that wonderful MP3 player.

1. Open your library (iTunes, Winamp, Media Player, iPod, etc)
2. Put it on shuffle
3. Press play
4. For every question, type the song that's playing
5. When you go to a new question, press the next button
6. Don't lie and try to pretend you're cool ...

Opening Credits "Alt.End" - The Cure
Waking Up "Let's Dance" - David Bowie
First Day at School "Slow Love" - Prince
Falling in Love "Lips Like Sugar" - Echo & The Bunnymen
Fight Song "At Night" - The Cure
Breaking Up "Chain Gang of Love" - the Raveonettes
Prom "Bikers" - Neighborhood Texture Jam
Life is Good "Does Your Mother Know" - ABBA
Mental Breakdown "Modern Love" - David Bowie
Driving "One Of Us" - ABBA
Flashback "The Downward Spiral" - Nine Inch Nails
Getting Back Together "Who Needs Love (Like That)" - Erasure
Wedding "Nothing" - Depeche Mode
Paying the Dues "A Question of Lust" - Depeche Mode
The Night Before the War "The Cross" - Prince
Final Battle "Fans" - Malcolm McLaren
Moment of Triumph "And Through the Wire" - Peter Gabriel
Death Scene "U Got the Look" - Prince
Funeral Song "Games Without Frontiers" - Peter Gabriel
End Credits "China Girl" - David Bowie

I dunno. A few fit, but really, I do have more than six CDs on my MP3 player. And some of the music on it was actually made after 1992. I promise.

Green Power

If you don't live in Memphis, this post doesn't pertain to you, but feel free to read anyway.

Yesterday, my friend and fellow blogger Paul challenged the Memphis blogging community (and, one would presume, the Memphis blog reading community) to push Memphis Light Gas & Water's "Green Power Switch." One "block" of green power results in an additional $4 per month on your utility bill. Small price to pay, if you ask me.

From MLGW's site, signing up for the Green Power Switch means:

The best way to describe the impact of green power is to focus on reduced emissions. For example, buying two blocks of green power (at $8.00 per month) for one year provides the same environmental benefit as:

  • Recycling 15,322 aluminum cans, or
  • Planting an acre of trees, or
  • Recycling 1,766 pounds of newspaper, or
  • Not driving your car for four months
I confess that it's been on my "I've been meaning to do that" list for, um, a year or so. And I even went to the site once to sign up but didn't have a bill handy so I didn't have my account number and blah blah blah lame excuse blah.

But I signed up yesterday. And I see that Stacey has, too. Let's keep it up, kids!

Approximately 7,200 residential customers and more than 330 business customers throughout the Tennessee Valley purchase green power. Customer participation levels have earned TVA’s Green Power Switch program a top-10 ranking, from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory for the third year in a row.

Make that 7,203 residential customers. And counting.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Sad news

The internet is a wonderful, terrible thing. I started participating in online discussion groups when my daughter was born ten years ago. I joined groups of moms with kids of the same age, groups of moms who had c-sections, vegetarian moms, Unitarian Universalist moms, working moms....looking for that community that is sometimes hard to find in "real" life.

And when Craig and I decided it was time to have another baby, I found more message boards. Boards with women who were trying to conceive. Some of those ladies would "graduate" to the next step: the "Expecting in _____" boards, while others would remain on the "TTC" boards for another month.

I "met" a lot of women in July 1998. Though some of the women left the "Expecting in April 1999" message board, due to miscarriages, false positives, or attrition, most of us stayed together, and still remain in contact. We compared notes on our pregnancies and plans for baby. We discussed breastfeeding, cloth diapers, working, staying home, older siblings, pets, and weight gain.

And in March 1999, we started having babies. And the birth stories were riveting. One baby was born by emergency c-section after the mother's placenta abrupted. One baby was born in the back of the family minivan in a 7-11 parking lot after just one hour of labor. We were a lucky group - nearly all of us had babies that were healthy and we recovered easily from our various childbirth experiences.

A few of us found we had more in common that merely our babies' birthdays. Patsy and I were both of the "crunchy granola" type of moms. We breastfed, wore our babies in a sling, co-slept, and cloth diapered. We were active not only in the April 99 boards, but also the Attachment Parenting, Cloth Diapering, and "Granola Moms" forums. We also found each other online in other places. And her baby daughter and my baby son shared a birthday.

Patsy and I, though we had a lot of things in common, were very different people. I sometimes bristled at her posts. While I am a Unitarian Universalist, her posts frequently exuded her strong, evangelical Christian beliefs. A discussion of sex education in school had me so annoyed that I avoided the message board for a few days, until the discussion was over.

Despite our differences, though, we remained good "internet friends." We sent each other greetings on our babies' shared birthdays. We were friendly in our communication. And I read her updates on her growing family and new husband with interest.

And then her update had very bad news.

Throughout 2006, Patsy's health was an issue. She went to the doctor with various ailments, mostly to do with breathing problems. In July, things got really bad. Her email tells us:

I haven't updated in awhile.
Several weeks ago, I was having excruciating back pain - went to my dr. and he thought it was a pinched nerve and gave me some drugs and a cortisone shot.
That same week we did bloodwork and found out I have hyperthyroidism. I am so freaking skinny my butt skin hangs in the back. I think I am 125 lbs now? C made me go to MUSC last week because my dr. wasn't moving fast enough on getting me to an endocrinologist - I'd be dead by Sept. I now have an appt this Friday, which is also J's birthday.
Friday I went to an orthopedic dr. who wanted to do an MRI and surgery. HELLO? He also prescibed meds to me that say don't take if you have hyperthyroidism.

Monday C is going to call a chiro and see how fast I can get in there. I am so weak right now, the last two weeks I've mostly been in a recliner. A has been taking care of everything during the day for me, bless her heart - and C takes over when he gets home.

Don't take your health for granted you guys. I did my whole life. I've spent many sleepless pain filled nights - it's just horrible. I am SO thankful for my children's health.

In August, she went to the emergency room with a collapsed lung. Lots of tests later, the diagnosis was very, very bad. Patsy, who had never smoked, had metastatic cancer in her lungs. Within days, we learned that the cancer was in her brain, too.

She reflected:

It didn't occur to me when I got pneumonia the first time. But, looking back, I remember the first time I was in the ER, and they did a chest x-ray, the dr. came in and told me I needed to see a pulmonary spec. that week (and this was the Sunday of the week of Thanksgiving), and the nurse was taking out my IV and she was avoiding my eyes. Of course, if they saw something and weren't clearer, I'd like to know why. I didn't go to the PS because I didn't have insurance at the time. So it was 8 more months before I was diagnosed. Thank goodness it's not the more aggressive one.

She was in and out of the hospital that fall, making progress, and occasionally updating us on her family. The chemo and radiation seemed to be doing their ugly jobs.

Well, last week I resumed my chemo because my bloodwork looked awesome, my breathing was awesome. But Saturday found me in bed, the dr. said it was normal to start feeling really bad 3-5 days after the treatment. I didn't have treatment this week because of the holiday, but I'll have it again next week. I'll tell you guys, I've always heard having cancer is like a roller coaster ride, well it's so true. Some days I feel so uplifted, and like everything is going to be ok, and other days I worry that I won't be here next Christmas. I swear, if I didn't have C I don't know what I'd do. He is always there for me, he's had to take on SO much since I've been sick. My hair started coming out the other day. It's like, if I run my hands through my hair above my ear to the back, I have about a doz. strands of hair in my hand. I don't think I'll lose all of it - in fact, the dr. commented a few weeks ago that if I was going to lose it, I would have already. But I do think it's going to thin dramatically. I am so dang skinny too.

She posted to the list that another of the April 99 moms had her twin babies on Thanksgiving, and when another mom's daughter was diagnosed with Leukemia, Patsy was there to share what she had experienced with cancer treatment.

I don't know how long it's been since I updated. I haven't been online a whole lot lately. Did you guys know I picked up knitting? Anyway...a few weeks ago I stopped chemo and they put me on a target drug called tarceva. It's like $4000 a month! But with our insurance it's $50, thank God. I have felt awful tho, so I spent Weds at the hospital downtown. They wanted to check me out in case there had been progression since I stopped chemo. C had read that Celebrex can help with Tarceva -something about stopping your body from letting the Tarceva do it's work. He talked to the Dr. on Weds., and my Dr. agreed to put me on Celebrex. I have felt SO much better the last two days. It's amazing. My appetite is even better. Sorry I haven't been more involved...I am always reading though.

I'm pretty sure, as I've looked through my old emails, that this is the last update (around Easter).

Last night, I was reading email and saw that Patsy was in a coma. Her oldest daughter was on the way to her side.

This morning I read that she died last night, around the time I read that email.

Patsy was 43. She leaves behind a wonderful husband, seven children, and lots of real and virtual friends.

I hope she finds herself in the heaven she so strongly believed in, and that her family is comforted by the prayers of so many people around the world.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The basic problem

Now that I have all this time on my hands, no rehearsals, all the end-of-school-year programs finished, birthday season complete, I was really looking forward to sitting around and watching television.

But I realized that last week was season finale week. Which means this week, with a clear calendar and the desire to plant my bum into the couch and exercise only my remote-control thumb, there's nothing on.

Any good movies I should rent?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

You are cordially invited

So the birthday party went quite well. But there's this thing. This thing that I often do.

I overshopped. There's way the hell too much food in my house now.

Which means,

Dear Internet,

Please come to my house to eat barbecue pork tacos.


P.S. They're really, really good.

But no cake remains. Here's a tip for you: one layer of devil's food cake plus two layers of orange cake equals delicious. Very.

It was a great birthday party. With tequila.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Oh crud.

At least I'll have lots of friends there. I'm pretty sure that nobody I like is omitted from this list.

MP3 update

452 songs loaded.

How did I live without this thing?

I've had a very short commute to work for the past two years. It's been a 1500 step walk from door to door. (Which means even walking to and from work, and walking the dogs three times a day, I still didn't get to the 10,000 step-per-day goal).

But that all changed last week. Because of road construction, all my cut-throughs are blocked, for at least another two months. Which means that, despite the fact that as the crow flies, my house and my office are a straight line apart, I must walk an extra four blocks west or two blocks east, then back around, to get to work. Though the eastern route is shorter, it's also more dangerous, as it's a very busy street, and it has those right-turn lanes so traffic doesn't necessarily stop. The western route is a little more fun, since I'm traveling into "real" downtown for part of the time.

And that's why I love my MP3 player like a boyfriend. I summoned the courage to create a playlist or three, and some songs from my youth, as well as from other people's youth, accompanied me on my journey. And made me walk faster.

It's helping, too. My favorite pants were tight in the waist a few months ago. And now they fit.

Now I need a pedometer to see how many steps I'm really taking. Because I can't count my footsteps if I'm singing along with David Byrne.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Longer than I expected

I'm finding myself at a loss for words lately. We're at the end of the school year, so we've been busy with recitals, end-of-year programs, and the like. None of which are really blog-worthy. The school's music program included both kids: Susie sings in the chorus, and Alex plays guitar and was featured in the second-grade section of the program. And it was fine.

Tuesday's piano recital was fine, too. I can't say that I was completely loving listening to a bunch of kids I don't know play their little songs, but it wasn't too long, and Susie did a great job.

Yesterday's event was the Girl Scouts end-of-year awards program. And potluck. Again, fine.

I feel a little sorry for Alex, as he's been an audience member more than a participant in all this. He was pretty obviously bored during the scouts event, and his interest level was only slightly higher at the piano recital (except when the kid who sometimes is mean to him totally messed up his song....Alex was on the edge of his seat for that one). (And am I a completely horrible person if I admit that I enjoyed that moment just a bit more than I should have?) (The kid really is a jerk.)

So yeah, not much to say. I was really busy and now not as much, but still ink on the calendar.

Oh, and our birthday party (Alex's, Susie's, and mine) is Saturday. You're invited. We're cutting the cake at 6. I gave up on trying to figure out some clever menu and am going with a taco bar. Because everyone likes tacos, right? If I also have regular taco meat and chicken, would barbecue pork be too over-the-top as one of the options? Because this weekend is the barbecue festival just a few blocks away, and I thought that might be funny. And I make really good pork.

Keep answering the survey. I'll share the results as soon as I have enough.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Here's an intrusive survey. Take it. Because I said so!

Gilbert & Sullivan pictures

Stephony and Nancy. Stephony was the wardrobe mistress for this production, and she did a great job with about a $2.65 budget. And doesn't Nancy look HOT as she waits backstage to play Phyllis in Iolanthe? She's awesome.

This group is dressed for Gondoliers, so we're supposed to be Italian peasant types. The two with wreaths on their heads are brides.

Don't you love those head-wreaths? Craig and I made them while watching the Sopranos. Watching that show was the only thing that kept him from turning into a woman as he tied ribbons to greenery.

A gaggle of fairies. Sorry that you can't see my skirt. But it made me look fat anyway. That adorable young lady in the front and center (white shirt) is 27 and had triplets 15 months ago. And she just got cast to play Belle in a local production of Beauty and the Beast. She's also got an amazing voice and is a great dancer and is a size 0. Which means that I'd like to hate her but she's so nice! Yikes!
Even though we're prettier, the guys would have hurt feelings if I didn't include a picture of them. So here's a picture of some hot ladies and a few guys, too. I'm standing on a chair. Because Ken is ridiculously tall. The one with curly hair is Stephen Len White.

If more pictures come my way, I'll add them. My camera was safely at home, on a shelf, for all rehearsals and performances. Just like it was for Susie's piano recital yesterday.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Welcome to 2007

My kids and husband all got MP3 players/IPODs for Christmas. They were the perfect gifts for all of them, but on the long drive home from Michigan, I realized something. I felt a little bit jealous of all of them.

There they sat, listening to whatever they wanted, since all their favorite tunes were loaded into these tiny bits of electronics. So tiny and cool. And I felt left out.

No more! Mother's Day + my birthday occurring on the same day = great loot! We found time during the busy, busy day that was Sunday for me to open gifts. In the church parking lot, in the shade of the minivan's hatchback. Seriously.

And I got a really cool MP3 player which, most importantly, is pink.

I didn't consider that my sweet, sweet husband would make me learn how to use it myself.

See, I used to be very computer-savvy. And good with electronics. I set up the VCR, the TV, the satellite box, all that stuff. And I did it well. I was a very competent computer user and had no trouble setting up peripheral equipment and installing software.

But I didn't quite keep up. Which is why I use Blogger instead of designing my own site. And it's why I haven't even touched our new DVD player and still don't know what channel on the satellite is the weather channel. I got a bit of technology overload and stopped caring how it worked. Fortunately, Craig proved himself completely capable of doing all those things (and knowing exactly which channel is the weather channel, bless him!).

And when I asked for an MP3 player, I honestly expected that he would load it up with music for me. Because he's good at that stuff. Plus, he knows what I like better than I do.

Imagine my surprise at the gleam in his eye when he told me that I was going to have to sort all that out.

So I installed the software on the laptop on Sunday night and charged up my new pink thingie. And last night I started ripping CDs onto it. I've got 262 songs now, but I haven't created any playlists or anything like that, because there are more CDs to go. His music is mostly stored on the computer upstairs. I asked him last night if he would please occasionally put "cool" songs on my MP3 player since he knows better than I do.

But he was helping me pick out CDs last night, and I noticed that he editorialized a little bit. Because he put Barry Manilow in the stack, hidden between the Cure and Nine Inch Nails. I think he's trying to tell me something about what a dork I am.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Practical matters

I need your help, Internets. Our washing machine (the laundry type) died on Saturday. I'm not whining and crying about it; we purchased it used (and cheap!) and knew its life would be short. I had predicted 1-2 years and it has been 21 months. So we're fine with that.

But now we need to decide - today - what kind of washer we want. I found this one at Sears and it looks like a good choice. Any feedback?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Mother's Day Sermon

During the season my husband and I were trying to conceive our first child, we had occasion to visit Washington D.C. for my cousin’s wedding. He had never been there before, and we had some time, so we did a bit of sightseeing. One spot we chose to visit was the Vietnam memorial, designed by Maya Lin. He and I had studied this memorial in an art history class, and I was excited to see this important, relatively new, piece of public art.

I didn’t expect to cry there.

But walking about a hundred feet ahead of us, I watched a mother and her son, a boy who looked about eight or nine. I noticed that the farther along the memorial they walked, the tighter her hold around his shoulders became. I could read her thoughts as clearly as I could read the many names inscribed in that wall: "Please don’t let this happen to my boy." And that moment gave me just a tiny glimpse of what to expect of parenthood.

Mother’s Day, despite what Hallmark and FTD and Godiva might tell us, was not conceived as a day to celebrate mothers. On the contrary. It was originally envisioned by Julia Ward Howe (who penned "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"). Valarie Ziegler, a former Presbyterian minister who also was one of my religion professors at Rhodes, has written a biography of Howe and says that "Howe was very interested in the Women's Suffrage Movement, in particular, and the Franco-Prussian War – it’s not a war that most Americans or probably even most Europeans think too much about. But in 1870, she looked at this war and she began asking herself, why is it that nations do this to one another? And in particular, she began thinking about what might be possible for women to do on behalf of humanity. And women in this day and age were supposed to be confined to the home. They weren't supposed to be out making speeches or working for political change. And Howe really wanted to find a way for women to express what she thought was an innate nature of love for God and love for humans. She thought that being a mother really was a powerful experience and that after having been a mother, no one could willingly see their sons go off to war to be slaughtered, so she began to organize on behalf of women for peace, basically. And again, her theory was men just seem to be innately aggressive, and the only hope for civilization is for women to speak a different kind of voice. So, she held peace conferences both in the United States and in Britain, and by 1872, she began proclaiming that June 2 every year would be a Mother's Day for Peace. And so, Mother's Day originally was not a day when dad cooked and you went to church, and the ladies got applause and everything. It was really a day for women to come together and to call men and the world to see the necessity for living in peace, rather than giving into the ravages and aggressions of war. So, yeah, Mother's Day is really a day of activism."

Now, I don’t necessarily agree with Howe’s assertion that men were "innately aggressive" or that women naturally have a "different kind of voice," but I do agree that the experience of parenthood is indeed powerful and transforming. I don’t think there’s ever been a time in my life that I could envision sending anybody off to war, but that deep, deep belief that we must find nonviolent ways to solve the world’s problems was certainly cemented once I became a mother. And cemented tenfold when I had a son.

As a young mother, I was fortunate to learn early that motherhood is not something to be done alone. Parents need that village of helpers as much as the children do. My village was filled with women with all kinds of skills and experience, all kinds of interests and talents.

That village is here, in this church. It is here, in Memphis. It is here, in the United States. And yes, it is here, in the world. Those children way over there, across the sea? Those children are part of my village.

Newspaper columnist and author Ina Hughes wrote a poem years ago that has been read during UNICEF’s World Summit for Children and has been reproduced in numerous magazines and journals about religion, education, public policy, and human service groups. You may have already seen it or heard it. But if you haven’t, here’s your chance.

A Prayer for Children

We pray for children
Who give us sticky kisses,
Who hop rocks and chase butterflies,
Who stomp in puddles and ruin their new pants,
Who sneak Popsicles before supper,
Who erase holes in math workbooks,
Who can never find their shoes.

And we pray for those
Who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire,
Who’ve never squeaked across the floor in new sneakers,
Who’ve never "counted potatoes,"
Who are born in places we wouldn’t be caught dead,
Who never go to the circus,
Who live in an x-rated world.

We pray for children
Who bring us fistfuls of dandelions and sing off-key,
Who have goldfish funerals, build card-table forts,
Who slurp their cereal on purpose
Who get gum in their hair, put sugar in their milk,
Who spit toothpaste all over the sink,
Who hug us for no reason, who bless us each night.

And we pray for those
Who never get dessert,
Who watch their parents watch them die,
Who have no safe blanket to drag behind,
Who can’t find any bread to steal,
Who don’t have any rooms to clean up,
Whose pictures aren’t on anybody’s dresser,
Whose monsters are real.

We pray for children
Who spend all their allowance before Tuesday,
Who throw tantrums in the grocery store
And pick at their food
Who like ghost stories,
Who shove dirty clothes under the bed
And never rinse out the tub
Who get quarters from the tooth fairy
Who don’t like to be kissed in front of the car pool
Who squirm in church and scream in the phone
Whose tears we sometimes laugh at
And whose smiles can make us cry.

And we pray for those
Whose nightmares come in the daytime,
Who will eat anything,
Who have never seen a dentist,
Who aren’t spoiled by anybody
Who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep,
Who live and move, but have no being.

We pray for children
Who want to be carried
And for those who must.
For those we never give up on,
And for those who don’t have a chance.
For those we smother,
And for those who will grab the hand of anybody kind enough to offer.

Here in Memphis, we are blessed to have material evidence that dreams can become real. When Danny Thomas founded St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, he did so with the dream that no child should die in the dawn of life. Through his, and the organization he founded, ALSAC’s, efforts, St. Jude has become one of the most well-funded non-profit organizations in the world. It’s an easy sell, really. Children with cancer tug just about everyone’s heartstrings.

But just across Auction Avenue is another non-profit, which has an awful lot in common with St. Jude. BRIDGES strives to provide experiential, hands-on learning for youth and adults to be leaders in fighting racism, poverty and educational challenges. While I see that BRIDGES is a thriving organization in its own right, I also know that fundraising in the shadow of St. Jude is difficult.

But why is it more difficult for a group which serves a much larger population to raise money? Why are we, as a society, less willing to help children who are healthy but poor? Why don’t these groups get the support of celebrities and radio stations? Now, I’m not telling you that you should stop giving to St. Jude. Heck, that’s my paycheck! But I do think we need to support the children who don’t have world-class public relations departments advocating for them. Those children are in our village.

Hugh and Gayle Prather, in their book "Spiritual Parenting," say it better than I can.

"If the world wanted to feed starving children, it could do so easily. If the world wanted to outlaw acts of war against children, it could do so easily. If the world wanted to provide homeless children with shelter, it could do so easily. But children are not a priority in the world, and they never have been. Experience shows that we can’t look to our world leaders or our religious leaders to cleanse our collective soul and redirect our energies toward children. That leaves you and me… We must simply begin – today – to cherish and protect the children in our own homes, our own schools, and our personal lives. Within a world that has done very little for children, that is at least something."

Friday, May 11, 2007


My birthday is this weekend, but the weekend is so very busy that I'm quite sure I won't post anything, so I thought I'd celebrate early, at least here.

In honor of my 36 years on this planet, here are three dozen things that I love. If you feel the need to buy me a present, or make me something, this would be a great place to get ideas. But if you don't feel that need, that's okay. Just leave comments about how pretty I am. Or something.

1. Fresh baked bread
2. Petunias
3. My pink cell phone
4. Tiaras
5. Kittens
6. The way my dining room and kitchen look when they're clean
7. Country fried steak
8. Coffee
9. Beer
10. Jasmine tea
11. Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine
12. My pillowcases made of this fabric
13. These shoes
14. This makeup
15. This shirt
16. This piece of furniture
17. Books by Anthony Bourdain
18. Books by Poppy Z. Brite
19. The food at Bouchon in Las Vegas
20. Pretty cookbooks
21. The cute backpack my mom gave me for my birthday (thanks, Mom!)
22. My Roomba (but it really needs a friend)
23. The quilts my grandmother made for me
24. The quilts that I made myself
25. Frank Kozik posters
26. Wacky 1950's and 1960's kitsch
27. Yoga pants
28. Flip flops
29. Pajamas
30. Shonen Knife's music
31. Three 6 Mafia (my husband thinks I'm such a dork for that one)
32. My dog, Biscuit
33. My other dog, Gravy
34. My husband
35. My daughter
36. My son

See, that wasn't so hard. Now we have proof that my inner 5-year-old is definitely alive and well (kittens, tiaras?!), but so is my inner gangsta'. Sweet.

And a shout out to my mom, who was so tired of being pregnant thirty-six years ago today. Sorry I didn't manage my escape before Mother's Day. That would have been a nice gift. But watch this space on Mother's Day (probably after dinner). I'm hoping to post the BEST POST EVER!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

What do you think?

About last night

Since we already know that it's a busy week, not only for me, but for my family, last night was a much-anticipated oasis of "nothing to do." And, unlike my twenty-three-year-old self, I felt no need at all to find something to do.

I arrived home from work to be greeted by my kids. "Mom, when you were pregnant with Alex, you were huge!" (Duh. I was there. YOU carry a 10 pound baby on a size 4 body and tell me there's a way to not be huge. But I digress.) They were watching old home videos: Kids: The Early Years. I got completely sucked in for at least half an hour, as my poor dogs crossed their legs and stared at me. Y'all, my kids were so cute when they were small. And sweet. All the videos of those years were filmed by one of my parents (it was their camera), and one of the scenes I really enjoyed watching was an almost-three-year-old Susie stroking my dad's cheek, then hugging his neck, then pressing her cheek to his. Repeatedly. She's always been a physically affectionate child, but I don't remember seeing that moment before. Then she looks him in the eye and tells him, "I love you, Grandpa." So I was all melty before 5:30 p.m.

I finally tore myself away from the televised trip down memory lane, changed into comfy clothes, and walked the dogs (with Susie). We looked at the gathering clouds and made our rain predictions (our new "thing" we do....she's pretty good for a fourth grader). Her prediction: yes, it will rain, and it will start about the time dinner is ready. Once the dogs were walked, she wanted to check for ripe strawberries in the vegetable garden (none). We noticed that last year's lettuce had seeded itself and we had enough baby lettuce for a salad. She selected some pineapple basil and regular basil and oregano to add to it. And then she helped make dinner.

Those quiet, routine things are the ones I hope stay with her when she grows up. Working side-by-side in the kitchen, talking about everything and nothing, laughing, singing. She sang some of the songs she'll be performing tonight in the school music program. I sang some parts of the Gilbert & Sullivan concert. We made vegetable pot pie and macaroni and cheese for the next day's dinner. Basic, nourishing stuff. Nothing difficult or fancy, but made by us, not from a box. That's the kind of life I've tried to give my family.

The last time my parents came to visit, my mom and I were making a similar meal together. We had leftover chicken from the night before, so we made a chicken pot pie and a vegetable pot pie. And even though we had enjoyed a busy, fun weekend together, that hour or so we spent in the kitchen, listening to NPR and hearing about that stupid Don Imus story (and then discussing it, sharing a laugh at the thought of what would have happened if my daughter had been on that team....something about my boot being so far up his a$$ that it would come out his mouth...), that was the part of the weekend that stands out as the best part. That was the memory I'll keep for years.

Maybe last night won't endure in Susie's memory. Maybe it will blend in with other, similar nights. But maybe the thundershower will punctuate that night as special. Because, as before, she predicted the rain almost to the minute. That's my girl.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Dress rehearsals

The last two evenings, I came home from work for a few minutes, only to jump in the car and drive to dress rehearsal, stay there a really long time, then return home, only to wash off my makeup and get in bed. I'm tired and I miss hanging out with the kids.

Tonight is my break. We have another rehearsal tomorrow, then performances Friday and Sunday. As I already disclosed, Saturday is a busy day. So tonight, I'm wearing pajamas and watching a mind-destroying quantity of television. I might cook dinner, too. Because I'm a giver.

So, if you live in the Memphis area, this it my moment to encourage you to attend one of the concerts this weekend. Why?

I could sell you on our fantastic soloists. I could sell you on the whole "Gilbert and Sullivan = funny, funny stuff" idea. I could sell you on the "please support local arts groups" message.

But that's not my tactic. Oh no.

You should come to this concert because it's your chance, and very likely your ONLY chance, to see me in a hot pink tutu.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Grace, interrupted

Courtesy of Slouching Mom, I learned of this roundtable with a very interesting question.

Write about your personal experience(s), how you are dealing with or how you are trying to deal with---where you are in your journey---the principles of justice, forgiveness, compassion, and/or tolerance. Select one, two, three or all, or speak about the converse of the principles if that's more relevant.I look forward to what you have to say, truly.

Living near downtown Memphis, I often have occasion to see people who are outside my socio-economic group. Way outside. People whose lives look more like existence to me. People whose lives are so outside my idea of normal that I cannot begin to comprehend what a day in their lives would feel like.

These people are poor, desperately poor. They don't treat their minor anxieties with lexapro, wellbutrin, paxil, or one of the many other pharmaceutical aids so common in my circle. Maybe because these medications wouldn't even make a dent in the very real problems that they experience. "The blues"? Um, not.

The common belief among downtown residents is that, if one gives money, food, drink, or time to these people, that encourages them to beg for more. Heck, I've said the same words myself. Repeatedly. Especially to folks who don't live downtown but do visit, and who generally give money to panhandlers just to avoid the hassle of being accosted.

But what do you do when that marginal person sees you sitting on your front porch of your brand new house, approaches, and asks for money for food? What do you do?

My gut reaction was to run inside and lock the door. But instead I determined that it wouldn't hurt me at all to tell him to wait outside while I made him a sandwich. (In the interest of fair and accurate reporting, I must also state that the man really didn't want a sandwich, he wanted money. He asked what kind of sandwich it was going to be, and seemed a little annoyed when I told him it would be peanut butter.)

And when I went inside and started making a sandwich, my efforts were thwarted my my husband, who chased the man away.

My husband's reaction wasn't unreasonable. It was as morally correct as my own response. He was protecting his family, his neighborhood. Was that man dangerous? Would he force his way into our house when I gave him the food? Would this sandwich be the first of many handouts the man would then expect from our family? Without the right answers to those questions, my husband had to do what he did.

I felt good when I was making that sandwich. He looked hungry and I could do something about it. A couple of pieces of bread and some peanut butter would have helped him get some relief from that hunger. And the knowledge that a stranger would prepare food for him, the same food she would prepare for her own children, would give him some peace. That moment, almost two years ago, had so much potential for grace.

So what do I do now? I haven't seen that man since. Our neighborhood has proven to be a place where homeless folks are not welcomed. We've "cleaned up" that area. Our crime is almost nonexistent and we feel safe. Insulated.

Recently I read an article about a nearby soup kitchen and I felt a tug. A call to action. Maybe even a "calling." Does that mean I need to quit my job and start working there? I don't know. Maybe. Does it mean that I need to drop one of my other activities and become an active volunteer at such a place? Again, maybe. I know that food heals. I know that service to others is the best work we can do. I think I need to find out what I can do to help. Even if it's just making peanut butter sandwiches.

Quick question

How do you teach an eight-year-old child how to swallow a non-chewable pill?

We've tried copious amounts of water, peanut butter, maple syrup, and still he can't get the pill down. We've tried tiny, tiny pills and larger ones. His allergies get pretty bad this time of year, and the liquids really don't do the job.

And this morning turned from "just fine" to "disaster with tears" because of this.

Any advice is welcome. I was thinking we'd try tic-tacs, since it would be difficult to overdose on them, and they don't taste horrible if they dissolve in his mouth.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Countdown commenced

We had a fun, busy weekend. Which is going to be followed by a very busy week. (Okay, a correction: I'll be busy, the kids will be busy, but my husband's semester is over so he's chillin'.)

We had extra kids in our house just about every moment this weekend: Friday we had two girls spend the night, and one boy who didn't spend the night but came home from school with the kids and left at dinnertime. Saturday, the girlie went to a girl scout function in the morning (while I went to rehearsal and the boy and husband went on a bike ride to our favorite place), then one of the sleepover girls and one friend from girl scouts were at the house when I got back. They left about the same time that Susie's best friend since she was four came to spend the night. She stayed with us until mid-afternoon Sunday, at which time we braved a sudden downpour and went bowling with the brother and sister who had joined us on Friday night. Dinner out after bowling, then a little television and sleep for the kids.

Did I mention that we also finished Alex's school project about howler monkeys (including making a cd of sound files found on the internet of the noises they make that give them that name)? And that Craig helped me make twelve fairy wreaths for the concert? And grocery shopping and a trip to the most horrible place on earth? And that I went shopping BY MYSELF for the supplies for the fairy wreaths and school project?

Honestly, sometimes I come to work because I get a little rest.

So, instead of a real blog entry, I'm sharing my list for this week:

Me - dress rehearsal for Gilbert & Sullivan, 6:15-11 p.m.
Alex - guitar class

Me - dress rehearsal for Gilbert & Sullivan, 6:15-11 p.m.
Alex - guitar

I think we actually have a night off here

Me - tentative rehearsal, but not on stage because the stage is otherwise occupied
Susie - piano lesson until 5:15
Alex and Susie - school music program at 5:30. I have a feeling we're taking two cars to this one because I'll probably have to run to rehearsal.
Do you get the feeling we're a little bit triple-booked here?

Me - concert, then dinner afterward
Alex and Susie - invited to spend the night with friends

The unofficial celebration of my birthday - family bike ride to our favorite place, and maybe this place too. And a neighborhood grill out thing. And I'm pretty sure there's something else. I hope it's written down. Oh yeah, Susie is going to a birthday party. Across town. So I guess we'll find something to do while she's watching Spiderman 3.

My birthday. Mother's Day. Oh, and just in case that's not enough....I'm also leading worship and delivering a sermon at church, THEN singing the concert at 3 p.m. Because me? I love to be busy. Eating? Yeah. I'll get right on that.

Friday, May 04, 2007


Inspired by this really great post, I thought I'd share a little about my kids and their relationship. I tend to write about one of them or the other, but rarely do I write about them as a unit.

Because they often function as a unit. This wouldn't be so surprising to me if they were twins, or both girls or both boys, but they're not. Susie is 22 months older than Alex.

Even though she was only 13 months old when I got pregnant with Alex, we decided to talk to her about the upcoming arrival. I'm sure she had no clue what we were talking about, but we kept on talking about it throughout the pregnancy. When we decided what his name would be, she pronounced it as best she could, and from then on, her version of his name became the name for my belly. It also became our son's nickname (still is).

I need to scan some pictures for something I'm planning to do for Susie's birthday, and many of those pictures would be perfect illustrations of this post.

The day Alex was born, my mom was taking care of Susie, and she and Susie came to the hospital to greet the new baby. They were both in the room when I was wheeled in, on the gurney. The baby was wheeled in separately in an isolette. Susie immediately wanted to be with me on my bed, and she patted my belly ("Gently!") and said her brother's name. I looked into her sweet, nearly-two-year-old face and said, "Not anymore. Here he is." And we put the baby on the bed too. The expression on her face told me that she understood. This was her baby brother, and she must love him and protect him and help to raise him. (A big responsibility for a toddler, but I firmly believe she was up to the task, and she's never proven me wrong.) We got their first kiss on video and on film. It's one of my favorite pictures.

Over the next few months, Susie demonstrated an amazing aptitude for big sistering. Whenever "her" baby cried, she ran to me, telling me, "Baby is crying. Nurse baby! Nurse baby!" She seemed to understand when I was busy tending to the baby and couldn't hold her or play with her at the moment. She loved to touch him and kiss him and talk to him.

And here's the moment. The moment that defines the two of them as brother and sister, a unit of two, not mediated or moderated by Craig or me. It's July 4 weekend. Baby is three months old. Susie is 25 months old. He's still in a rear-facing car seat, buckled in the middle of the back seat. She's in a forward-facing car seat, which means they're facing each other and their faces are around two feet apart (maybe even less). So he's looking at her, she's looking at him, and she's making her favorite joke, which consists of saying "PBJ Otter" over and over (it was her favorite TV show at the time). She's cracking up, and then we hear this strange sound from the baby. It sounds like he's choking. Wheezing. I turn around to check him and see him doing something he's never done. He's laughing. He's laughing so very hard, with his whole body. Laughing at his sister's joke.

Their next couple of years were at home (Craig and I worked different shifts, so one of us was always home), and are well-documented. They dressed up, they made forts out of the dining room chairs, they ran around the house naked, they made beds for themselves with towels. They invented bizarre games that made no sense to our adult minds. They sang songs and watched the same television programs.

And school didn't make a dent in that growing relationship. When Susie began preschool, two days a week, Alex was a little annoyed at first. He missed her. She went to school on the days I worked, so Craig and he had five hours together those days. Fortunately Craig is a great dad and created adventures for them. But when I brought her back from school, she got the hug before I did most days. When he started preschool the next year, he was always so excited if he ran into his sister in the hall.

Years later, and they're still each other's biggest fan. But we're having some growing pains, and it shows me that everything is so fleeting. The beginnings of adolescence are causing Susie to crave more privacy and more time to herself. Her friends, too, are less tolerant of a little brother hanging around and tagging along. He's not there yet, so it's hard for him to understand how his life's companion would suddenly not want to spend every waking minute with him.

They had a hard night a few nights ago. He wanted more time together, and she didn't. I sat in his room and talked to him (Gently, gently!) about how hard it was that his sister wanted to be by herself. He was so deeply sad. So hurt. And it would have been easy for me to cajole her into spending just a bit more time with him.

But that wouldn't be fair to her. I went to her room next and spoke with her (Gently, gently!). I reminded her that her brother is not going through the same changes she is, and that he really doesn't understand her need for privacy and solitude. I asked her to be gentle and patient with him while they worked out their relationship. I also requested that she try to spend a little more time with him in the afternoons so he didn't feel excluded. She understood, but protested a bit: "I already do spend a lot of time with him. Too much time!"

And they're both right. They're just in different places, developmentally. He'll catch up in a few years, and the balance will be restored. And I bet I'm right when I predict they'll be best friends again.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Wherein I tiptoe around a difficult subject

There's a local media frenzy these days about a doctor. I know the family, not terribly well, and I'm just plain sad about it all. I wish the media would stop drooling and frothing at the mouth. This guy has a wife and three wonderful children who don't deserve all this.

I'm going to dance around the subject, but let's just say that I've been on the phone a lot because of this situation. And most of my phone time is during dinner preparation. And last night, Susie was helping with dinner. (Aside: that girl is getting to be very helpful in the kitchen....if any of you readers have 9-year-old girls that aren't helping in the kitchen, you're missing out! Seriously. Chica can cook!)

Which means my daughter got an earful last night, and then I sort of explained the situation (and my very minimal, non-media-worthy involvement) in age-appropriate terms. We talked about how these kinds of things effect kids and families and other people, and we talked about the local news and how they behave (or not).

As our soup was simmering, we headed to the living room, snuggled in a chair, and watched the news. (She's an interesting kid....during the last presidential primaries, she insisted on watching the Democrat candidate age 6!) We talked about the stories, sometimes pausing the tv (hooray for TIVO!) to discuss a little before watching the next story.

And then the teaser for the local news comes on, and guess what??? This guy is the first story. So we watch while the reporter goes to where he works, then goes to his house (golly gee, nobody's home...imagine that!). And the reporter is foaming at the mouth. And when the story is over, Susie sums it up perfectly: "What a mess."

Yes. It's a mess.

So if you're reading this and you pray, please say a prayer for this family.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

the Haiku Email Project

I'm trying to start something.

Yesterday I wrote an email to a friend and realized that the first paragraph made a haiku. So I made an intentional effort and composed the entire email in haiku form.

Found this, thought of you.
Maybe you'll be interested.
Hey, it's a haiku!

Wouldn't it be great
If all our emails could be
Written as haikus?'s been a
Long day and now I'm silly.
Hope you're doing well.

She was amused, though did not attempt to respond in kind.

But I continued today:

Don't sell yourself short
You, too, can write in haiku
Just count syllables.

(I know it's absurd
To continue this discourse
But now I'm obsessed.)

So play along, kids. Maybe limericks? Iambic pentameter? Let's make our emails poetic this week.

BlogHer - travel

I've definitely, definitely decided to go to BlogHer.

Now I need to firmly decide how to get there and how to get home.

Yesterday, I was 99% sure I had it figured out. But Sarah thought it was awfully complicated, and the more I thought about it, the more I had to agree.

Thank goodness for my daughter. Because she is generally the voice of reason, pragmatic little soul that she is. (Do you want examples? Okay...when we moved from midtown to downtown, we gave the kids the choice to stay in their beloved Peabody Elementary, which we all adored beyond reason, or to change to a school closer to our new house. My at-the-time-seven-year-old girl simply said, "It doesn't make any sense at all to drive all the way from downtown to midtown to take us to school, then drive back home, then drive there again to pick us up and drive back home again. We'll change schools." I foresee a career in logistics for that one.)

So, back to the travel plans. I mentioned the possibilities of our mode of travel to my darling, practical daughter this morning, telling her that we would either fly home or maybe take the train. I mostly thought we'd fly because the kids LOVE LOVE LOVE to fly. (I really don't.) Turns out that the train lit up her eyes even more..."I've never been on a real train before."

But the clincher is this: the Memphis train station is like, um, a mile from our house, and my brother and his hot blonde girlfriend both work a few blocks from the Chicago train station, whereas the affordable way to fly includes driving to Nashville, which would take a little more than three hours, and would mean flying from an airport convenient to nothing. And the price difference? $71. Which is about how much we'd spend on gas driving to and from Nashville. So the actual price difference? None. And we get to keep our shoes on and not worry about if our shampoo bottle will fit in a ziplock bag.

So is it time to go yet?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Life lessons

This week's CHBM carnival topic is "What do you wish you were taught growing up?"

I wrote a long post about toxic people and fitting in and being yourself, but I really don't like it. Maybe I'll work on it later, but for now, it's just not working. Sorry if you wanted more depth. There's only so much I can do, folks.

So I give you two superficial things that I didn't learn as a kid but have kind of learned as an adult.

I wish someone had taught me how to draw. Our hippie-dippy art teachers of the 1970's never seemed interested in actually teaching us drawing technique. Rather, they spent a lot of time encouraging us to experiment and try new materials and blah blah blah. By the time I got to college, I was quite convinced that I could not draw. And my required drawing class was the most difficult thing I ever did. I'm still by no means great at drawing, but I'm much better than I ever thought I'd be. Because someone actually taught me. Finally.

I also wish I'd learned more about gardening. My grandmother can name any plant she sees, but I never learned anything about it. I've learned a lot on my own, with the help of some kind ladies in the Memphis Garden Club, but it's not something I learned growing up.

Okay...I'll give you a hint about my angst-ridden post that I'm not posting. There's this sentence: "Those people are a$$holes and they don't deserve the time it takes for you to be upset about them." Important lesson that I didn't learn growing up. Because my mom doesn't talk like that.