Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Someone I'd Like You to Meet

I met Angie back around 1990. I was working as Director of Annual Giving for my alma mater; Angie was my faithful assistant.

I like to think we made a great team.

Angie was really smart and really funny. I loved working with her every day . . .

. . . until 1992 when I had Kate and I left my job there.

As it sometimes happens--too often in my life because I'm terrible about keeping up with people who don't live right under my roof (and even then I don't always do such a great job at the communication piece)--Angie and I lost touch. She moved to Tennessee sometime after I left my job and, other than the annual Christmas card, we didn't keep in touch.

Enter the magic of Facebook.

Angie found me! On Facebook! And it turns out she has a blog too. (Didn't I tell you she's smart?)

She also has a husband and two beautiful kids.

Her daughter, Caroline, is turning 5 today. Now, I haven't met Caroline (I like her name though), but I know she is a very special girl. She has changed her parents' lives tremendously, and I think Angie would tell you she has changed them for the better.

Angie wrote a beautiful post to Caroline today. I'd love it if you would go read it and celebrate Caroline and the millions of children just like her who make life richer, fuller, and more special each day.

Happy birthday, Caroline!

P.S. There's another special girl who's having a birthday today who I don't want to forget about. Kira, my sweet niece: we love you and wish you lots and lots of joy in the years ahead! Be good!

Monday, April 27, 2009

I'm living in a Talking Heads song

How did I get here?

I keep asking myself that question. How did I become the "old mom" in the elementary school? How did I come to the point of having two teenagers and a fifth grader?

I blinked, that's how. I just blinked my eyes and it happened. My kids are growing up.

How do I know this?

Because this morning Maggie revealed to me that she has seven new teeth coming in. Seven! She's losing molars faster than the trees lose leaves in the fall.

We spent the morning together talking all about her teeth and how she really wants braces to pull the very small gap between her front teeth together. I assured her that her teeth were beautiful and that she probably would be the only child in our family to NOT need braces because her teeth were so straight and also because God knows we just cannot handle another three years of orthodontia bills.

But my point is, Maggie's almost done losing all her teeth. How did this happen?

Kate's a junior in high school and all the talk around our house 24/7 is about colleges. And also because she attended post-prom on Saturday night which meant that we let our daughter stay out until 3 a.m.

Yikes! How did that happen?

And also because Abby turned 15 yesterday, and she starts driver's ed next week. Really now, I just got one kid through driver's ed with barely a brown hair left on my head and now I have to go through it all again. Seriously?

For some reason, Abby got it into her head that she should learn how to drive BEFORE she starts driver's ed class (isn't that what driver's ed is all about?) and somehow she thought that I should take her for a lesson on her birthday. She's been talking about it for weeks. And anyone who knows me knows I'm the kind of mom who hops to her kids' every whim, so I took her.

Please don't tell the authorities.

I drove her to a large parking lot not too far from our house, and since it was a Sunday night the lot was practically empty. I let her sit in the driver's seat for the first time in her life and taught her how to start the car.

We had a moment, just after she started the car, when I very nearly took back the wheel. Abby actually asked me which pedal was the brake and which was the gas. Oh my. It's going to be a long year.

But once she got the pedal thing straight, it was smooth sailing. She did a very good job for her first time driving. Despite the fact that her two sisters were in the back seat laughing the whole time.

On Sunday morning, B and I were enjoying a bit of quiet before the girls got up. We drank our coffee together and reflected on our current stage of life, how we are truly enjoying all three girls at the same time and how easy they all are at the moment. We both decided that we'd like to freeze our family just as it is now because while others we knew were rushing to get their young children ready for church, all fed and cleaned up before 9 a.m., we were sitting together having coffee while our children slept.

If only I could pry my eyes open for the next few years and just not blink.

Friday, April 24, 2009


Last weekend we finally had a good day to get the porch ready for summer. Here is where I like to sit and write when the weather cooperates.

Today the weather finally cooperated, but my schedule didn't. A few friends held a birthday luncheon for me today, so . . . twist my arm . . . I had to be there. (It was lovely, by the way.)

But Kate and Maggie were home, enjoying the gorgeous weather on the porch. Look at what they did this afternoon.

Summer's almost here, and I can't wait.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Preach it, Sister!

My husband occasionally sends me articles that he thinks I might enjoy, and yesterday he sent a doozie. If you have a couple of minutes, click here and read "Confessions of a TARP Wife" from

It's a very funny look at this new life many are learning to live in our current economic times. The author, "Anonymous" (and who can blame her?), pokes fun at the life of opulence she used to live and teases a bit about the life she finds herself now living.

She is a TARP wife--the wife of a banker. Which, I guess, makes me a TARP wife too.

I never really thought I would have much in common with a Wall Street banker's wife. After all, my husband doesn't exactly work on Wall Street; he works on River Road. But, you know, after reading this article I've come to realize that the similarities between "Anonymous" and me are absolutely remarkable.

TARP wives carry deep concerns for their husbands. Unlike "Anonymous," my husband isn't CEO of his bank (thank goodness, because who really wants that kind of pressure these days?), but he does help his employer make some pretty important decisions, so I can completely relate to this woman's concern for her husband's health and hair color.

TARP wives' shopping habits have changed. "Anonymous" has stopped buying clothes and only buys gifts at Bergdorf's under the cover of darkness. I, as well, have changed some of my shopping habits. I have taken to buying milk at Costco, despite the terrible packaging design of their milk carton, because Costco milk costs $1.79; at the "regular" grocery store milk can cost as much as $2.99.

TARP wives have to make difficult choices as well. "Anonymous" struggles with whether she should throw her husband the usual type of extravagant birthday party (you know, to cheer him up) or whether she should settle for something a little quieter this year. I've got some choices to make too. Should I pay someone $400 to fix the fence I broke last week or should B and I use a little elbow grease and try to fix it ourselves? (Home Depot, here we come!)

TARP wives' wonder how to explain our new financial situation to our children. "Anonymous" probably hasn't had as much practice saying "no" to her kids as I have. She'll get used to it.

We TARP wives are a sisterhood of sorts, sharing many concerns, fears, and emotions. We have begun to grasp the reality that retirement is now elusive, as is the reputation our husbands used to enjoy. Bankers used to be known as helpful folk, but today, as "Anonymous" points out, they have "replaced the Mob as the most despised group in the country." (I would actually replace "Mob" with "Lawyers," but that's just my personal bias coming through.)

We'll survive, we TARP wives. We'll survive because we'll have to. We'll survive because, like everyone, we can look around and see that someone else has it just a little worse than we do.

And that kind of perspective is just too painful to laugh about.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Could we just ignore this one?

Yesterday was my birthday. In between the laundry and the dog-walking and the dinner-making and the kid-running and the raindrop-dodging, it was a pretty good day.

The highlight, for me, was going to Abby’s high school orchestra concert which was held at the community college nearby. It was kind of neat to have the kids play on a bigger stage than they normally would, but the best part was the music. Oh my! Abby’s orchestra group played Dvorak’s 8th Symphony—four movements—and it was fabulous.

It does a mama’s heart proud to hear her girl play in a group like that. Yes, it does.

O.K., if you’re reading carefully, you’ll know that I lied up there. No, not the part about the orchestra concert—that was the truth. But the part about having a good day was a lie.

It wasn’t a good day at all. I spent the day alone, for the most part. It was cold. It was rainy. It was just a normal day.

Birthdays aren’t supposed to be normal.

But what really made this day a bit of a downer for me was the realization that I’m now closer to 50 than I am to 40. I don’t know why this bothers me so much, but I have to tell you, it does. Big time.

Here’s why I think it stinks for me.

I don’t like change. At all. Which is probably why I’m the only member of my family who still lives in the state she grew up in. I think about leaving all the time, but do I do anything about it? No. The change would probably kill me, so I stay put. Pathetic, I know.

So changing decades, or even the thought of changing decades, is a pretty big deal to me.

I remember when I turned 30. I stood in front of the mirror that day and just stared. I was probably frozen with fear, thinking about all that would come my way in the next decade. Rightly so!

When I think about all that could happen in my 50’s—kids going to college, kids graduating college, kids getting married and possibly even making me a grandma—it’s just about too much for my heart to handle. All that change!

And it’s still four years away. I truly am a basket case.

I don’t want to become one of those women who try to act and dress like they’re younger than they really are. I’m not that way. And I don’t want to be in denial about what is going to happen in my life (and to my body) in the next few years. It is what it is.

I am officially middle aged, in my mind, and I wonder what I’m accomplishing. I wonder if I’m ever going to do all the things I want to do with my life. I wonder if I’m doing what God wants me to do. I wait on Him, and I wonder. . . .

I had no intention of writing this post; I don’t want to depress you, and more than that I don’t want to depress me. But these are the things that are on my mind, and it usually works out pretty well if I write what’s on my mind.

I think it’s time for the sun to come out.

Friday, April 17, 2009

What do you know, chivalry is NOT dead!

Fifth grade girls and fifth grade boys just do not speak to one another. Well, maybe if a basketball that a fifth grade boy is playing with happens to bounce over to a group of giggling fifth grade girls, he might say, "Hey, give that back" and that might require one of the giggling fifth grade girls to say, "Here," but otherwise there is no communication between the sexes at that age.

It's a miracle that our species continues to thrive.

With each of my girls I've tried to probe these mysteries, getting nowhere, of course. I recently asked Maggie, "Who are some of the nice boys in your class?" to which I got the response, "Eeewww, Mom, that's gross! There are no nice boys in my class."

But now I know that's not entirely true because of what I witnessed this morning.

Maggie had to be at school early today to read poetry to third graders. Why fifth graders are reading poetry to third graders is another mystery which shall remain a mystery for now. That's not the point of my story.

As I pulled up to the front of the school, Maggie got out of the car, and I noticed that another boy from her class--the "popular" boy who plays all sports well--got out of the car behind us. He sprinted to the front door of the school while Maggie lumbered toward the door with her heavy backpack and her extra pair of shoes (that girl is nothing if not prepared).

I watched as Maggie headed toward the building and noticed that the "cool" boy stopped, pulled the door open, and waited for her to go through. I should not have been surprised, but I totally was! I even said out loud to nobody in my car, "That was so nice!"

I was so glad I waited and got to witness that moment. I'm sure it meant nothing to the two of them, and they probably won't even remember that it happened. But that little act of kindness from a fifth grade boy to a fifth grade girl just made me so happy.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

When Two Worlds Collide

I love Facebook. It's a fun way to keep up with old friends, new friends, old family members . . . you get the point.

Yesterday an old friend from high school wrote as her Facebook status that after 16 years she had finally broken down and bought a puppy for her kids. "What was the Easter Bunny thinking?????" was the rest of her status.

I, in my usual snarky, sarcastic way, wrote back to her that the Easter Bunny was surely thinking that she wanted to be woken up in the middle of the night and to have her carpets peed on and to pay unusually large vet bills when her dog has a seizure.

She thought it was funny.

She also thought I was kidding.

Then this morning, another old friend who found me on Facebook (and who has become one of my most avid readers!) told me that she was looking forward to today's adventure in my life. I quickly replied that, sadly, adventures are hard to come by around here these days.

The only highlight to my day was going to be . . . highlights . . . and a haircut. (I crack myself up!)

Little did I know that just a few hours later my Facebook world and my real world would collide. Little did I know that just a little while later my own puppy would lead me to a bit of an adventure that I didn't expect.

It's not a big deal, really. I simply let the Wonder Dog out for a little while, thinking that the back gate was closed.

This would be the same back gate, however, that I may have bumped with my car just a little bit by accident the other day when it was shut. And now the gate won't close properly. So it swings open just a bit.

So that bored little puppies on cloudy days can get into some neighborhood mischief.

Like running across the street and playing around with one of the new puppies down the block.

And making her "mommy" run after her in her fuzzy blue slippers yelling like a madwoman, "Thunder. Come! Come here, Thunder!" in front of her beautiful, young, put-together neighbor with the new puppy who actually comes when called.

See what I mean? Today, on a day I thought nothing could possibly happen, two worlds collided. I think Facebook jinxed me.

Monday, April 13, 2009

I'm a little worried about myself . . . I'm crafting.

I've written before about how I definitely did NOT get the crafty gene. It takes just about every ounce of energy in these tired old bones to get out the glue gun. In fact, I usually have one of the girls get it out for me because, frankly, I don't really know where we keep the glue gun.

But a few weeks back, as I was perusing the Williams Sonoma catalog full of beautiful things I drool over but can't afford, I noticed these little cuties.

They are sweet little nests made of twigs and moss, filled with little blue eggs, that hide underneath those great glass jars. Cute huh? That teeny-tiny one over on the left hand side is $39 and you can order it if you want. I think I'll take a pass.

But it got me to thinking about how cute those little nests would be on my Easter table. For some reason, just thinking about it got the crafty juices flowing, plus I got to thinking about what a great mom I would be if I did an Easter craft with my kids, or even one of them, so Maggie and I headed to Hobby Lobby.

I bought what I thought would be the necessary supplies, but not entirely sure because, after all, I was making up this craft in my head and I could only guess as to what I would need. Maggie assured me I was doing the right thing, even though my hands were sweating and my head was screaming, "Don't do this! You can't do this! Don't even try!"

Well, after surviving that minefield, I was done in, so I left the Hobby Lobby bag sitting on my bedroom floor for, oh, about two weeks. But on Friday, Maggie insisted that we actually try to accomplish the craft we had set out to make.

So we did. And I am so proud of our crafty achievement that I just have to share it with you all here. They are just so cute you may want to host a springtime brunch just so you can make these.

My talents are quite limited, so we kept the supply list simple. Tiny grapevine wreaths, moss, and hot glue. That's it. See? Even a monkey could do it.

Make a flat, round pancake out of the moss.

Hot glue the bottom of the wreath and set it on the moss pancake.

Put some more hot glue around the sides of the wreath, and form the moss around the wreath, creating a nest.

Finally, we filled our nests with candy bird eggs and put a placecard on top of each.

Here's a look at my Easter table when everything was finished. It was so Springy and cheerful, and it made me happy.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

He Gave

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

John 3:16 is one of those verses from the Bible that almost everyone in the world knows or has at least heard a time or two. It’s almost become ubiquitous, showing up at every sporting event for the past 30 years. This verse has taken on a life of its own, and may I daresay, has been diminished greatly. We recite it as rote--without really taking stock of what it means.

What are the most important words in this verse? Is it the phrase “eternal life”? “Believes”? “So loved”?

I guess the answer to that question could be different for everyone, but for me, the two most important words in that verse are “He gave.”

He gave.

When I was just eleven years old, my only brother, just nine years old and my parents’ only son, was taken from us in a tragic accident. I grew up in a home that knew grief. I knew firsthand what it was like for a father to lose his only son.

And I knew that my earthly father would never willingly give his only son.

But God did. And surely it caused just as much grief for a Heavenly Father to give up his only son as it did my earthly father to lose his.

From the beginning of time, God knew that some sacrifice, not just birds or calves, would have to be made for the sins of the whole world. He knew that the sacrifice would have to be significant—once for all. He knew that it would involve His son. His only son. As I began to contemplate God’s grief I began to see that this sacrifice—all for me—was huge.

This perfect God did something no earthly father would ever do—He gave.

I love this quote from John Calvin, a great theologian from the Protestant reformation of the 1500’s. Calvin said, “Men are not easily convinced that God loves them; and so, to remove all doubt, He has expressly stated that we are so very dear to God that for our sakes He did not spare even His only begotten Son. God has most abundantly declared His love toward us and therefore whoever is still doubtful and unsatisfied by this testimony does Christ a serious injury, as if He had been some ordinary man who had died accidentally. We should rather consider that God’s love for His only begotten Son is a measure of how precious our salvation was to Him, that He willed that the death of the Only Begotten himself should be its price.”

This Easter season I’ve been thinking a lot about how precious my salvation was to God. So precious, so valuable, that He gave His only Son. It was no accident. It was voluntary. And it was all for love.

Romans 8: 32: “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

Friends, I spend a lot of time goofing around on this blog. I have a lot of fun with it. But I also understand its power, and today I feel a compelling need to tell you that the sacrifice God made in giving up His son wasn’t just for me. It was for you too.

I hope you’ll embrace that sacrifice. Live in it. Love it. Accept it.

And tomorrow, Easter Sunday, I hope you'll celebrate it with me.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

How Does a Mother . . . ?

I was going through some of my old writing and found this piece that I wrote last year. I thought I'd put it out there just because I liked it, but also because it shows a stark contrast between her love--or lack thereof--for her children and God's.

This week I've been thinking a lot about God's love for me. How He sent His only Son to die in my place. What a sacrifice. What love.

"But God showed his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

- - - - - -

How does a mother—a mother!—get on a train with three children and a few minutes later get off that same train with only one child? Explain that to me. Is she mentally ill? Is she just forgetful? Is she stupid?

This is an actual story that occurred here in Chicago just a few days ago. A mom gets on the train with her three children—two boys, ages 6 and 4, and a daughter, age 3. She seats her two boys somewhere apart from herself and her daughter. Was the train so crowded that the boys couldn’t even stand next to her? The woman eventually gets to her stop at 63rd street and she carries her 3-year-old daughter off the train, but leaves the boys on the train. The newspaper said they may not have even realized that their mother got off the train.

A little while later the woman calls 311 to check on her boys. What happened? Was she really concerned? Or was it guilt that got the best of her? At any rate, she did call 311, you have to give her credit for that, right? The police had already been alerted of the situation and, apparently, had the boys in safe custody. The mother is now facing a whole slew of charges.

One quick decision, a moment of weakness or desperation, has now changed that family forever. The mother, of course, will deal with the consequences of her undeniably irresponsible actions. And the daughter will most likely be removed from her mother’s custody.

But I’m thinking about those boys. Two little boys who might have been a handful for their mother. They might have been “all boy” and gotten a bit rambunctious at times. But they might have been sweet, kind little boys who gave their mother no trouble at all. It doesn’t even matter. You don’t abandon your boys on a train!

And I’m thinking about the day that those boys start thinking about their mother’s actions. “Our mom left us on the train. She LEFT us on a train.” “What did we do wrong that our mom didn’t want us anymore?” “Where did she think we would end up?” “What did she think would happen to us?” “How could she do that?”

How soon will those boys start thinking about these things? Next week? Next year? When they are twenty? Who knows. But in a world like this, with social services abundant, no child should ever have to wonder why their mother left them on a train.

It’s been said that desperate times call for desperate measures, and maybe this mother felt desperate. Yes, life is hard. Life can seem impossible some days. Illness, financial difficulties, and even raising children can make life’s challenges seem insurmountable. But there is help out there, lots of help, and I just wish this mother had stopped to think about that before she abandoned her boys. Just a moment of sanity (‘Hmmm, what will happen to us if I leave these boys here?’) might have made all the difference. Just a moment of thought. Stop. Think. And do the right thing.

Desperate times? Maybe. Desperate measures? Never.

I just don’t get it.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Pay for it Yourself

Over the years B and I have tried really hard to teach our kids about money. I could write several posts about this, but what I really want to do today is to relate a conversation that took place in this very house earlier this week.

Kate: Hey, Dad, I'd really like to go to ______.

B: That's fine, Kate, but you'll have to pay for it yourself.

Kate: Dad, lately all you and Mom ever say to me is "pay for it yourself." I mean, I think I hear that more than I hear "I love you."

B: Well, Kate, it's kind of like Wesley in The Princess Bride. Every time Princess Buttercup wanted Farmboy to do something he'd say, "As you wish." It was his way of saying "I love you."

. . . . .

Later that night as Kate is heading to bed: 'Night, Mom. 'Night, Dad. Pay for it yourself!

Monday, April 6, 2009

And now, I'd like to interrupt this . . . cake

Poor Kate. Her birthday falls over spring break every year. We're never at home, and she never gets a "normal" birthday cake.

This year, when we were still on vacation, and after a rather dismal attempt at birthday cake disguised in the form of Costco pound cake, I promised her that I would make her a cake from scratch when we got home.

She requested a white cake with white frosting, so over the weekend I did my research and decided to make Sara Moulton's Classic White Cake.

Today was the day. I mixed; I stirred; I whipped. I baked. Or, at least I started to bake.

Fifteen minutes into the baking process, something went terribly awry.

With the dog.

Thunder the Wonder Dog was lying on her bed, sleeping peacefully, as I cleaned up the kitchen and my beautiful white cakes-from-scratch were baking in the oven when she suddenly jerked her head up, lurched out of her bed, and started running/stumbling across the kitchen floor. At first I thought her back legs had fallen asleep from lying in her bed, but very soon it was obvious that something was terribly wrong.

She made her way to the living room, struggling all the way, finally falling on the floor. She was drooling, struggling for breath. Within a matter of seconds, I knew she was in trouble, but I didn't know what to do. She needed to get to the vet, but she couldn't walk, and I couldn't lift her to get her into the car.

I tried calling B in his office. He always knows what to do.

No answer.

After a few frantic minutes, calling a couple of other people for help, I tried B again, this time on his cell phone.

He answered this time. At this point I was hysterical.

"WHERE ARE YOU?! I mean, you don't have to come home or anything, but SOMETHING IS REALLY WRONG WITH THUNDER. [Deep breath.] She can't walk, and she's shaking. I need to get her to the vet, but she can't walk. I know you can't do anything, but I just needed to talk to someone. SOMETHING'S REALLY WRONG!!!!"

B, in his ever-calm manner, simply said, "Sounds like she needs to get to the vet. Just try to get her to the vet." (I found out later that he was in a meeting. The woman in his office heard every word I shouted said.)

Ah, yeah. Problem is, she can't walk!

Finally, our dear "dog guy," Rob, and my dear friend, Amy, came over in answer to my hysterical calls to them. Rob is the wonderful man who cares for Thunder when we're out of town. He helped me get her into the car (by this time she could walk again), and Amy just generally calmed me down.

Thunder had a seizure. She's fine now; I'm not so fine.

Not only was I pretty much shaken up this morning, I'm also pretty much worried about myself. I actually cried over my dog today. I called my husband (and my friends) in hysterics. I was out-of-control worried about my dog.

How did this happen to me?!? I'm the farm girl who grew up with 14 dogs in 20 years (and, no, not all at the same time). Needless to say, we never got too attached to our dogs. I'm the insensitive person who actually laughed--LAUGHED!--at her friend in college who cried when her family dog died. I thought she was crazy.

But now I've become the crazy woman who cries hysterically over her sick dog and who actually took her daughter's birthday cake out of the oven in the middle of baking it in order to take the dog to the vet.

Half-baked. I think that's what they call people like me.

Hopefully tomorrow's cake . . . and day . . . will turn out better.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Little Treasures

Since we've been here, B and I and whoever wants to come have been heading down to walk the beach every morning.

This morning as we started out we met a new friend.

One of the cool things about the beach is that every day it's different, depending on the tides and the weather. Here's a sampling of some of the treasures we saw as we walked along this morning.

The weather isn't exactly cooperating, but we don't really mind. We are just enjoying being here in a place we all love.