Friday, November 29, 2013

When Black Friday Comes

Just like last year, and the year before that, and the 20 years before that, due to mama be lazy and looooves her pajamas, we're not part of the Black Friday money saving madness. Throw in my husband's motto that he wears on his Tshirt, *spending to save is still spending* and you'll find all of us at home the day after Thanksgiving. I might go out for strawberries later for French toast, we'll see.

Crazy, I know, because who wouldn't want a flat screen TV for every single room in the house? And they're BOGO too??

Because of me staying home the day after Thanksgiving in my well worn mismatched pajamas, sipping on Your Store Brand Here coffee by the steamy mugful, my Value Deal Bing Crosby CD crooning in the background, I'm missing out on a lot, I know:

Like getting my face pepper sprayed for touching someone else's coveted doorbuster Xbox.

Or being trampled underneath while queued up customers duck underneath a lifting store gate.

I could be carried away in a sea of humanity over $2.00 waffle irons.

You could be watching television coverage of me climbing across vats of sweet potatoes to get that video game.

And before you smugly think, Oh, that's only if you go to places like Walmart and Best Buy, there's mosh pits with the hipster crowds at Urban Outfitters, where theft detector devices get trampled down in the insane store opening dash.

Again, this shopping season, we'll be home. Mostly, because shopping season is year round for me and basement shopping over here is like coming upon a really good yard sale somewhere. It's not that we reject the spirit of greed and consumerism, as much as we say No Thank You to the line pushing, and trampling. All that invasion of personal space with strangers, the uncomfortable pressing in on me.  Eeek. 

Time away from being home and cozy, with an extra day in the weekend -- I don't want to spend that day with others. 

Selfish, I know. We just like to be home.

Home, watching on television what goes on in the stores today. You should see the wide-eyed terror in my kids' eyes as they see it all. "Mom? Did that lady just disappear into that crate of long underwear? Two for Ten Dollars?," they ask while wiping away melted butter and warm syrup from their chins.

Yes. She did, honey. And she likes it so much she'll be back again next year.

Repeat after me. Pajamaed legs up on coffee table. Blow across hot coffee. Take steamy sip. Aaaaaah.

* * *    

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

So, What Do We Do Now?

The holidays are a keg of dynamite, aren't they? So much riding on these days, our expectations so high, the media of the world screaming "Make this time be the most important thing of your year!" But what happens, when those that are the biggest thing in our life, aren't there to celebrate with us? Is there any source then, telling us what to do? Seems that's when the barkers disappear.

I'm looking for ideas, things that have worked for you or others, ways that you have found through being baptized by the fire, of making it through the holidays when the ones who mean the holidays to us, are gone.

My post up at Purple Clover today, "The Empty Chairs at The Table."

*Thank you for reading, I've said it before, and I think it more times than you'll ever know, but I am grateful for you.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

We Drive a Different Kind of Bus

*Transcribed as I sat nonchalantly next to littlest on the sofa, listening, as he had his ear buds in, his iPod on, and sang away to his favorite song -- with no idea what mama was taking notes about.
_ _ _ 

I've never seen diamonds in the flesh
I cut my teeth on wedding rings
in the moon beams
And I'm not proud of how I dress,
In a torn-up gown
no post re-entry

But every song's like goatees, grey boots, trippin' in the bathroom
Mud stains, ball downs, trash in the hotel room,
We don't care, we're driving Cadillacs in the streets.
And everybody's like crystals, may bells, diamonds on your time peas.
Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leaf.
We don't care, we aren't cut up in your lovin' fair.

And we'll never be royals (royals).
It don't run in our blood,
That kind of luck just ain't for us.
We drive a different kind of bus.
Let me be your ruler (ruler),
You can call me Clean Beat
And baby I'll rule, I'll rule, I'll rule, I'll rule.
Let me lift that fan and see...

My friends and I—we've cracked the code.
We count our dollars on the tray to the party.
And everyone who knows us knows that we're fine with this,
We didn't come from money.

Ooh ooh oh
We're bigger than we ever dreamed,
And I'm in love with being mean.
Ooh ooh oh
Life is great without a care
We aren't cut up in your lovin' fair.

And we'll never be royals (royals).
It don't run in our blood
That kind of luck just ain't for us.
We drive a different kind of bus
Let me be your ruler (ruler),
You can call me Clean Beat
And baby I'll rule, I'll rule, I'll rule, I'll rule.
Let me lift that fan and see.....

**Added:  This song is "Royals," by recording artist, Lorde, and it's become Auggie's favorite, on eternal loop on his iPod. He sang along again tonight, so clear and loud with his ear buds in, with his own lyrics. The original words to the song are good, but Auggie's are far, far better. Next time, I'm going to tape, because I love Auggie's version so much more.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Fancy Feet

"In 1998 I was an active young woman looking forward to all the possibilities life had to offer. That all changed when my car was struck by a reckless driver going more than 60 mph. The car crash resulted in a battle for my life that would involve two weeks in a coma, seven months in the BCPFF Burn and Plastic Surgery Unit at Vancouver General Hospital, losing my best friend, and both my legs..."

This is how the story of Heidi Cave, author of Fancy Feet, begins. 

We spend so much time on the internet, that we skim past people's words, looking for that one word or phrase that jumps out and sums it all up for us. Heidi's work makes us stop, and read every single word of this incredible time in her life: Struck by a car going 60 miles per hour. Two weeks in a coma. Seven months in a burn unit. Losing her best friend. Losing her legs. Think on every one of those phrases. Now, imagine yourself surviving that, at 23 years old.

Her story tells us just that, how a young girl finds the strength within her, to see this through. I received Heidi's book in the afternoon mail, and I began reading it the moment I held it in my hands. I read it an hour before I had to pick up my children from school, then I kept reading it in the school pickup line. I came home and quickly started dinner, and kept reading while the potatoes boiled. I then read it while waiting for my youngest during soccer practice, and then again once home. Finally, later in bed, I fought sleep to finish it that day.

As I closed the cover on Heidi's book, I wiped tears away with both hands for the beauty of the human spirit: for fighting for yourself, for forgiveness of others, for tirelessly campaigning to embrace what's been given to us, with nothing stopping us. This book is a work of soulful art, and I will be reading it again and gifting it on to friends, to share the hope in Heidi's story.

Heidi Cave is a treasure to anyone who knows her. It's difficult for me to even talk about her work here without a catch in my throat. Read her words, and feel the power of the worth that we can give to ourselves. Astonishingly true in heart, spirit, and ferocious in its ability to capture what she endured -- so we know the strength we have inside. Even when faced with what seems the most impossible: forgiveness.

Fancy Feet is available through Amazon

But I am also giving away a copy here, because I believe the power of Heidi's story will help someone else to find that source of strength we all have inside -- even when we feel we don't.

We are amazing.

Please leave a comment here to enter.

"What should have been the darkest chapter of her life became a bright testament to the strength of the human spirit."
* * *

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Things I'm Not Going To Do

Facebook, twitter, blogs, radio, TV, things go crazy on there sometimes. I don't know why the world thinks they need to tell us what to do. As long as I'm not harming anyone, then I think the fact that I'm not realizing my potential is no one else's business but mine.

There were some things shouted out to me this week, that no matter how loud, how in bold letters you type, how many automatic set to tweet every four hours, I'm just not going to do.

Things like this:

--Rainbow loom is making our children obese and cross-eyed! Get them off rainbow loom! No. I won't. He loves it.

--Only Five Thursdays until Christmas! You need to shop and buy everything now and spend money, it's the only way to show how important they are to you! No. Not gonna happen. I prefer the excitement of the last minute and my kids really check out if there's too many gifts. They do.

--Make sure your Thanksgiving is perfect. Order your holiday dinner from us by November 19. Better than home-made! Again, I like the race against the clock and cranberries bubbling in sugar leaving a sticky mess behind on my stove for me to clean up later at 3 a.m. It makes me smile. 

--Over age 45, a woman needs an hour of exercise a day, half an hour of stretching, and an hour being outside. You also need to schedule weekly spa care for facial treatments. I can do the exercise, some stretching, and being outside, probably for an hour total, for all three. The weekly facial treatments? That's some serious spa time. We'll revisit when it becomes dire.

--Make time for date night every week, coffee time with friends every week, game night with your children every week, volunteer at your children's school every week, and don't forget gramma! I want to do all these things, but not at the cost of an already overburdened schedule. I will do what I can, but I work. But when I do any of the above, I'll be in the moment, and not just ticking the time together off the weekly checklist while I hold my phone in my hand the whole time.

--Your children need to be ready for our ever changing world! Tell them about all that lurks out there, it's better if they know! This is something that every home determines on their own. We know our children best. I will share with them information in the way I know they'll understand. I prefer they hear from me first, but I know, sometimes that doesn't happen.

--Technology changes every day! If you want your children to be accepted into the best colleges and to get the best grades now, they need all the electronic devices out there. Also, you don't want them to feel different from others, do you? Eh, maybe. I don't know. We do okay here without smartphones, they like their iPods and my iPad.... really, I think they'll be fine. I still read to them, so there's that.

--Remove all food dyes, food additives, non organic food sources, canned foods, frozen foods, foods with artificial ingredients or GMO's from your family kitchen. This is half useful. We have food allergies in our home, and food dyes and some food additives bring on symptoms. I am a food label reader but, I've also seen how some children in homes with a no to a lot of what other kids have, go crazy when not around their parents. This past summer, I brought boxes of Popsicles to a picnic, and there was a little boy there who ripped the white sleeve of a frozen treat open every two minutes, saying out loud, "We can't have food dyes at home!" He must have had ten, I swear.

-- If you love your spouse, then you'll buy them one of our beautiful jewelry pieces this holiday season, prices starting at only $1999.00. But hurry! I'd rather have someone be kind to me on a daily basis, than pop in with diamond necklaces in the month of December. Just be nice to each other, all the time, that's the precious jewel you can give them.

--Watch Scandal! Watch Homeland! Watch Revenge! Watch Vampire Diaries! Watch the shows! How am I supposed to watch all these shows and have date night and get facial treatments and exercise for an hour and still get at least six hours of sleep?? We watch Amazing Race and Undercover Boss together. I always cry. On my own, I'll eat lunch while watching Modern Family because I love Gloria.

And besides, if I want to know what's going on with these other shows, I just have to follow along with that week's media shouting on FB, twitter, radio, TV....

The Master Rainbow Loom Maker: Still eagle-eyed and you can't pinch an inch...

 * * *

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Voices Carry

It has been a year of significance. There have been lightning rods thrust down from stormy skies, as well as silver-plattered moments handed to me by angels.

I'll need to list the upheavals and climbs to the mountain tops before the year is out.

For now, let me share with you the exciting news that a project I've kept to myself has finally come to life. The publication of:

November 6, 2013

Book Description

The eleven writers featured here, in this inaugural collection of personal essays, are the Lena Dunhams of our generation — a little older, possibly a little wiser, certainly more experienced and generally less inclined to parade around naked. The essays — taken from our site's popular Voices series — covers everything from finding love in midlife to the joys and heartbreak of adoption to a longtime married couple navigating the shoals of their new stay-at-home status to a bold journey of intimate reawakening. Collectively, they reflect the emotional truth of how we live today. (available on amazon. com)

Product Details

  • File Size: 888 KB
  • Print Length: 43 pages
  • Publisher: Purple Clover (November 6, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
* * *
Thank you to all of you, who have supported me with your kind words here, I am proud to be included in this collection. 

You have cared about me and carried me through this very difficult year. There is some silver lining to 2013, and without a doubt, I never would have ventured any of these endeavors, without your comments encouraging me. I thank you so much, and am appreciative that I have you to share the good things in my life.

*This collection of essays is live now on amazon. com*

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

8 Steps to Start Writing

Writers are called writers because they write.

To become a writer, one must write.


Not send tweets out about what sweater you're wearing or update your status on FB about what you added to your oatmeal that morning that made it so out of this world. Not bounce back between email and gmail in case you get a good email. Not check your phone for texts from someone fun.

Thank the heavens above I haven't signed up to do the nasty with Pinterest yet.

So, say I want to write and do the writing part about being a writer, but I just can't keep that butt of mine down in the chair.

What can I do to get those words down on the paper, so to speak??

I've come up with a list of  8 Steps to Start Writing   Hoping it helps me, maybe it'll help you too:

  1. Step one: You need to tell yourself exactly what to do and how to do it, like this: 1.) Sit down 2.) Put fingers on keys 3.) Type out what you’re saying out loud 4.) No going pee or eating food until you have a blog post done.
  2. Get some fresh air. Take a walk or go for a drive before you sit down. Stepping inside a computer to live is too much like a Twilight Zone episode. Have a life off the internet so you have something to talk about when you do try to stick your head into that little blue screen again.
  3. Keep a notebook, papers, voice recorders, pens, pencils, McDonald's napkins, anything handy so you can write down notes all day long. Then go home and tape these notes up all around your computer screen. Others may look at this post-it note fiasco and think Beautiful Mind but you know what it really says: I am a writer.
  4. Commit a writer’s mantra to memory and begin your day with it. You is Kind, You is Smart, You is Important is an awesome one. Look what it did for Emma Stone. She grew up to date Spiderman.
  5. Get some fake plastic sexy librarian glasses. Look in the mirror. Say, “Damn, I look like a writerwoman.”
  6. Sit down for two minutes and breathe in deep a few times. Nod your head like you’re a conductor ready to direct your orchestra. Look up at the screen, poise your fingers over the keys. Crack neck back and forth, now get up and go to the bathroom, have a snack, drink some soda, look out the window, pull out your phone and look at it, go to the bathroom, stalk Deb Rox's FB page, check Uppoppedafox's twitter stream, then come back and sit down for two minutes. Breathe in deep a few times. Nod your head like you're a conductor ready to...
  7.  Run to Goodwill. Buy a brown cardigan. Call it your writerwoman sweater. Wear it with your writerwoman glasses. See if the double action works.  And finally... 
  8. Sit at the keyboard and tap a key. Smile at the thought that you get to sit and zen in the world of words. Feel how much you love this shit. Scare the bejeebies out of yourself that you might forget how to write and you want to always be writing so to be  a writer, you have to write so you get down to it. Pound out fastest blog posts in history.
It’s what writers do.

* * *

Sunday, November 10, 2013

It's Not The Way You See It

It's all in how you think about it. And in how you see it.

That's something we have to change, if we don't... what will be left for others to remember us by?

My mother did not like having pictures taken of herself as she got older. Read a FB update or listen to people as they look at pictures of themselves, and you'll hear, "I hate pictures of myself!"

Here's some reassurance from me; trust me, people don't see what you see, when they look at pictures of you.

Want to know what they do see? It's all here, in my column this week, on Purple Clover.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Milwaukee's Back!

The Listen To Your Mother Show, a nationally acclaimed live reading series in celebration of Mother's Day founded by Ann Imig of annsrants, has just released its list of cities hosting LTYM shows in 2014.

There are 32 shows participating this year and I am honored to announce that Jennifer Gaskell and I are once again proudly bringing LTYM to Milwaukee!

For full show travel schedule and to see if there is an LTYM show near you, click here.

Watch this site for details and follow Listen To Your Mother on Facebook and twitter for other announcements. To whet your appetite for what 2014 will bring you, watch last year's shows on LTYM's youtube channel

You all know, these shows are amazing. If you have a chance to see one, don't miss it. You'll be talking about it until you see the show again the next year.


The mission of each LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER production is to take the audience on a well-crafted journey that celebrates and validates mothering through giving voice to motherhood–in all of its complexity, diversity, and humor.
LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER aims to support motherhood creatively through artistic expression, and also financially–through contributions to non-profit organizations supporting families in need.

  LTYM Milwaukee's own Rebecca Christman reading in LTYM 2013 (we are so FREAKIN' proud)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Bat Boy For a Day

This has been circulating on twitter and Facebook. And every time I see it, I have to click over to read it again.

It's so beautiful, because it's dreams, fantasy, having things become real when they're surreal.

On November 15, San Francisco is going to turn itself into Gotham City and give a special, little little boy, a day that will long and forever remind him of magic, and the magic of people.

Though there are clips all over, I love this one from ABCNews, Bat Boy For a Day.

For a full schedule of his day, and details on how you can be a volunteer, go here. 

Will you have tears? Yes, you will. But in a glorious twinkly eyed way.

* Come join the Make-A-Wish Foundation for a fun-filled day of everything Batman as San Francisco becomes Gotham City on November 15, 2013.

* * *

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Mayhem in Six Minutes, or Before You Pick Up That Glow Stick

We were driving home from my youngest's soccer game on Sunday, when NPR's This American Life had us all shushing each other to catch the story that Ira Glass introduced with, "... when things go wrong. Really wrong. When you leave the normal realm of human error, fumble, mishap, and mistake and enter the territory of really huge breakdowns. Fiascos. Things go so awry that normal social order collapses. This week's show is a philosophical inquiry in the nature of fiascos —  when something simple and small turns horribly large."

Hooked, line and sinker, into the stories, we didn't go straight home but instead drove around so that we could hear the things we knew we would relate to so well. The fiasco, when in the snap of a finger, things go out of control and all moments become ones of no sense.

Halfway through the 60-minute show, I turned the radio volume down and shaking my head, I asked, "Do you all remember our fiasco??"

Today's theme: Fiasco.

It had been a quiet evening home, not a sound in the house, I was on the computer and my oldest, Alec, was on the sofa reading. The youngest, Auggie, was upstairs with the middle boy, Xavier; I assumed playing video games.

In the middle of this peace, I hear a shriek, then guttural cries, then screaming of OH MY GOD! Tripping over my chair, visual images flashed before my eyes of broken glass, even though I didn't hear anything shatter. Glass glass glass is all I can imagine -- one of my boys falling through the glass shower door. What else could it be? My oldest was pushing me out of the way to get ahead of me, shouting as he hurled over the steps, "We had a paramedic come in once last year in junior year! I know what to do!" Meant to make me feel better, I'm sure. But the scene we had here was our legs moving as slow as molasses while we heard two boys primally shrieking in the bathroom that had lots of glass shower doors all the way around. And the back of the second floor never seemed so far away.

With both of us pushing the bathroom door open so hard it hit the shower door, my oldest and I see the littlest on the floor, curled up while crying out insanely, covering both his eyes like he's just gotten his hands on a 1959 Home Science Kit where things had gone horribly wrong with sodium sulfate. The middle boy is shouting and hopping like the floor is on fire, his wild eyes tell me he's detaching from reality. I'm shouting above the din, "What the hell happened! Someone tell me what the hell happened!" But no one can answer... it's all, madness.

Fits the criteria for fiasco so far.

Answering my question would have helped so much at this time, but there is only wailing and spasms and more rolling on the floor. My mind is racing as I check the horrible possibilities. Did he drink mouthwash? Did he think it would be fun to spritz my Guess perfume into his  mouth? Did my middle boy lose his temper and hurt the little one? Did they hurt each other. But there are no answers, just sounds like an injured coyote.

I grab the middlest and through gritted teeth command TELL ME WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED! He answers me with I don't knows I don't knows. I keep shaking his shoulders, he keeps giving me more I don't knows.

It's clear now, Fiasco, and we are in the thick of it.

The oldest boy's voice suddenly grows 50 octaves deeper and pierces the wails, TELL MOM YOU GUYS! and adds the first ever heard to my ears from him, swear words. He's been spending some time with the masters, that much is clear. But despite the swears, no one snaps into shape. There's just more out of body cries, screams. The level of pandemonium and freakedoutness cannot be imagined. There are bodies tripping over each other and legs sticking up in the air and so much yelling. I am starting to see dark spots before my eyes like you see right before you pass out from hyperventilating. Oh my God. FIASCO.

The only action I can think to take is threat level orange (no sense, I know) "If you don't tell me what happened I'll call 911!"

Even louder screaming erupts, but I need clarification, damnit. I demand from middlest, "Did you hit him? And why are you screaming? Did you both touch electricity with wet hands?" (don't ask, I didn't know what my brain was sending out of my mouth at this time.)

Finally, littlest screeches between slobbery gasps, "I crack-opened a glow stick! And now I'm blind! I'm blind with pain and squishing my eyes so tight from THE PAIN!"

The room starts to spin, "YOU'RE BLIND?? You mean you really can't see?? OH MY GOD!!"

I turn to middlest, "Why are you screaming? Are you blind, too? Did you both get juice on you? How many are hurt? Where did the rest of the juice go??" because the first rule of a Fiasco situation is that all victims are accounted for.

He answers, "I'm screaming because there's microscopic GLASS crystals in there and he's blind! That's how they work, right? The crystals are glass and they glow and OH MY GOD it EXPLODED in his eyes!"

What? Glass? What? Did they say glass? SHIT. I knew it, Glass, I saw it in my visions! Then, more frightening shrieks from littlest, "Is it going to seep behind my eyes -- the glass liquid juice -- will the glass cut my brain?? Noooooooooooooo!"

Full on and out of control twilight zone fiasco. Screaming, fear of blindness, claims of impending death due to pain F.I.A.S.C.O. Along with hints of glass shards. GLASS.

Reality of what's happening starts to unfold in my mind, I need to get busy. I push youngest into the shower over everyone's body parts and I corral him under the water, shouting "Keep your eyes wide open and stare into that shower head and rinse it all out. RINSE ALL THE GLOW STUFF OUT! Just like in Clockwork Orange!"

"Like what, mom?"

"Never mind. Shit. Alec, you stay with him, Xavier, you tell me what happened! Auggie, stay in that shower!"

Xavier stammers out, "We were in here where it's dark so we could see the glow necklace and h-h-h-h-he snapped it like you're supposed to to activate it but it opened and..."

"And the glop shot straight to my EYES!" I hear littlest from inside the decontamination unit. "Like it was AIMING for my eyes -- AIMING! *gurglegurgle* and I didn't even have my hands near my face to shield my eyes and the juice shot straight to my EYES! Am I going to be blind? I don't want to be blind! I don't want to be blind, mama!,'' his little boy water filled cries echo in the stall and break my heart.

I fly down the stairs and start banging at the computer. I don't know what to google first.
  • "Death by glow juice."
  • "Blindness by glow juice."
  • "Is glow juice dangerous."
  • "What to do with glow juice explosion."

I frantically settle on the ugliest: "Will my baby be blind."

My fingers are tripping over each other on the keyboard. Yahoo! has an entire page of "Help! Glow Juice in eyes!" As I start skimming through the entries, I slowly start breathing again. They all gloriously say the same thing: "Hurts like a mofo, stings, but no death." "Happened to me at a Rave. No blindness, dood." "You'll be all right. Just sucks, especially if you're high."

I head back upstairs with the good news, still wobbly legged, but able to breathe, finally. "He's okay!," I manage to eke out. "You're okay, honey!"

Only then do I begin to hear my oldest son's voice booming above the pounding of the shower water, "MOM! I said, STOP. GOOGLING. I know so many kids that have gotten glow juice in their eyes at parties and dances. It's safe. He won't be blind. MOM!"

"What? Why didn't you tell me?" I'm in the bathroom now and begin yelling again.

"Secrets. And anyway I was shouting but you wouldn't listen! I said OMG STOP GOOGLING MOM. I told you I know someone, kids at dances. Even hand sanitizer in their eyes. He'll be okay."

"Hand sanitizer?"

"Yeah, just throwing that out there."

Fiasco confirmed.

Letting out a relieved sigh, I turn to the middlest, who was screaming louder than the littlest during the peak of the mayhem. "What were you so crazy about?"

He gasps a deep breath as if he's just broken through the surface of the Pacific Ocean, "Auggie was cracking a glow stick to get it to work and I was sitting by him and then he started screaming so I looked and he was covering his eyes and there was glow juice all over the floor and he was crumpled on the floor covering his eyes and then I started screaming too because it's Made in China and he was covering his eyes and who knows if glow juice is like those dog tag necklaces you never let us wear because they're Made in China and have lead in them and I thought he had sizzled out his eyes 'cause he was covering them and obviously in my panic, not realizing no one, not even China, would put things on the market that cause blindness as a child's toy. But you said, Mom, you said cheap products from party store catalogs like those petrolatum filled orbs, though they are cool and a fun time, are dangerous and carcinogenic. So, yeah, I started screaming and running around and I was worried Auggie's eyes were in dangerrrrrrrrr."

Oh, yes, Fiasco. With a capital effin' F.

From start to finish, the Glow Stick Fiasco probably only took six minutes, but enough time for lessons to be learned. Open the glow stick behind one's back from now on. My son has become the finger wagging community educator on Glow Stick Cracking. Yes, my fourth grade friends, this could happen to you.

Surviving a fiasco: unified by the sense of relief, that though things got crazy, we're all thankfully okay. A true fiasco, where all social structure and reason for resultant actions breaks down and the moments within, make no sense. Running around like chickens with our heads cut off, or at least our retinas day-glowed.

Ira? Pick up the phone, I've got a good one for you.
* * *

Friday, November 1, 2013

Ready for Air

Through visiting here, many of you have learned about me through the stories I tell on my blog. Mostly humorous, with the shift lately to heartfelt pieces from the loss of my mother and my nephew this year. It's been a heart breaking year... when I look at how I've kept going, it makes me take stock and  realize, I am stronger than I think.

Sometimes, we just want to forget something happened. But that doesn't help anyone. Thank you to Kate Hopper and her book Ready for Air, for taking me back to a place where re-examination sheds the light needed to understand seasons in life, and how we survive. I've weathered much, some episodes in my life loom larger than others. And some, so significant that words are inadequate.

Like the birth of my children, all three, truly joyous occasions, but not playing out the way I had fantasized.

Being a mother is something I have wanted for as long as I remember, and when I was pregnant with my first child I was floating on air. I imagined baby showers thrown by my friends, coming home with a baby to a nursery lovingly set up by my husband. What I had never imagined was going into pre-term labor at 31 and a half weeks due to pre-eclampsia and delivering a baby that was not a "take home" baby. For this to happen two more times with my other two children, is something I especially didn't expect.

All three of my children were born early and stayed in the hospital's NICU. When your dreams are as opposite from reality as you can imagine, it's an isolating experience. You are caught so off guard and things move so fast, because the situation is dire. Action has to be taken fast and you have no time to celebrate, send out announcements, set up a nursery before hand, rally troops or resources to your side. Life, so frail, from minute to minute, becomes a strategy of survival -- and there is no room for the romantic. You're not prepared, not mentally nor physically, and neither is your home. This is life when you have a baby that is premature and in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit). When you do come home, it is with a baby smaller than most, and attached to apnea wires and a monitor. Other mothers are jarred awake by their newborn's robust cries, while you sleep lighter than you ever have, one ear open for the beeping alert of an EKG lead.

I needed to push those memories far away, and thought I had, until I finished reading Ready for Air: A Journey Through Premature Motherhood, a book I sank into cathartically. Authored by Kate Hopper, Ready for Air is about Kate's thrust into motherhood, delivering early due to health complications, and the uncertainty that goes with delivering a premature baby. The morning I received the email from Kate asking me if I would host a giveaway for her book about premature birth and NICU I sat, stunned. This was such a long ago story from my life... one I purposely had stopped thinking about, because those were times heavy with fear, desperate prayer, and cautious hope for a new baby's survival. I relived it through Kate's book, and I had to --so that those days didn't hold darkness for me anymore. Seeing what I lived through, made me see myself as a hero.

What made those times the most difficult of my life -- beyond the obvious fear of losing your child, or survival with permanent life-altering conditions -- was the aloneness and abruptness of it all. To be ripped from one day of eagerly anticipated motherhood, to the solemn, unable to speak clench of the touch and go of the days with a baby in NICU, where you see other mothers who delivered around you taking their babies home, and you wait, alone in your hospital room. Though your mind tells you skilled hands are caring for your baby, all your heart knows is that they're other hands, not your hands.

It was this very plunge back into those challenging days, that made me say yes, I would be honored to review Kate Hopper's book, and help to get a copy of Ready for Air to mothers, with premies or not. Ready for Air is a story of survival, one that can be told, passed on, shared, so that our survival stories can be heard by those that need to hear them; that's how we see how much we've survived along the way. Reading Kate's book helped me look at those days differently. When we finally were home with Alec, Xavier, and Auggie, I just wanted to shut and lock the door tight behind us. We were home, and they were with me, and that's all I wanted to know. But healing means understanding, and Kate is the one who took me by the hand and had me look under the bed, saying, "See? No monsters."

I know Kate's words would bring that much needed thread of hope, when everything seems to be unraveling. Kate's book is a balm to mothers living through the twists and turns of a sudden premature birth, and has the potential to be an NICU staple. The pages offer a look into what life in this season is like, so that others can be a support system. Friends and family want to help, and Kate provides understanding and insight for them. Her words of experience have the power to pull anyone stumbling through the unending days of NICU. Mothers, fathers, families in the isolation and emotional not-knowing of premie days, will find a place of trust in these chapters.

We are braver and stronger than we know, but how comforting to have a mother lighting the path ahead for us, on a trail she's blazed before, turning around and offering us her lamp, whispering with encouragement and assurance, "Here, find yourself in my words, let me walk with you and take each tentative step through these long days and nights with you. You have me and I know, I know, just how very hard it is to step into uncertainty." This is why Kate wrote Ready for Air, because she remembers the path when it was dark and long, and those that shone a light ahead for her.

Thank you, Kate, for your love, and for your work, you will be that message of hope and understanding that so many need when a birth comes too early, but a parents' love, never not ready.

Kate has generously provided a copy of Ready for Air to each blog to go to a reader and is also asking blog readers to suggest NICUs that they would like a copy sent to. 15 winning NICUs will be chosen at the end of the tour to have signed books sent to them. 
*Please leave a comment on Kate's blog, Motherhood and Words, if you'd like a copy of Kate's book, as well as the name of a hospital NICU, that you'd like to enter in Kate's giveaway.

Kate Hopper is the author of Ready for Air: A Journey Through Premature Motherhood and Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers. Kate holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Minnesota and has been the recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship, a Minnesota State Arts Board Grant, and a Sustainable Arts Grant. Her writing has appeared in a number of journals, including BrevityLiterary Mama, Poets & Writers, and The New York Times online. She is an editor at Literary Mama. She teaches online and at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. For more information about Kate’s writing and teaching, visit find out more about Kate, visit her blog Motherhood and Words, follow her on Facebook and Twitter and, of course, buy Ready for Air.



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