Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Art of Being Human

Last Tuesday, I sat at a funeral for one of my friends from college.

It was as heartbreaking as it sounds.
Back in college, we were a group of eight. My friend was not on the outskirts of this group, but at the core. Even within our own small circle we knew then what a gift of friendship we had in him. You would have liked him instantly, because he made you feel liked first. Laughter was easy for him, appreciation of a witty remark was a joy to him, and you were his friend from the first time he shook your hand. 
We had seen each other steadily through our four years in college since we shared the same network of friends. I worked at the campus bar along with his classmate, and we crossed into each other's lives again when coincidentally I was roommates with his college girlfriend. After graduation we fell out of touch, but in a moment of serendipity eight years ago, I saw him once more.
It was toward the end of the school year, I was outside of the school's main entrance waiting for my children at pick up time, and I saw his six foot frame from around the corner. I opened my mouth when I recognized him. He looked the same. I rushed over, and from ten feet away, I heard his laugh. We had crossed paths once more. I told him I was there for my children, he said he was there for his daughter and our eyes danced back and forth as we asked about the people we had known decades ago. Our voices were filled with the familiar rise and fall of two people who share countless memories. I wondered if Crazy Becky was still crazy, and asked if William had married his girlfriend of ten years. We leaned in and said, "Remember that trip we made to the horse track? When we actually won on wild bets?!" Stories flew between us, of too many trips to Madison in too small of a car. Since then, we saw each other almost daily for the next eight years.
When he fell ill late last year, I was able to hear how he was doing through school. Not wanting to intrude on this private time with his family, I asked about him through acquaintances. When I received the startling email this weekend that he had passed away on Sunday, tears caught in my throat. The weight of loss sat in my chest like a brick. I thought of his wife, his daughter, and the good person we no longer had on this earth.
He was one of the good guys.
All of this was so hard to grasp at Tuesday's funeral.  I sat among his friends and family, and I know that not a one of us could understand how we came to be here, for this - for him today. I wanted to sing along to the hymns his family had chosen for him, but the ache in my throat stopped me.
The weather on Tuesday was befitting him. Unseasonably bright blue skies and temperatures warm enough to need no jacket. In front of the church sat his car, the one we had taken to Madison. As the numbers of us stood outside waiting to enter church, our lines spilled out of the church, down the length of the block, then carried into the parking lot across the street.
Every person who came, standing under a glorious blue sky, was here because of him. 
He touched so many lives. We all were here, hoping to take what we had in our hearts for him and share with his wife and daughter -- somehow wishing our love for him would hold them up that day.  Around us, you heard the same words murmured, "He was one of the kindest people you'd ever meet."
When you think of someone and feel deeply grateful to have known them -- that is a person who excelled in the art of being human. And that was my friend.
His greatest gift was never holding back emotion -- when he felt a good, hard laugh coming on, he let it go. When he saw you, he hugged you with both arms, lifting you off the ground. The first thing he would say to someone when he was them, was their name. That was all, but in those syllables, you heard Hello, How are you, and louder than anything, I'm happy to see you. 
The only way you could walk away after seeing him, was with a smile and a warm heart.
We will miss you, my dear friend. The sky now shines brighter with you there among its stars.
“Sometimes people are beautiful.
 Not in looks.
Not in what they say.
Just in what they are.”
~Markus Zusak, I Am the Messenger
I wish you peace, light, and love, my friend. I wish you our hearts full of love to accompany you on your journey to your new home now. May the memory of seeing all of us who came to say goodbye to you comfort your wife and child. May they remember our eyes as we spoke to them about you, may they carry our stories of how you excelled so on this Earth. May they never forget how not even a church was big enough to hold the number of people who came to tell you, Thank you, I am so glad I knew you.  
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Thursday, May 28, 2015

13 Things to Never Say to an Older Woman with Curly Hair

A post inspired by one of my favorite bloggers, DudeMom, and her love for her Curls.

 1.  "Wow, with that hair, kinda sad that look is just for under 40, you know?"

2.  "I'd kill for your hair, if I were younger."

3.  "Sure you can pull it off. But, me? I think I would chop it off after 40."

4.  "Life is like that -- you have this great hair but I guess we're lucky we don't care what we look like anymore."

5.   "Too bad that pretty curly hair is wasted on us as we age."

6.  "This humid weather could make your curly hair look awesome, instead of just looking like Seth Rogen."

7.  "At least you don't have to worry about frizzing up. People don't really care what you look like so much."

8.  "You could put bobby pins in it, or hairspray it down, a big barrette, maybe?  -- when it gets hot and sticky like today."

9.  "Best to just wear it short, you know, nice and tight to the head when it starts to curl up around the forehead like that, don't you think?."

10.  "Someone screwed up when they handed out the curls without an expiration date!"

11.  "Wow. Your hair really curls up after exercise, doesn't it? Like a little half afro thingy." 

12.  "It's kind of like you almost could do it, I mean, you know, aging, but you gotta be avant garde for curly hair when you're older."

13.  "Only curls? Oh, well, at least when you want a hairstyle, you've got one right there. Of course, the idea of ringlets is out, because you know, age and all..."

You may wonder after this list, Well, what CAN I say to an older woman who has curls?
This works, "Your hair is beautiful."

Totally acceptable. Even if curl-envy (oh, it's a thing) whispers in your ear to say otherwise.
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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Kindness Wins


When you do something, and when you're given an opportunity and a privilege, you are responsible for your action.

Doing the right thing and acting the right way is easier when we understand the why of it. Why do we have to think of others? Why are we responsible for the effect our actions may have on others?

In this exploding world of the internet, our children enter ill prepared. This is the first generation of children navigating in a land where we as caretakers are learning along with them. I liken it to tossing car keys to someone who's never driven before.

We have the chance to do things right with the help of a newly released resource guide to kids being online. Kindness Wins is an amazing handbook written by Galit Breen. Her work has been to provide the door to discussion with our children before they begin leaving their digital handprint. This 112 page book is tightly compacted to lead the way to frank communication and illuminating circumstances on how what we do and say online has an impact on all who see it. Talking about moral and social responsibility on the internet can't be left to chance. With author Galit Breen's wise and insightful lessons, we've got a friend at the helm. 

It is overwhelming to learn all the social media that is available to our children. And even if we ourselves become students of youtube tutorials of the step by step how to instagram, how to facebook, how to snapchat, how to tweet, we still have no resource on the social expectation of our behavior in the internet, and more importantly, the boundaries.

Galit Breen has completed an outstanding MUST HAVE guide to leading our children through the cyberworld. Kindness Wins is being talked about in parenting circles, guidance counselor offices, teacher's lounges, because we are realizing how vital our role as adult is when it comes to opening the door to the internet for our children.

Kindness Wins covers essential topics and provides steps to discuss why we post, what we post, who sees what we post, who has access to information on our lives, and what we owe to others.

Filled with compassion, wisdom, lessons learned, and an eye to the good that social media can bring into our lives, Kindness Wins is a refreshing manual – no more warnings or caveats or horror stories. Instead we have encouragement and a confidante who is lighting the path ahead for you – so that you can light it ahead for your children as you teach them to travel online.

Galit Breen was a classroom and reading teacher for ten years. She has a master's degree in education and a bachelor's degree in human development. She has been published in Brain, Child, The Huffington Post, TIME, and xoJane. She lives in Minnesota with her husband, three children, and a ridiculously spoiled miniature golden doodle. You can learn more about Galit by visiting her website TheseLittleWaves. com Click here to order your copies of Kindness Wins.

* For a chance to win Kindness Wins, please leave a comment below! *

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Monday, May 25, 2015

Unknown But To God

Here Rests In
Honored Glory
An American Soldier
Known But To God

"Tomb of the Unknowns, with U.S. Navy sailor and woman, May 1943" by John Collier, FSA/OWI - This image is available from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID fsac.1a34525.Commons:Licensing Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Summer Reading Picks for Kids, as Picked by a Kid

Auggie has put together a Must Read Books for Kids List, just in time for summer. His opinion is that, "The books here are for ages 12 and up, definitely." All are available at your library. Enjoy! Enjoy!

Hi. This is Auggie. I have a list of books for your kids for this summer. These are the ones I loved best but I have about ten more you can read and I can tell you about if you have a kid that loves to read. The books here are really good and I didn't want them to end. I hope your kids like them like I did but your kids should be in 6th grade to read them.

The Book of Time (Books 1, 2, and 3) – These are about a boy who finds a mysterious statue in his basement, which lets him travel through time. He finds out his father is prisoner in Dracula's castle, and does everything he can to figure out how to get there, and get him out. If your kid loves history and culture, they will love this. It is a trilogy. Every book tells you more secrets and they're really good for reading aloud. It is an adventure and mystery and you think you know the answer but you won't.

The Magisterium Series – There's this kid whose father tells him magic is evil, and he has to stay away no matter what. This makes the kid want to go to magic to find out why. So the kid does everything he can to fail the test that lets you become a wizard. He fails so badly that they end up admitting him anyway. As he learns he starts to realize that maybe magic isn't as bad as he thought it was, he is torn between his father and his new friends. To complete this awesome book is a fantastic plot twist that is such a surprise that it makes the long reading worth it. There are 5 books in the series and will keep you reading all summer.

Percy Jackson Books – These are long enough where they will give you something to do for a while. I like to say they are a pentalogy. It is 5 books. They all have wonderful character development, storyline, and a great balance of action, humor, romance, and fantasy. These include Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Heroes of Olympus, and the Kane Chronicles, all some of my favorites. If you like mythology, you will find all of it here. Greek, Roman, and Egyptian. You get smarter with these books and they are not one bit boring or the kind you skip through.

Any children's books by James Patterson – Usually you can tell if books are for children. But these books are even with pictures like for older kids even if there's a lot of  pictures. The books for kids all have a lovable, but mischievous main character, and you can't help but feel good when it all works out for them in the end because they are not perfect but you love them. They have interesting characters, but still each book is totally different. Perfect for middle school. Includes the Middle School series, Treasure Hunters, House of Robots, I Funny, and Public School Superhero. These books are not serious or make your heart pound but they are for having a good time. (Make sure the ones you get by this author are for children because he writes a lot of books for grown ups)
I hope you like my choices! BYE!
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Friday, May 22, 2015

Summertime, and Soon My Time Will No Longer Be Mine...

You know what's fun? Talking about summer -- what I'll give up, what I'll gain -- on Milwaukee's BEST morning show, The Morning Blend.

Hosted by two of the funniest women on Milwaukee's local TV, Molly Fay and Tiffany Ogle. Click and watch.

Thank you, and come on, summer!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

New Hope for Stopping Nagging

Maybe they won't find me in my blanket tent
Summer vacation is nigh, and along with it our houses will soon be feeling as if they lost square footage in the transition from the school year.

When did our homes become so... cramped.

When did they become so... filled with bodies.

When did it start to feel like... there isn't enough air to breathe.

When did we only... have one pitch level to our voice and that of siren.

The answer to that is right about the time you stepped on water bottles left to roll on the ground, popped up Pringles canisters jabbing at the arch of your foot, and plates caked with cinnamon roll frosting discovered the next week when you're vacuuming.

By Day Four of Beautiful Summer Vacation, I am screaming. It's the visual assault of *The Things*, they are everywhere. And I'm not just talking about the kids.

How do I stop my screeching nagging?

There is good news, friends! Researchers at MamaLlama Resource Center (totally made up), also known as the makers of Mama Relax! tea and herbal supplements, have uncovered a new way to sedate reduce that trigger wail response of It's All Too Much.

There is a substance that will coat and soothe those frayed neuron receptors. The very ones that sway back and forth and take over your brain, making you scream Pick that up! And That over there too!
The answer is simple: Want to save your summer? Then...

 Invest in a warehouse size box of chocolate.

The size that requires a teenager to carry it out to your car. This substance will jump-start the relax response and interrupt the connection from eyes to brain to tongue. You won't see the things, you won't be able to scream about the things, you will feel so good while chocolate drool is oozing out of both corners of your mouth that researchers know their work will lead to a new conditioned response.

One that can save summer vacation and be used to develop positive memories of time spent together for every member of the household. *slurp*

For best results, chocolate must be shoved into mouth by the handful so that you can't close your lips. No dainty eating because this is the real deal that needs to go down.
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Saturday, May 16, 2015

When You Parent Teens

Brain, Child doesn’t claim to have all the answers. And we won’t offer just one view on how to parent. We might pose questions. Or talk about a topic that identifies with some but not others. But our hope is for ongoing dialogue; and to learn together.
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There are a few sites on the internet that consistently leave me grateful I have found them. One of these is Brain, Child Magazine . With writing on topics that sometimes I didn't even know were just what I needed to read.

Long admiring the work that that has been contributed there, I am now proud to say that I am published on their pages. This month's teen issue asks the Big Question: Can we be friends with our teens?

I'd love it if you click over to Brain, Child and see what I think, and why.

As always, I am grateful for your support of my writing elsewhere.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Music That Made Me

This week’s Rolling Stone has a cover story called “The Songs That Made Me” in which artists share six or eight songs that had influence in their lives. They’re not always what you’d expect, but when the answers given were honest ones versus choices made to impress, it's a beautiful peek into what someone is like.

When Nancy of midlife mixtape invited me to join in on a “The Music That Made Me” blog hop, it took all of two seconds for me to say yes.

I mean, music? Me and music? My thought bubbles are lyrics. All day long it's “We Got the Beat” as I run around getting everyone out in the morning, and then if I happen to be driving through anxiety-inducing heavy rain it's “Climb Every Mountain!” When I try on shorts for summer, I can't stop myself from humming “Impossible! For a plain yellow pumpkin to become a golden carriage!”

But when I sat down to whip out what I thought would be ten minutes of song titles, morphed into a tortured afternoon of hair-pulling crises: The question posed is “Songs that MADE me” not “Songs I LIKE.”

That pondering right there, is worth six pages of journal writing.

Songs that made me requires me to look a long ways back. Like through a tunnel of time that has me running past Merlin and George Washington and Attila the Hun.

Growing up with three older siblings means I was around music very early, the in kind. There was a hot beat always on the car radio or on the record player going in the basement. So, even if I'm not a fan of certain types of music, they may still  be a large part of my life, because of their presence.
This is what forces me to say that anything by the Beatles is part of The Music That Made Me. Especially from the Rubber Soul album.

1. Michelle,” The Beatles
I was so young when I first heard this, but the power of feeling moved by music was something that made me ache. So beautiful, so classic, so easy to sing to. Self-soothing and cured whatever addled my poor psyche. This is an important feature, when you've always been a nervous lap dog.

2. "Ground Control to Major Tom,” David Bowie
First released in 1969, I didn't hear it until I began to, as my therapist said, “individuate myself from my family of origin.” So, it was the beginning of my teen years and while up late one night watching Don Kershner's Midnight Special, that I saw him. David Bowie. I fell in heavy crush love with all of him, and this song, with its storytelling fed me with the just what I love parts of drama, story, anguish, loss, of love, of BOWIE. Then, then, THEN, the rising of Bowie's voice after the lift off sound effects? Kill me now. I must have played that over 100 times every dang night in my room. David remains my forever crush.

3. "Paint it Black,” The Rolling Stones
I had grown up in a house of teen girls dancing to pop Top 100 Dick Clark on Saturday mornings, so in the 8th grade, when my friend's older brother came home from college and would let us listen to his albums with him, my head spun from what I heard. This one, this one Oh Lord Here Come The Rolling Stones. Wild Horses, Mother's Little Helper, Under My Thumb, but Paint It Black spoke to me. Billy the college freshman probably had no idea that his music was the reason I stopped hating my straight hair and let it go frizzy and curly. Perfect for shaking back and forth to Mick and the gang.

I wanna see it painted, painted black
Black as night, black as coal
I wanna see the sun blotted out from the sky
I wanna see it painted, painted, painted, painted black

4. "Bang the Gong,” TRex
Another influence brought into my life by older friends. My high school boyfriend's older friend. The one I thought was so cool because he had his own room in the basement of his parents' house with 5 foot high speakers! Awesome, dude! How old are you? 21? And you have this cool room in your parents' house? Awesooooome! And all this cool music? Why haven't I ever heard it before? Anyway, this is one song that will always spell s-u-m-m-e-r to me. Young, free, dancing to TRex in Jeff's backyard while his parents were Up North. When I hear this today, it's sophomore year all over again.

5. "Radar Love,” Golden Earring
This embodies the making of mixtapes to woo. Stalkerish, not at all. I was dating someone else, but there was this one guy.... yes there was. And I would melt with the mixtapes he would send me. Radar Love was on one. Cue me falling into a puddle in my room with my cassette player next to my ear. But I couldn't break up with my steady boyfriend for a guy who knew the art of mixtapes? Could I? Oh - I was a fool, wasn't I? The power of music, to sway love.

6. "The Zoo,” The Scorpions
I had never heard of this German band until at a college party, when this song came on through speakers leaning out of a 2nd story flat. I also had never liked heavy metal, until this song came on. And then I didn't care if jazz was all the rage with everyone at college. From that night on, it was The Scorpions I wanted to dive into. I went against the tide, and I believe I was the first girl in college to finally stop pretending she liked jazz because the boys liked it. Maybe we were all pretending I don't know. But The Scorpions came into my life and so did the zebra cut up Tshirts, high heels, and poodle dog hair. I was in it. So if it was a house party singalong to Al Di Meloa or Al Jarreau or any other jazz Al, I was out of there. This puts the heavy, in heavy metal.

7. “Private Idaho,” B-52s
Learning at the hand of Cindy Wilson, Kate Pierson, the power of a sure move. There was a string of spring break vacations where with my trio of friends we would hit the dance club contests and request anything by the B52s. Sure, we made it look like we just decided to dance to the song that night but we had had hours of Saturday night house parties filled with dance move perfecting. With free all night drinks for best on the floor, stakes were high to bring out the moves. But no worries, Captain and cokes were on us every time, because we knew just when to take it to the floor with the B52s.

8. “Lose Yourself,” Eminem
As a poetry lover, this one drops the bombs. If you love a story, here you go. If you love the magic of being able to feel what someone of a different sex, decades younger than you, worlds apart, is talking about, this is the one. How does he do it? In 4 minutes, you know him- you feel the battle cry and you walk around like you've got Wonder Woman's cape on. How? That's Eminem. Yeah, I love him.

9. “Somewhere Down the Crazy River,” Robbie Robertson
Ah, how this works: poetry and a sultry beat. The combination here started a summer that I remember as saying screw what everyone else is doing. I am not them. This song kept me company. I was the one floating down the crazy river, no destination, but I knew I'd get somewhere, someday. This is one of the sexiest, most intriguing pieces of music you'll ever hear. This is one of the best songs you'll ever hear. And that man's voice? Makes it 100 degrees out in March, "too hot to sleep." Oh, I hear you, Robbie. No way I can ever keep my hands from swirling up over my head when I pull this one out.

10. “In Your Eyes,” Peter Gabriel
My husband is not a romantic, overtly expressive person. What he is is stable, dependable, humble, and sincere. But words from him are few. So when he played this song for me on one of our first weekends together, it nearly broke my heart with how much of him he wanted me to see. It still makes me teary eyed, how difficult it is to tell someone we care for them. I treasure this song. It says everything, especially when on a string of days of living a daily life.

11. "The Flame,” Cheap Trick
I began with ballads, and I'm circling back to them. Music will always center me and calm me, and this is the boss ballad of them all. The end of the 80s were a particularly introspective time for me. Love had been had, and lost, and I felt the pressure to adult. The summer of 1988 was when I had to make a decision about someone I had been seeing for over five years. I still dream about him. Life, preservation, survival, happiness, at times means we have to do what is the best for us, even when we don't want to. Is it torture to listen to it now as I write this? Only if deep memories kill you.

*BONUS: “Feel so Different,” Sinead O'Connor
Because of course, those moments when we get tired of being who we are and say 'time to grow up.' A lot of that involves forgiveness. That's where Sinead O'Connor talked me through. With her, I gave up the anger of the done me wrongs. And, yes, I feel so different. Know what? Move this one up to the top.

Was this fun to do? In a bittersweet way.
Was it more like stirring up old ghosts? Absolutely.
It was sweet, in a twingey prickly pain sort of way, to remember who I've been.

For more “The Music That Made Me” be sure to hop over to:

The Flying Chalupa
Elizabeth McGuire
Elleroy Was Here
Midlife Mixtape
Up Popped a Fox
When Did I Get Like This?
I Miss You When I Blink
My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog
Butterfly Confessions

Monday, May 11, 2015

Housekeeping Hacks

Is your family about to walk in through the door, starving, looking at you as the one responsible for keeping them alive? And you're happy to see them, you really are, but there's one small thing you didn't get to today: dinner.

And no groceries, either.

I've been at this family caretaking thing for 20 years, and it's been baptism by the fire learn as you go, BUT here are some of my tried and true tricks of the trade to help you pull it together, because somebody needs to:

--When you pull laundry out of the dryer, don't let it sit in the basket; instead spread it out everywhere. It's a work in progress and wrinkles won't set in. Promise.

--Keep an 8-qt pot with water on the stove and a wooden spoon near by. At the first opening of a few minutes of cooking possibility, dump some pasta in and get it going on before something shows up to take you away from the homestead. Because, it will.

--Have your hair pulled up in a work-ponytail. “Hair in my face” is the biggest excuse I give for not being able to do something.

-- Keep Windex, a roll of paper towels, a toilet scrub brush, and a bottle of Scrubbing Bubbles in a plastic shoebox container under every sink in the house. No more staring at black toilets, thinking, too bad the cleaning supplies are nowhere nearby.

--Have a cutting board on a kitchen counter, a knife behind it. If by any chance you have fresh groceries coming in your house, have at it! Chop whatever it is up and toss it in a pan, along with the pasta you've got going from the water you keep on the stove, dinner is served.

--Keep a notebook and pen handy for those moments (ha! Moments -- more like eternal inner monologue) that tell you what to do what not to forget things due today who needs to be picked up remember to return library books...

--Never lie down during the day. Never. Just do that one thing and you'll be OK.

--My ace in the back pocket that I save for when the day has been a total bust and it's only me to blame: accept it.

Tomorrow is another day. What a gift, one more chance to discover another life hack.(Stretching the bedspread over the pillows looks pretty good, right?
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Saturday, May 9, 2015

She Flew

I dreamed that I was standing up on pedals as I tried to bicycle up a long, steep hill. My mother was with me, sitting behind, as we shared the same seat. She clutched my waist and I worked our way up through a hill buried in drifts of snow. The steepness together with the snow put my efforts at a maximum. I knew that if I stopped, we would lose our momentum and tumble to the rocky path below.

I had to get us to the top, I could see that we had but one-fourth of the climb left. My one concern was that if we fell, I would lose my mother to the mounds of snow around us.

My legs were spent and I began to cry because we had lost. We weren't going to make it, I had pushed my legs as far as they could go. I couldn't get my mother to the top and I cursed myself for not being stronger. Looking up to see how much more of a climb was left, I set my jaw and resolved to finish. I steadied the bike. I turned around to look down and saw that if we fell, we would be separated by the tumble.

I broke down, my shoulders shaking with heaving sobs. “I'm sorry. I can't get us any higher. I am so sorry,” I cried to my mother. 

She sounded surprised, and answered me quietly in Spanish, "My poor daughter, why do you worry? God will take care of us."

I bore down and began the ascent. My hands gripped the handlebars, and the bike's frame began to veer right, left, right. I tried to push on the pedals harder but I couldn't keep the bicycle from slowing. As it wobbled over on its side, I tried to right it. Crying out, I grabbed frantically for my mother and shouted to her that we were falling. 

“Mama! Hang on to me! Don't let go!” I cried out in Spanish, and then in English. I needed for her to understand that she needed to brace herself for what was about to come.
I warned her the fall would be fast, and hard. The bicycle flipped onto its side and we were knocked off of our seat. I saw her begin to slide away from me across the snow and desperately, I grabbed for her.
My right hand searched blindly under the clumped snow but just as my fingertips came close enough to graze her skin, she flew.
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So much love to all who are having a difficult day today as we remember those no longer with us. Peace and comfort to you. This is my second Mother's Day without my mother. I'm not any better at this loss than I was last year at this time.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

9 Lessons I Learned From My Mother

Exhibit A*
This Sunday is Mother's Day, and though it will be my second one without a mother, I don't think it's going to feel any better than the first one did without her.

The internet has suggestions on how to make the day easier, for sure. But the patheticness of googling "Mother's Day + No Mother" made me cry torrents. "Hold a ritual," "Reminisce over old photos," "Write a letter to your mother and read it aloud," google said. None of that sounds like something I want to do.

What I want, is my mother here, in my house, in all of her smart-aleck glory, muttering the most biting jokes you'd ever think you'd hear from a senior citizen's side mouth. That's the balm I need -- the humor from her, once again.

Anyway, all of the suggested activities for "Mother's Day + No Mother" are in the attempt to block the loss out of your mind. I don't want to block her out of my mind on Mother's Day. I want to think of her as she comes to my mind on Sunday, when I ask,

Where's my coffee-loving friend who was as wild about the perfect cup of java as I was?

Who will sneak out with me for hot fudge sundaes on a Sunday afternoon at 1:00 when we say we're going grocery shopping?

Who else is going to lean in with a low roar of a whisper that's not such a whisper, commenting on someone's too short skirt.

This Sunday, I fully understand and accept that I will be missing my mother. And the day won't feel right. I don't want to push her out of my mind and forget her.

I want to feel the miss of her, the loss of her presence, the void of her spirit. This Mother's Day, I will miss my mother, and I will talk about her, exaggerate a story or two, and more than anything, I will be remembering the important things I learned from her:

1. Tell a good story with a straight face, no matter how outrageous it is. Never crack a smile during the delivery, and if people say they don't believe you, tell them it matters not... you were there, and it happened.

2. Buy what you want, but know that it will go on sale. A $300 dress picked up for $150 will feel infinitely more wonderful than five $50 dresses. This rule applies especially to shoes.

3. Never let anyone talk down to you. You may not win, but they'll leave knowing you are a force to be reckoned with.

4. Walk straight and proud when you approach people. People will know who they are talking to before they even hear the words from your mouth.

5. If you can help someone, do it. If someone is too scared to ask for help, offer it. If someone needs you before they even know they do, be there to make sure the thought never has a chance to cross their mind.

6. Better to let someone who is burying themselves finish talking until they have dug their hole, rather than grabbing the shovel from them and beginning on your own hole.

7. High heels will always be worth knees swelling to the size of basketballs the next day.

8. When you apply for a job, tell them you are the best for it. After they've hired you, give them reason to tell you, you're the best for it.

9. When given the choice between sun and anything, always choose sun. *see Exhibit A*


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Gift Thyself, Homeschoolers, During National Teacher Appreciation Week

May 4-8 is Teacher Appreciation Week. Time to let the special teacher in your children's lives know how much they mean to you. They have invested time, love, and care into your little ones and IF THIS HAPPENS TO BE YOU, homeschooling mom, then celebrate away!

Here are some suggested festivities for you to indulge in during your week:

1 Send your charges out to gather bouquets of springtime flowers for you. The Teacher's Floral Bouquet special. Cost: priceless, of course. After flowers are collected, have your pupils assemble the assorted mix in a manner that is grouped according to the color wheel, then by size congruence. Bingo. Now cross off Art and Spatial Relationships from your subject list today.

2 After flowers are artfully arranged and displayed, an accompanying card of heartfelt worship thanks--must be lettered, addressed, and delivered with a kiss to teacher. Yes! Check Penmanship, check Language Arts. This day is flying by.

3 If the weather is gratefully cooperating, extend recess to cover free time and Gym class. (teacher gets an extra half hour of coffee and emails). I hear no complaints.
4 Your students must prepare a lunch that incorporates the new food pyramid as well as work within limits of special requests. Such as, BLT on toast with bread only slightly browned, bacon crisp, and toast buttered to the ends. Skillset: Family Science and Team Work.

5 In celebration, end the day early. Close out festivities with Oral Comm and Composition class:  Topic: Thank You TeacherMom We Love You:

Work from this sample letter, to be read aloud:
"Mother, O Mother: our life begins and ends with you. You have taken us from mediocre to excellence, and the lessons learned along the way have been tempered with life long skills balanced with love. Thank you for your tutelage, for under your wing we have learned to read, write, perform mathematical skills, and have seen the reward of earnest work. We love you, TeacherMom."

And TeacherMom loves you.
*never mind that you taught them to read for the sole reason that upon your passing they will burst into sobs at the mere sight of a book because "'tis my dear mother who taught me to read."

  * * *

Monday, May 4, 2015

Listen To Your Dreams

YOU sit up with a jolt. Flinging back the covers, you see the sky outside is pitch, and you know it's dead center of night with no sunrise for hours. If you look at the clock, it will only remind you how few hours of sleep you have left. But it's 3:17AM and your heart is pounding. The to do list that is your life won't quiet enough to let you get the sleep you need.

Maybe you should listen to your dreams. If they've enough power to shout through the subconscious for you to hear them call in your awake world, maybe, pay attention.

There is no dream interpretation specialist you need to consult, not any quiz you need to take in a magazine to know what your dreams are telling you. WAKE UP, the message is plain and clear.

If you see yourself behind the wheel of a careening van, and it's no van you've seen before – not your British racing green Dodge with the extra foot of trunk space. This one is a maxivan and the predictable white, thank God not rusted out. You're speeding beyond the 55 mph posted on the road and you are flying over speed bumps, going too fast through residential streets. You try and look down at the speedometer but you're too scared to take your eyes off the road. Just as well, the numbers on there are unspeakable and far beyond the legally posted limits. The steering wheel doesn't feel tight enough to your liking, either.

What does it mean?
We all know. There are things you need a vacation from. Like everything. You can't afford a villa, though it would be more than amazing. No ten days in Hawaii, as much as you'd like. What you need is a break. Give yourself one. Do you really need to do the to do list? Isn't there, aren't there, a few things you can put off until next week?

Will the world crack open if you don't do the floors this week, vacuuming or bare wood. Swiping the kitchen counters, OK, go ahead – food germs and salmonella, but maybe scratch off dusting the book shelves. What's one more week of dust allergy red stoner eyes? You've got some spare Visine in the downstairs bathroom.

Let's keep asking the questions - do dinners have to be square? Why wait until Friday night for pizza... it might taste more delicious on a Monday night. Instead of scrubbing the toilets, how about this week we just squirt hand soap in the bowl and let the suds sit.  

Could your dreams know what you need? Is that out of control white maxivan saying STOP and you know how, you're the driver? I would say, yes.

My husband says merely, probably "It's that coffee you had at 10PM” and that's a possibility, I'll give you that.

But it feels a whole lot more 'just right' to take a vacation in the way I can give myself for zero dollars.

Today, my Belize can be found in the kitchen sink. The one that will be left to sit full of dishes while I put my feet up in the 20 minutes I have before I start picking up, dropping off, running to, and bringing back.
Ah, what a gorgeous sight it is from way over here on the sofa.
* * *
photocredit: Caye">">Caye Caulker, Belize
via photopin">photopin> (license)">(license)>

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Hmmmm.... What Does a Producer Think About on Show Day?

Ever wonder what goes on in a producer's head on show day? You think they're thinking about their Spanx cutting off circulation and their bunion pain kicking in? The hamburger they'll get to annihilate after all is wrapped up? Yes, partly - but there's a whole lot of other going down in their noggin, too.

Here's 32 thoughts I was able to remember thinking last week Sunday while celebrating our Listen To Your Mother Show Milwaukee lAlverno College.

Also, this Must-Say: our cast and our audience were SPECTACULAR!


I can’t feel my legs. Maybe I’m suddenly hypoglycemic. I’ve heard it happens from unusual circumstances. Hope I remembered to stash that protein bar into my panty hose!

Maybe it’s just the lights. Maybe it’ll pass. No dots before my eyes, we must be good.

Did I eat? Ooh, no, dear G-d I hope I ate. I told the cast to eat. Did I eat??

Adjusting adjusting. Yes, I feel something coming back to life. I can feel my legs again. My Spanx must’ve been too tight around my femoral artery.

The curtain’s going up. Oh sweet baby jeebus IT IS TIME. 1-2-3 breathe 1-2-3 breathe. You never had a baby before you had one and you did it. We never did a show before we did this one and we did it.

Please Dear G-d Dear G-d, let there be people in the seats. I have to look up, I’m not going to stare, just move my head a little bit up and over, 1-2-3 slow, slow, and now…

I can’t look I can’t look. Did people come? They came last year. Of course people will come. TRUST, Alexandra. T-R-U-S-T, trust. Looking looking…

YES. People are here! People are here! Yay, people came! OK OK, stop smiling.

Now, going to look at the cast. How do they look? Careful, I don’t want them to see me looking, it might make them worry. Just going to roll my neck, then glance over, sneaking a peek, sneaking a peek. Yes. They look good. Thank you, Lord.

OK. It’s on. Time to call in the Big Guy, Dear Lord, quick prayer here, sorry how I squeeze you in at the last minute all the time, but Please, if you have a second, help us to have assured our people, our cast, that they will be fabulous. That their stories are wonderful. That they will do great. That their voices are authentic and audiences cannot be fooled by anything other than that ergo THE AUDIENCE WILL FALL IN LOVE WITH THEM THE WAY WE DID AT AUDITIONS!

OK OK OK FOCUS. Curtain is rising, and… we are LIVE.

Easy now, slippery chair, slowly, walk to the podium. This is NOT our first time, you’ll be up there with your buddies, your pals, your team, your co producers Jenny and Rochelle.
TED Talk Power Stance Activate!

Oooh, lights are bright lights are bright. Why do I always forget that the lights are bright.

Did I re apply my deodorant. I didn’t! I know it says good for 8 hours but that’s guarantees for an ordinary day.

I should have followed *Good for 2 hours on show day* deodorant directions.

I think LTYM needs to make show day deodorant. Going to check with Zazzle.

Oh! Clapping. It’s applause. Deep breath, smile, stand tall. We ARE WONDER WOMAN. Go!

I hear our voices. The Co-producers are together and we are opening our show!

My feet hurt. Why am I up here talking and thinking that my feet hurt. GET your head in the game.

OK, here we go. Time for the first reader! Here we go, here we go, we are LIVE and we are rolling!

Oh, she's amazing... Stop! Snap out of it! Pay attention. Stop falling in love with the stories all over again or you’ll miss the next intro cue for our reader!

What? Now we’re on our next to last speaker? What time robbing tunnel did we fall into? It feels like just minutes that our show began, I was so into everyone’s story how did the time go?

 Make it last, oh please time wizard somewhere, make this magic of gathering in love and laughter, LAST.

Going to look up and sneak a peek at the audience. I see smiles, I see happy content smiles. We are killing it!

Looking over at the cast, slyly now, slyly — they look as happy as just fed babies! This is so good.
I hear applause. Good, loud standing O volume applause!!

It was our show! We did it. We all read. We all were as bright as any star. Everyone sounded like we’ve been doing this on the road for months. I love this cast, I love our cast.


Did we just close our show? Yes, we did. We are BOOM DOT COM. The co producers of Listen To Your Mother Milwaukee stood up together at the podium and closed the show.

It’s a wrap! Elation, joy, pride, gratitude! Unicorns skipping over rainbows! Listen To Your Mother Milwaukee 2015 is a wrap! I love every minute of this!

Gotta get to the lobby, hear what people are saying — they wanted more! Listen To Your Mother Milwaukee NAILED it! We wanted to bring the stories together so they sounded like one, and WE DID IT.

Everyone is feeling so good! Look at these grins from the cast, their families, the audience!
Today, having our stories heard and bringing our community together to listen to each other, I can’t imagine feeling any luckier than we all do right now.

I can’t wait to do this again! I am loving today as much as I am going to be loving tonight, when I’m finally pulling this buttocks numbing Spanx off.

* * *
Thank you, Milwaukee audience! What welcoming and loving applause you sent our way, making our cast feel loved and appreciated.

Thank you, to our LTYM 2015 cast, for your bravery, your honesty, your trusting of us with your stories. You made us proud.

Thank you, Ann Imig, for what you have built: love, laughter, tears, joy, community, and possibility!
And Milwaukee, we can’t wait for Listen To Your Mother 2016!

With deep appreciation to Cast, family, friends, national and local sponsors, and our amazing audience. And Listen To Your Mother. Without each of you, we wouldn’t have a show.

Our fabulous cast: Elaine Maly, Anna Stone, Michelle Dobbs, Liza Cohen, Moira Sennett, Katy Meyer, Nicole Smith, Mary Steiner-Ng, Raina J. Johnson, Jack Douthitt

Jen, Rochelle, and Alexandra
Listen To Your Mother/Milwaukee


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