Swan Song

They were my first words on this blog, “I just love blogs and read way too many of them.”  I loved them so much, and I loved writing so much, that I wanted to have my own.  I still love blogs, and writing more than ever, but I don’t want to have a blog any more.

Why?  Because I worry about my kids’ privacy, and their feelings.  Because, if I’m honest, unless a blog is 100% anonymous, it is almost a waste of time for me.  The minute one person whose opinion I value in real life starts to read, I start to censor myself.  I care too much about others’ opinions of me, its just how it is.  So between worrying about offending someone close to me, and writing sanitized-for-your-protection-drivel, it has become so much more time-consuming than it is worth to me.

I seem to have only so many words a day in me, and I have a fun new way I want to use them:  I want to write a book.  I have a plot and I have characters and I have my creative spark back and I am ready to get serious about giving my ideas some life.  I want to turn all of my writing attention to that.  I hope you will wish me luck and that you’ll be my first readers if/when it gets published.  I hope you’ll still be glad to see me when I continue to visit and comment on your blogs, which I plan to do.

One other bit of writing I want to do:  I have started notebooks that say, “Dear Lili” and “Dear Matt.”  I plan to write lots of (private) letters to my kids as a journal and a chronical of all their adventures and my adventure being their mama.  I just had a marvelous time with them this weekend, and it should make a great first entry. 

To all my friends in the computer, you have my heart.  Play nice.  Take advice from my dog, Hazel: Wag more, bark less.  Be happy.  Good-bye, farewell.  Amen.

Thursday Thirteen- What I Want My Kids To Know

I lost a good friend recently, (I wrote about it here) and, because she was a mother, leaving behind a girl and a boy around my kids’ age, it has really gotten me to thinking about my own kids, and would they be ok, if I were suddenly out of the picture?  And, after I sobbed a while at that thought, I thought of the lessons I hope I can pass on to them, to help them in their lives, whether I am in it or not.  Some of these are profound, but others are just practical.  Some of the lessons I have mastered personally, but more are like giving them homework, setting them the assignment for things I never managed to figure out, but wish I had.  Since my kids will likely ignor my advice or resent it, or both, you get it.  Lucky you, lol. 

1.  It is impossible to please everyone.  No matter how wonderful you are, there is going to be someone who doesn’t like you.  It is just a fact of life.  Even people who do like you, frequently have unreasonable expectations of what you should do for them.  In the end, you might as well please yourself.  Those who love you will understand, and those who don’t, don’t matter as much.

2.  Forgive yourself, and forgive others.  No one is perfect, not even you.  Life is a school where no one gets straight A’s, no matter what it looks like.  Forgive, try harder, move on.

3.  Your priorities should be God, Family, Friends, Community and World, in that order.  Also, self so belongs on that list, but heck if I can figure out where it fits in.  Maybe you will figure it out and tell me.  Wouldja please?  Also, here is an easy test to see where your priorities are:  Where do you spend your money?  Where do you spend your time?  Where you spend these two most valuable comodities is where your priorities lie.

4.  Have one fancy “company” dish that you know how to make, and keep the ingredients on hand so you can throw it together quickly.  Mine is sausage penne with marinara sauce–the sausage rope I keep frozen and it is pre-cooked so I can just thaw it (microwave) and throw it in; the penne boils up in 11 minutes, and the sauce is Barilla from a jar.  I throw in onion and garlic if I have extra time, but otherwise, the whole thing is ready in 15 mins, tops.  Why should you do this?  Because being able to entertain and feed unexpected guests is a) necessary sometimes, and b) a pleasure if you are prepared.

5.  When you hem a pair of pants, make a knot about every fourth stitch or so.  That way, if the thread breaks in one area, the whole hem won’t come out.  (I am a costume mistress for a children’s theatre and I hem a whole lotta pants.  Also, I am short and hem all my own.)

6.  Treat your kids like you want to be treated.  Don’t yell, hit, embarrass, shame or hurt your kids.  When you have to correct, do so in a calm, normal voice, with the intention to teach, not punish.  Definitely do discipline, because sometimes “no” is the most loving word you can say.  Remember that they are people and you are teaching them how to treat you and others by how you speak to and treat them.  Do be the parent, set limits, and don’t worry too much if they “like” you.  If you’re doing it right, often they won’t–for the moment.  They need their mom or dad–they have plenty of friends, but only one of you.  Here is a very important thing: don’t say “no” right away, but once you do, NEVER change your mind.  If you do, your kids will know you do not mean “no” and that if they nag enough, you will give in.  This is very, very bad.  Don’t go there.  Remember that your kids are not you, don’t try to make them live your dreams.  They deserve to have their own dreams, and to make their own mistakes. 

7.  Write thank-you notes.  That means snail-mail, on pretty cards.  Even if you have said thank-you verbally, a prompt note is required.  E-mail does not count!  Texting?  Do you really have to ask?  It says, “I know you didn’t have to do the nice thing that you did and I really appreciate that you thought of me whether I liked the gift or not.”  Everyone hates writing them, everyone loves getting them.  Just do it.

8.  Take care of your self.  Be nice to yourself.  Take time for a nice long shower, buy shampoo that smells good and makes you happy.  Splurge on your favorite coffee or tea, or whatever little thing makes you happy.  Eat healthy food and do a little exercise every day, just as a way of saying, “I love you” to yourself.  Wash your hands frequently and avoid crowds to keep from getting sick, which makes you miserable.  Get enough sleep!  You only get one life:  enjoy it. 

9.  You will never feel better about yourself than when you are doing something for someone else.  Be careful not to spread yourself too thin, though, because the high you get from service is addictive.  If you do too much, you wreck it by feeling resentful.  Remember your priorities:  take care of your family and your home and work, and then, in small doses, volunteer to help others.  You’ll feel great.

10.  You can’t have it all–at once.  To everything, there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.  When you are young, it is time to party and play and have fun.  When you get a job you love, it is time to climb that ladder, baby!  Show me the money!  When you have kids, they should be your first priority over job and party.  That doesn’t mean you can’t have a job (sometimes you’ve got to) just that you need to figure out how to still be present for your children.  Good luck with that, and tell me if you figure it out!  Trying to be “super-mom” (or dad) will only make you miserable.  Make choices instead.

11.  Don’t worry.  It does no good.  Period.  Expect the best, plan for the worst, and give it all to God.  Also, eliminate un-necessary sources of stress.  Always leave early and give yourself plenty of time to get places.  Stress is toxic, and much of it is just a waste.  Learn to go from, “Oh no!” to “Oh, well.”  Accept life on its terms.  Find a healthy outlet for feelings and stress.  I recommend exercise (specifically walking because of its meditative qualities) and journaling.

12.  Remember, love is a verb.  If someone loves you, they will behave in loving ways.  They will not deliberately hurt you, put you down, be sarcastic all the time, or do things to “get your goat.”  Similarly, if you love someone, you will be patient and loving and forgiving, doing little things to make them happy and be there for them.  Anyone can say, “I love you.”  Find someone who shows it (outside the bedroom, too.) ;)  Marriage takes a huge amount of work.  Most people get divorced, unfortunately.  Love anyway.  Know that you will only be as happy with someone, as you were without them.  Others cannot make us happy–that is an inside job.  Unfortunately, the wrong someone can definitely make you unhappy.  It takes a mighty good spouse to be better than none, so choose carefully!

13.  Have a prayer life.  Being able to go to God with all my problems, joys, sorrows, worries, and happiness has been one of the most comforting and best things in my life.  I want for you the friend I have in Him. 

Along with all of this, know that I have loved you, beyond my big-mouthed capacity for expression, beyond all measures.  I treasure you, I am proud of you, I believe in you.  You two are my light, my reason to smile in the face of anything.  You have taught me so much, and it has been a privilege to be your mom.  All my love, Always, Mom

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Kindergarten Radical–What Not to Wear Edition

Spring, 1975, at St. Andrew’s kindergarten in Roswell, New Mexico.  I am pirouetting into kindergarten, dancing on lollipops and rainbows because I know that I am just too cute today.  My mama has let me wear my favorite green plaid (shut up)dress to kindergarten, even though I keep coming home with finger paint and impossible to get out mulberry stains all over my clothes.  All it took was 4 days of incessant nagging and begging (all hail the master!) and she finally caved. 

But!  Even!  Better!  Is what I have under my favorite green plaid dress!  It is a whole otherdress!  A white, very twirly tiered dress make out of soft silky stuff, with adjustable straps and lace on the edges and pretty pink roses on the neckline.  I lurved that “dress”.  I don’t know why Mama let me wear two dresses, but hey, I am not about to object!  I thought, “geez, this dress under my other dress is even prettier.  It is such a shame to hide it, even under my favorite dress!  I will just unbutton my green dress and hang it on my coat hook and then everyone can see how bee-you-tee-ful I am in my white twirly dress!”

Somehow, my teacher, Sister Mary Catherine, did not approve of my wardrobe choices.  She kept calling my beautiful dress a slip and saying that I had to put my dress back on, right now.  Now she is a kind of a weird lady, anyway.  She is always making follow dumb rules like stay in your seat and raise your hand to go to the bathroom and don’t use the kindergarten scissors to cut your hair.  Even weirder, she smells like sourkraut and my mom says that she thinks she is married to Jesus.  Also, she always wears the same dress and it is very plain, just black and white, so you can’t really trust this lady to know fashion, if you ask me.

Which is why I wouldn’t put my dress back on.  Because my other dress, it was prettier!  Duh!  And so I ran.  Or rather I skipped.  I skipped all around the class, dancing and twirling and showing off my twirly skirt.  I was having a fine old time until Sister Mary Meany-Face caught me by the arm, grabbed my green plaid dress by the other arm, and dragged me to the office to call your mother, young lady!  You are going to have to leave kindergarten for the rest of the day!

Leave kindergarten?  You might as well have killed me.  My world, it was destroyed.  No blocks and finger-painting?  No recess or story time and milk and cookies or nap time on our special “take a rest” mats??

And so I called her and sniffed through tearful sobs that Sister was mean and got mad just because I wanted to wear my white dress and she kept calling it a slip and she was totally unfair and now my arm hurt.

Mama came and picked me up and we went out to lunch, just us two.  And I got ice cream.  And she let me wear my pretty white dress and no one said a word.

Second-hand–It’s not just for cheap skates anymore

Last Friday, my mom, dad and I went out for a nice dinner with some other couples that mom hadn’t seen since before she got sick (Dec. last year.)  Several people remarked that Mom looked great (she did) and how pretty her slinky turquoise dress was.  One lady went so far as to ask where she had gotten it.  “Oh, it was a gift from Mallory,” she said quickly.  “Well, its beautiful.  Where did you buy it?”  “Um. Hmm, I don’t remember where.”  But actually I did know, and so did Mom.  I got it at my favorite thrift store.  It cost all of $5 and it had been brand new, still had the original tags on it, from Nordstrom’s actually, where it originally sold for $72.

If I hadn’t thought that it would embarrass Mom, I would have gone ahead and told my mom’s friend about my great find.  I am not only not ashamed of buying second hand, I truly believe in it, for lots of reasons.  Here are a few of them: 

1.  People tend to think of second-hand clothes as being stained, ripped, and from grandmas’ closets from 1972.  And sure, you can find all that at thrift stores.  But you can also run into high fashion, ultra-hip or fancy brands that are just there because they didn’t fit any more, or because they were a gift that someone didn’t fancy.  You might have to hunt a little more to get the good stuff, but that’s part of the fun.

2.  You probably won’t run into anyone who has your exact outfit on.  You can develop a unique style.  I get compliments all the time on my clothes.  Almost none of it was purchased “new.” 

3.  You can support worthy chairities that assist the poor and provide jobs for disabled people, people with language barriers, and other people who might have a hard time getting a job.  I would rather support the Salvation Army than the 4 Walden heirs of Walmart who each make over $4 billion a year individually but can’t provide health care for their workers.

4.  Because it is still Hollister/Nike/Columbia/Prada/Ann Taylor/Talbots/Lands End/Hanna Andersen no matter where you bought it.  (And yes, I have found all of the above designers at my local thrift stores.)  My kids are at that stage where “labels” are important to fit in.  My daughter even had a girl at camp say “I know you are rich because of your clothes!”  We had a really good laugh about that one.  But, I have to admit that sometimes you get what you pay for when you are buying new, and this way I get the “good brands” whose quality is a little better than the “K-Mart Fall-aparts” I would otherwise be able to afford.

5.  You will be recycling and saving the world’s resources.  You will also be saving tons of pesticide from being used to grow cotton, petroleum products from being used to create synthetics, not to mention packaging and transportation fuel.  There will be a little less demand for sweat shop labor.  Make no mistake–every action is political.  Buying decisions are political.  (And you thought you were just being cheap!)

6.  You will be buying locally.  Your dollars will go to support your own community.

7. You’ll have the thrill of the hunt and the joy of discovery.  Not to mention those awesome Steve Maddens that match your new dress perfectly, in great shape and in your size.

8.  Because all clothes are “used” the minute you purchase them new and take them out of the store.  That’s right:  you have a closet full of used clothes right now!!!

9.  Ok, yes, it is cheap.  Use the savings to donate to charity, buy organic food, invest in your kids’ education, put away more for retirement, get naked and roll around in all the money you saved…what?  you don’t do that?

10.  Buying second-hand makes a ton of sense for parents of babies and little kids.  I don’t have to tell you that they outgrow their clothes before they wear them out, right?  And we’re talking about people who are going to spit up and smoosh peas on whatever you buy them, whether it comes from Goodwill or Nordstrom’s.  Like to dress your little sweetie in Osh Kosh, Little Me, Carter’s, Hanna Andersen?  I find hella cute things all the time that make me wish I still had a little ankle biter at home.

11.  Are you pregnant?  Why spend a fortune on clothes that you are only going to wear for a few months?  Save the money for your baby’s college fund.

12.  Right now, I am changing sizes rapidly as I lose weight. I can get a whole new wardrobe, then turn around and donate it and get more new-to-me clothes without guilt.  I lose 5 pounds?  I deserve a new little something. 

13.  When I find those awesome, still has the tags on, way cute, big name item that doesn’t happen to fit me or anyone I buy for?  I sell it on ebay.  Cha-ching!

So Goodwill, Salvation Army, Union Gospel Mission, Value Village (run by Vollunteers of America), William Temple House, American Cancer Society Thrift store, you will continue to see me there.  Save the good stuff for me, wouldja?

Thursday Thirteen–Thirteen Things I Want To Do Before I Take The “Dirt Nap”

Everything that was ever created, was created twice: once in the realm of thought, and then in the realm of being.  The thought is the negative, and the creation is the photo.  The thought is the blueprint, the creation the building. 

As children of the Creator, we have inherited a creative nature.  We cannot not create.  Even if you decided to stay in bed with the covers over your head, you would still be creating.  What you would be creating is someone hiding under the covers.  In my opinion, your life is nothing to hide from!

It is a challenge to be awake to this power that you have, this power to create a life and decide who and what will come and go in it.  It is much easier to pretend that life is something that is happening to you, something that you don’t have much control over.  The only problem is that if you don’t steer the boat, you might not like where you end up!

We all know intellectually that our time is limited on this big blue planet, and yet, we dink around, wasting time and acting like we have forever.  Goals can help snap us out of that “someday” mode and help us gain clarity.  So tell me what you want, what you really, really want!  I’ll go first:

13.  To learn to play piano.  I used to have a piano and had to give it away when I moved in to take care of my parents, so I am just getting a good keyboard.  I read this book called Teach Yourself To Play Piano and it was actually starting to work, I could play, like two songs really well, with chords and melodies and everything.  Then it got to key changes and it got confusing, with diminishing and ascending chords, etc, so I gave up.  I want to try to tackle it again.

12.  To pick up a third language (and not lose the ones I have!)  I already speak Spanish fluently (or used to, I don’t get to practice much) and English (naturally.)  I will probably try French, because it is another Romance language, and because I started to take it in college but didn’t get past first year.  I might try German because ny daughter wants to take it in high school next year.  I will get a good refresher for my espanol as I am teaching my son, who is interested.

11.  To go back to being vegetarian, without all the cheating!  I try, but I cheat.  Gotta stop that.

10.  To walk a marathon.  The training is good for me, and I want to be able to say I did it.  Running is out of the question for me (bad knees) but I actually like walking a lot.  I will do this for my 40th birthday (if not sooner!)

9.  To act in a play or musical again.  I used to do this all through my child and teenage, and my inner ham misses it.

8.  To join a choir again.  Singing makes me happy.

7.  To decrease my “carbon footprint” and be more environmentally aware.  To be a part of the solution, and to be able to say that I did my part to save the planet that I love.

6.  To travel, to see the world and meet the people in it.  I am definitely going to visit New York City next year, and Europe two years later.

5.  To become a Nurse Practitioner.  I want to be a part of people’s healing; I want to alleviate suffering if I can.

4.  To write a book.  Hopefully, lots of books.  If it is a book that actually gets read, even better!

3.  To learn to handle and accumulate money.  To stop wasting money on piddly things that don’t matter, so I can have a good retirement, and send my kids to college.

2.  To achieve my goal of being fit and healthy.  I was my ideal weight at birth, and I have never been there again.  I have no idea of what it is like to have a fit, healthy body that can do things easily.  I don’t even remember what it is like to wake up and not be in pain.  Seeing my mom suffer, and how we suffered right along with her, I don’t ever want to go there.  Therefore, I am working toward “going to health” every day. 

1.  To be a great mother.  This is my most sacred assignment, and the one that humbles me and fills me with guilt and gratitude.  I have the privilege to be called “Mom” by two amazing people.  I want to give them the tools they will need to be happy in life: confidence, compassion, a positive outlook, common sense, good morals, resiliency, an ability to laugh at life and at themselves, and a safe place to fall.  I want them to always know that I am their biggest fan and there is nothing they could ever do to make me love them any less.  I want to be the mom they deserve.

Le Weekend

Weekends are the highlight for me (I know, I am so freakin’ original, aren’t I?) for two reasons:  my kids are home and we can do fun stuff, and Sunday in particular is my “relief day” when my sis comes to take care of my mom and I am a free agent.

Today we are taking the Portland streetcar to the Portland Ariel Tram, and going on the tram just for fun.  Let me correct that–my kids are going on the ariel tram for fun.  I am sitting on the nice bench at the tram station, reading a book and waiting for them because that is fun for me.  Being suspended by a cable in a little capsule high above the city and the Willamette river?  No thank you.  I would rather have my legs waxed, while having a root canal.  I know, I know, the view, the opportunity to see the city in a whole new way, blah, blah.  Yeah.  No thank you.

Tomorrow we are going to Oaks Park, which is this groovy old amusement park on the river.  It is both cheap (only $11 for a 5 hr bracelet) and with enough scary rides to keep the kids happy.  And there are plenty of tame rides for me: the hand-carved antique carosel, the train, the superslide which is called Big Pink (snicker.)  Plus I will get my walking in, up and down the midway, and there is a gorgeous picnic area right on the river where you can see the houseboats.  In the summer, it is even more beautiful when all the roses are in bloom. 

What are your weekend plans? 

Go forth and recreate!