the nest

the nest

Monday, December 17, 2012

I'm so angry

I'm so angry.  I've been blogging in my head for days now and nothing has seemed quite right.  I've wanted to be sensitive and not offend anyone.  I've wanted to just share the love.  That's what I do right?  Share the LOVE.
How is it possible that there have been 31 horrific school shootings since Columbine, yet we have not had the courage to step up and regulate weapons created to do nothing other than kill people. We have not had the courage to commit, as a society, to care for those in our world who most need our help and support.  We leave the most desperate families, children and individuals to fend for themselves and then we blame everyone else when something finally happens.  SHAME ON US.
I have not slept well or eaten much since Friday.  My stomach has been lodged in my throat and I am focused on caring for my own family which is having its own struggles right now.  Sleep eludes me.

I have refused to read the paper, or watch the news for days.  Anytime I catch a glimpse of one of the victims of Friday's massacre, I feel like I'm intruding on the most personal of tragedies.  I wanted to go to a local vigil the other night and then felt bad when I couldn't make myself go.  I don't feel bad anymore, at least about that.  I think our public displays of grief and support are important for many people.  I did watch the President's address at the vigil in Newtown and appreciated his words.
For me personally it feels selfish.  This is not "my" tragedy.  It is not "my" pain.  Over the past two decades every time something tragic happens, the public response has become bigger and bigger and the outpouring of support is greater and greater.  I can't help feeling like our need to "share" the burden and pain is intrusive and disrespectful.

I did not lose a child or a friend or a parent on Friday.  Most of us didn't.  We were lucky - our children are safely at school today.  My teacher husband is safely at his school doing his job, ready to "protect" his kids.  Maybe we need to light candles and gather to feel like we are doing SOMETHING, when really there is nothing we can do.  At least not for those children and teachers who are now gone.

I feel like this makes me sound hard.  I have done my own weeping and praying, privately.

I'M SO ANGRY!  Here comes the rant...

Over and over and OVER again, these events happen.  Over and over and OVER again, we cry and weep and send teddy bears and raise money and hug and light candles and sing songs of peace and love.



We continue to allow bullies like the NRA dictate gun policy.  While civilized countries around the world have found ways to drastically reduce gun violence through real legislation, we allow BULLIES to decide who should be allowed to have WEAPONS DESIGNED TO KILL PEOPLE.


We continue to refuse to take responsibility for the sick and destitute.  We tout personal responsibility, but don't take it for ourselves or our families.  We leave the mentally ill and their family members to fend for themselves.  We light candles, sing songs, share platitudes and then go Christmas shopping.


I'm so angry and so tired and while I desperately want to feel hopeful that maybe this time will be different, I'm having a hard time seeing that light.  God is weeping for his people and their foolishness.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Do you ever grow up?

This week I've been obsessed with what I'm going to be when I grow up.  I'm 44.  I've been a Therapist, a Youth Services Coordinator, a Mom and an Early Childhood Music Specialist.  I've loved all these roles for different reasons (ok I didn't really love being a Therapist, but it was nice to "help" people).
As much as I love my current work teaching Music Together, and I must love it as I'm in my 12th year, sometimes I wonder if I'm doing what I'm "supposed" to do.
Katy (child number 2) spent last weekend visiting her one and only college choice.  If she could go tomorrow she would.  Even if she could graduate early and go, I've told her she can't until after her senior year.  I'm not ready for her to move across the country yet.
I think watching her go through the process of diving into what her future might bring, makes me wonder about my own.  Here are the random thoughts that fly through my over active brain in the wee hours of the night:

~Am I using my gifts?
~Am I using my education?
~Should I have stayed in the "professional" world?
~Am I contributing to my family enough?
~Am I contributing to the world enough?
~Am I making enough $ to help send my children to college?
~Why can't I be satisfied with the wonderful work I get to do?
~How do I figure out what I'm supposed to do?
~Do other women lie awake asking these questions?

I love my work, I love my life, I love my friends and family.  Why am I not satisfied?

I want to change the world in a BIG way.  Not being accepted to graduate school last year was a big ego blow.  I don't actually think it was the right direction after all, but being "rejected" was tough to swallow.  I have a strong voice and strong opinions and I'm smart.  It's taken me a long time to say that out loud.  I don't want to sound full of myself, but I am in fact a strong, smart woman and I want to be a good model for my children (especially my daughters) of how women can change the world.

Is raising great kids and impacting on individual children and families through my work enough, or am I supposed to do more?  I think I'm supposed to do more, but I don't know what yet and it's making me a little crazy!
Maybe if I re-focused on the immediate tasks at hand - decorating for the holidays, advertising for the winter semester of classes, laundry, lesson-planning - the answers will come.

Friday, November 30, 2012

what if you fly too far?

I'm feeling homesick... Don't get me wrong, I love Connecticut and do call it "home" most of the time. I miss my childhood home.  Minnesota.  I've now lived on the East Coast longer than I lived in the Midwest, but every once in a while I wonder why.
My middle child is currently in Minnesota with my husband, preparing to make her first official "college visit" to our Alma Mater - Luther College, in Decorah, IA.  While I couldn't be more thrilled that it's currently her first choice, it's a long ways from me.  Our son is 30 minutes down the road and while we don't see him much, knowing that we could somehow makes it easier.
I have to remind myself that it's our job to give our children wings and the courage to fly as far as they want and need to, but that means a lot of goodbyes.
My parents launched my siblings and I all successfully.  I have great models for how this all works, but it doesn't make the idea of it easier.  I have a sister in California, another one in Minnesota (after living away for many years) and my brother is in Moscow (not Idaho, RUSSIA).  We launched and flew away.
Once in a while when we are together, we wonder why we all went so far and the joke is that we all just need a lot of room around us and that if we lived too close we would make each other crazy.  Imagine 3 of me in the same town... it's a frightening thought.  I guess I wouldn't mind the chance to test it out though.
I don't think we would make each other truly crazy, but having some rationalization makes it a little easier.
When we moved away, our parents were younger and healthy.  They are still healthy, but are older and I envy those whose children have a grandparent nearby to go to concerts or out for breakfast.  My children love their grandparents and both sides have worked hard to maintain a connection (same goes for cousins!), but it's just different.
There are good things about being far away.  When we were first married, we were young and spoiled and having to figure it all out without being able to "go home to mama" forced us to grow up and really rely on each other.  I'm pretty sure that our marriage is so strong partly because of those first few years when we were really on our own.
I see people whose families are all nearby struggle with "sharing" time with all of them.  We've never really had to do that.  When we are in Minnesota we are with my family.  When we are in Canada or Florida, we are with Jeff's family.  Making sure we balance visits has always be a little tricky, but once we are at our destination, the juggling is over.
My larger extended family is spread all over the country (my parents must have learned how to launch children from my grandparents!).  This means that between friends and family we know people in so many places!  Such a gift!

I still wish that once in a while I could walk next door or down the street for a cup of coffee with my mom or my sister.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


I'm thankful for so many things.  The five seats at the table represent my nuclear family - the one Jeff and I created together.  Each chair holds someone so very special to me.  This year, it was just us at the table.  I don't think that has ever happened before.  We've always hosted guests or traveled and been guests.  I was afraid it might feel "unspecial." It was lovely.
We, meaning Jeff and I, spend a lot of time focusing out into the world.  The work we do, both paid and volunteer, the social networks we are connected to.  We sometimes forget that in the meantime, the very important people who live in our house are leaving soon as they are really only guests in a way too.  At some point, they will leave.  I want to make sure that they have felt as loved and cared for as we try to make our more short-term guests feel.
Loving and nurturing at that same time you need to guide and shape can be so tricky.  I want my children to always know that no matter what, they are my greatest loves.  I will not always agree with them, I will not always like them, I will not always pick them up when they fall.  But I will ALWAYS love them and be there to hold their hand as they pick themselves up.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

I can write again!

The election is over and I can write again!

I'm relieved that President Obama won and that he has 4 more years to continue the work he as begun.  I want to see him energized to challenge the other branches of government to work with him rather than against him.

I'm so glad that the insane campaigning that has been going on for far too long is over.  The money spent was out of control.

I'm worried that all the calls for "working across the aisle" and "coming together" will fall on deaf ears in the house.  We need legislators who can focus on doing their jobs rather than preventing the President from doing his.

I'm hopeful that perhaps NOW the men and women WE have sent to Washington will finally listen and quit their juvenile bickering and find a way to energize our economy.

I'm thrilled that the reproductive rights of my daughters and nieces (and all women) will continue to be protected.

I'm ready to move forward.

Monday, October 29, 2012

When a mother hen gathers her chicks...

I know that there is not much that is rational about this, but my obsession during this crazy Hurricane Sandy is that I want all my chicks home in my nest!
Last night before the wind even began to blow, I couldn't sleep because Katy wasn't home (safely at the neighbors) and Andrew wasn't home (safely in his dorm at UConn).  I knew they were safe, but they weren't with me and when I worry about issues of safety, I want them near.  If I can't control the world around them, I at least want to control the walls around them.

As they get older I have less and less control over the choices they make and the things they do, and the places they choose to be.  They'll travel to many places I've only dreamed about and I'll be so excited for them and so proud of their adventurous, confident spirits.  I'll also sleep better when they are "home".

I hope they have enough common sense to make good choices when they face the inevitable storms of life.   I think they do.  You never know.

The wind is howling outside, but we are safe in our solid house that has stood through storms for over 170 years.  I'm pretty sure it will withstand the current one.  My girls are both home with Jeff and me and as far as I know Andrew is safely in his Dorm.  I have little to worry about.  We have food and shelter and lots of love.

I'll still sleep better when the winds quiet down and they are all home under my roof where I can wrap my arms around them and keep them safe for a moment.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Dangerous territory...

I'm moving past my post summer blues and decided to dive back into writing.  Life over the past two weeks has been moving at a breakneck pace as I prepped my studio for the year and helped my family get back into the swing of life.
We are still not on top of the house, or chores, or the calendar, but Arts from the Heart is up and running and so far the response to the space has been good.  It's not "finished" yet, but enough for singing and dancing!
Aside from the busyness I've been staying away from writing because all that seems to jump into my brain is a running commentary on the political craziness and I have never seen myself as particularly political and haven't wanted to get into the debate.  THIS IS SCARY.
Don't get me wrong; I've voted since I was 18 and love this country.  But I'm disgusted by so many of the so-called "leaders'" and the lack of accurate information and the willingness of so many to just believe what "our side" says as truth.  DO YOUR HOMEWORK!  If you actually read the facts and still support your candidate, then vote for him.
I have been, and expect that I will continue to be, an Obama supporter.  Mostly because I believe that he deserves another 4 years to continue working on cleaning up a mess that took 8 years to get into.  When I look at the facts, I continue to feel this way.  He is a good man, a smart man and a steady man.  If you disagree, don't vote for him.
But, vote FOR someone, not AGAINST the other guy.  If you believe in Romney and what he stands for, then vote for him.  Don't vote for him because you're AGAINST Obama.   If you want me to vote for Romney, tell me why I should, because right now, based on what I've heard, I don't have any reason to change my vote.  What I see within the GOP is a political party full of hypocrites.  They say they want smaller government and want to give individuals more control over their own money etc...  Unless of course those individuals make personal choices that are contrary to the GOP.   We want to eliminate all abortions, but we don't want to make birth control available and affordable.  We want stable families, but only if they fit our picture of "family".  We want you to control your destiny and path in life UNLESS it violates our personal belief system.  See where I'm going?
Where I want to see a change is within Congress - a sitting President (of either party) can't do ANYTHING when there are enough people in Congress whose goal is not to work for the greater good, but to oust the President in the next election.  For 4 years the goal of many on the right has simply been to oust President Obama.  In the meantime, they have a salary, excellent benefits etc., but rather than do their job they have been Obstructionists.  I want to fire them all.  Once Obama was elected and THEY were elected it became their duty to work together for the greater good.
Everyone has their own opinions and beliefs and mine tend toward the Left.  I believe that a country as great as ours has a responsibility to provide a safety net to those who are struggling.  I believe that those who are doing well should pay their fair share.  I believe that EVERYONE should have access to basic healthcare, food, shelter and a decent education.  I believe that the so called "moochers" are fewer in number than the media would lead us to believe.  Recent facts show that Romney's 47% who don't pay income tax are either 1) elderly, 2) students, or 3) people who are out of work or underemployed who have paid income taxes and will again.  Most of these people are in fact paying other kinds of taxes.
I could go on, but I'm heading into rambling territory and it's time to go.  Do your research, don't just blindly accept what you hear, vote your conscience, then support the choice of the people and GET TO WORK.  If you don't like what happens you can vote again in 4 years, but during those 4 years, help out or GET OUT OF THE WAY.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Summer mourning...

It's been a long time since I last blogged and I've been oddly resistant to starting up again.  I spent much of the last 3 months at Camp Calumet in New Hampshire - one of my very favorite places on earth.  You can see from the picture why. 
I leapt out of the nest last June and followed my children north.  Andy has been a counselor at Calumet for 3 years now.  Katy participated in the Leadership and Service Training Program for 4 weeks and Helen hung out with me when she wasn't camping or traveling across the country (more at another time).
So many trains of thought want to leave the station at the same time right now, including the one telling me I have too much to do this morning to be blogging, so this will be brief.
Aside from having to take on day to day tasks again like grocery shopping etc..., the biggest difference I've noticed since returning from heaven is that the rest of the world hasn't really changed.  There are more annoying political ads and stories, none of which you can trust.  The economy hasn't really changed, nor has the rudeness or kindness.
The best things are that I am surrounded by my CT friends who I missed and am so happy to see, I love my washing machine (although a laundromat where I can do a weeks worth of laundry in 2 hours is pretty awesome) and my nice big desktop computer, and am happy to have them back.
What I've learned...
I don't need stuff to be happy.  I don't need a big house to be happy.  I don't need closets and dressers stuffed with clothes to be happy.  I don't need t.v. to be happy.
I need comfortable clothes.  I need a comfortable place to sleep.  I need people who love me and are there when I need them.  I need a purpose.  I need to be around children and families of all ages.  I need coffee and fresh food.  I need love.  I need care when I am sick or hurt.
Isn't this what we all need?  Why are there so many people out there who fight the idea of providing a safety net and a step up for those who need it? 
I'm in mourning for the past 3 months of coffee, cut up fruit, a "home" that took 5 minutes to clean, dear friends everywhere I looked. 
Looking forward to recreating what I truly need and want here at home.

Friday, June 29, 2012

proud mama

I'm generally reluctant to brag about my children.  Quite honestly, they make me nutty and I forget how really amazing they are.  We are all out of our "Ellington" nest right now (except Jeff and Lily who are holding down the fort!), and observing my children in another environment, functioning without me is so lovely...

They are confident, caring, loving, compassionate, funny people.  ALL THREE OF THEM.  As a mom, I regularly wonder if I am doing a good job and making the right "parenting" choices, but when I see them at Calumet, it's pretty clear that they are growing into amazing people partly because of me, but mostly in spite of me!
It's good to remember when you've had a "bad" parent day that kids are resilient, if you surround them with others who love them, your "mistakes" won't matter as much, and if you remember to love them and apologize, that helps too.

I'm not sure how much I'll blog this summer while we are away enjoying the heaven that is Camp Calumet, but I'll be back for sure in the fall... back to launching myself and my children into the world.

Monday, June 11, 2012

When the Universe pushes, what do you do?

Sometimes the Universe gives you a tap and sometimes it gives you a shove. 
I was all focused on the steps my children are taking towards adulthood and was mulling a blog post around Katy getting her Driver's Permit last week and how it's the first of many steps on the way out the door, blah, blah, blah, blah.
At the same time I get the sad news that the lovely store that has hosted my Music Together classes for the last several years will be closing and I will need to find another location.  I'm getting teary writing this...  I'm so very sad for the owner and staff who have worked so hard to provide a small town with a high quality, high "touch" store for children, families and educators.  Selfishly I'm very sad for myself - yes, I need to find a new location, and I will.  What I'm sad about is that the store was more than a location.  There was always someone there to say hello, have a cup of coffee, help with the logistics of running my business, but mostly, to help me welcome my families and give them a place to love and be loved.  The loneliness I disliked about being in business for myself was banished as I had a place to call "home."

Now I have to figure out what's next.

First steps are practical.  Find a place to run the classes that are scheduled and beginning to fill.
Second steps are where the universal "shove" comes into play. 

Not sure whether to leap or tip-toe forward... I'd like to curl up in my nest and think about it another day.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Trust vs. Mistrust

Last Thursday my middle child turned 16.  The next year will bring driving, living away from home for much of the summer, international travel, and many more firsts.  The years from 16-18 flew by with my firstborn at an accelerated rate and I expect it will do the same with Kate.
I'm not sure how it happened, but she grew up.  Even a year ago, she seemed like a little girl and all of a sudden she is a lovely young woman, smart and inspiring, full of passion and energy.
This is the child who spent her first 6 months of life attached to my body in the sling, or sleeping next to me at night.  The next 12 months, were spent exploring within the safety of the family, but aside from her sitter (who she chose), no one else was acceptable.  We were told we weren't doing her any favors by "giving in" to her demands.  We should let her "cry it out"; she needs to "figure it out"; we heard "you'll make her dependent on you," about a million times.  Around 18 months she decided that all was good with her world and from that moment was pretty much happy with anyone. 
Thank goodness we trusted our instincts. 

Infants and young children ARE DEPENDENT ON US.  There is no benefit to pushing them away before they are ready.  Erik Erikson was one of the Psychologists I studied in my previous life and his Developmental Stages shaped many of my thoughts on meeting the needs of my children as they grew.

1. Infancy: Birth to 18 Months

Ego Development Outcome: Trust vs. Mistrust
Basic strength: Drive and Hope
Erikson also referred to infancy as the Oral Sensory Stage (as anyone might who watches a baby put everything in her mouth) where the major emphasis is on the mother's positive and loving care for the child, with a big emphasis on visual contact and touch. If we pass successfully through this period of life, we will learn to trust that life is basically okay and have basic confidence in the future. If we fail to experience trust and are constantly frustrated because our needs are not met, we may end up with a deep-seated feeling of worthlessness and a mistrust of the world in general.

I'm pretty sure had we insisted on pushing Kate away when she "needed" us most, she would still be trying to figure this out.  Instead, she is a confident, powerful individual, ready to take on the world, and HAS been since the moment she decided that she was ready to trust the world and move on. 
She knows that we will always be there to catch her if she falls - she TRUSTS us and the larger world because we met her needs when she couldn't.  Others would tell us that she would never leave home if we didn't let her "soothe" herself and blah, blah, blah.  This is the child who headed to preschool and never looked back.  The child who went to sleepover camp at 8, and NEVER looked back.  The child who will spend 4 weeks at camp this summer as a trainee and then will travel to Scotland with her classmates and won't look back.  She's the child who can't wait to go to college halfway across the country.  I'm the first one to admit that I am not a perfect parent and have made many mistakes, but I am absolutely sure that the choices we made parenting our little ones the way we did were 100% on the mark.  Attachment Parenting allowed our children to "attach" to us so they could move on with the work of growing up and away.

Why do people try to "push" their little ones out of the nest prematurely??  It seems to me that the ones who are constantly pushed away are the ones who end up never leaving.  The ones who are nurtured and allowed to develop at their own pace are the ones who are ready to leave the nest almost before WE are ready to let them go. 

If we don't let them be dependent when it is appropriate, they will never be able to be INdependent when it is time.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The National Anthem

The other day we went to the local Memorial Day Parade.  It's a sweet small town parade and reminds me how proud I am to live in the U.S. despite the many things we can't seem to get right.  The very fact that we are free to disagree and protest makes it a great place to live.

In college I had the opportunity to travel to Eastern Europe with my college choir - the summer of 1988, before the Berlin Wall came down.  We learned the National Anthems of each county we visited, not realizing that the citizens of those countries were not allowed to sing them.  I remember vividly our concert in Estonia when we began their National Anthem and within the first few notes, the audience was on their feet singing and weeping with us.  These songs were never on our program, so it was always a surprise to our hosts.  As a 20 year old student from the Midwest, I was stunned.   On our return from what was a life changing trip, I was watching a baseball game on t.v. with my Dad and was outraged when the camera scanned the stands and there were people sitting and laughing and goofing around while OUR National Anthem was sung; even making fun of it as they screeched out my favorite note ~ the one that always chokes me up ~  I had never felt such indignation in my young life!  I don't remember exactly what my Dad said, but it was something to the effect of "we are free to not only sing out National Anthem, but to ignore it or mock it as well."

There are so many things about our country that make me nutty right now.  I'm still so very proud to live in a country that, for now, allows me to speak my mind.  If I don't like something, it is my right to step up and work to change it.

That first concert is why I will always vote.
It is why I will always stand respectfully and sing our National Anthem.
It is why I will continue to teach my children to respect the laws of our land or work to change the ones they disagree with.  

It is why I will continue to be proud that I am an American even when I am disappointed or angered by the inability of our leaders to balance the need to protect our freedoms while caring for those who can't care for themselves.

Oh say can you see...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Being a Creative Entrepreneur...

Having been self-employed for almost 12 years now, I find myself wondering once in a while what it would be like to have a boss who gave me tasks to complete with deadlines and clear instructions of what my "job" is.  There are times when the the idea of having someone tell me what to do and how to do it sounds so appealing!!!
I think that I'm over my current longing for this kind of structure though.  There's a reason I've been self-employed for so long and maybe if I stop fighting it and embrace it I'll figure out what "it" is.  There are huge advantages to being my own boss and from a purely practical standpoint, I've done pretty well while being available to raise my children.
I recently came across a book called "The Creative Entrepreneur" by Lisa Sonora Beam.  I'm intrigued by it.  It's a DIY guide to visual journaling as an alternative to the more traditional ways that small businesses are guided.  I've never actually had a "business plan" because any template or guide I've ever found to creating one has been so linear and I'm not a linear thinker.  I'm interested to see how the process she guides the reader through might help me focus my quest for clarity about my purpose in life.
Lately I've been running into, finding time for, crossing paths with,  or otherwise having conversations with a number of women of varying backgrounds and ages, who all seem to be so wise.  I've been thinking about how we as women could be (should be) guides for each other through life.  Women have so much power and so much wisdom, but we don't own it or share it the way we should.   I see posts about parenting choices or overhear conversations about the same and it often seems to be adversarial in nature.  An "If you don't do it my way..." kind of thing.  I get this and I don't.  I understand how it can be difficult to talk about topics as personal as birthing, breastfeeding or not, sleep sharing or not, with someone who disagrees with you.  What I don't get is why can't we "talk" about it?  Why can't it be a conversation instead of an argument?  We just might learn things from each other even if it is only a deeper commitment to the choices we have made because we've had to explain them.
As a woman and a mother of girls, I want to share the wisdom I've gained over the years with my daughters and anyone who wants to hear it.  Keeping the things I've learned including the mistakes I've made to myself seems selfish, but it seems equally narcissistic to think that anyone really cares about my experiences...
"Wise Woman for hire"... I wonder if there is any market for that?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

little children~little problems big children~big problems

I miss having babies and toddlers.  I really do.  When my children were babies and toddlers and even preschoolers, I could nurse them, snuggle them, sing them a song, love them, and whatever hurt them would go away.
I wish I had learned early what battles are really worth fighting.  I wasted time fussing about things that really don't matter ~ I hope I paid attention to what was really important most of the time.
The problems of "big" children can't be soothed away by a Mama.  Those children have to muddle through themselves.  They have to deal with heartache and pain, life changing choices and existential angst.  I have to stay out of the way as they process the challenges of becoming an adult while making sure they KNOW I am there to hold them when they need to rest or vent or cry. 
When I wrote my first post a while back and talked about pushing my little birds out of the nest, my very wise father told me this. "You know that when eaglets leave the nest, the parent flies below them in case they need to be lifted up."
I have great models for launching children~ my mom and dad did an amazing job of giving us wings and allowing us to fly as far as we needed to.  I have a sister in CA, a brother in Moscow, Russia, I'm in CT and my other sister is in MN near Mom and Dad, but started her adult life on the East Coast as well.
Sometimes I wonder how they really feel about us being so far away...  They say "It gives us wonderful places to visit!", but imagining my children so far away some day is difficult.

But that's our job.  We have to hold them and love them and then send them on their way.

Until they need us to catch them and lift them up to try again.

I miss the days of babies.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mama love...

The last 2 weeks, I've been absorbed in the process of fostering and then ultimately giving up a very large, very sweet, very protective Cane Corso (Italian Mastiff).  Her name was Daisy and she outweighed my teenage daughters.  I'm still not sure what compelled me to even consider taking her in... I've never been a "big" dog person, and with my children, husband and the dog we do have, my hands are plenty full!
She was sweet, beautiful and her eyes looked so sad.  Her owner died suddenly and somehow she ended up in our care.  Our "nest" is pretty big and so why not?
Daisy quickly attached herself to me almost to the exclusion of the rest of the family.  She was fine with the girls and after a few challenges at the door, was fine with Jeff.  Our last family member to meet her was son Andy who came home from his first year away at college.  They didn't do so well.  Not sure what the story was, but suffice it to say that we decided quickly that the nest wasn't big enough for the both of them and with 19 years in our life, Andy won.

We said goodbye to Daisy after 3 weeks and I cried.  Not sure if it was because I fell in love with her or because I couldn't make the commitment to do the intensive training that would be needed to help a dog of her breed and nature accept our crazy life.  Doesn't matter, but I wept.  She loved me and needed me and I couldn't make it better for her.

Mother's Day 2012


 Since the day I became a  mother, my heart has been open ~ I want to love up anyone or anything that needs me.  Setting boundaries, or just letting go, have been difficult lessons for me to learn.

I have had great teachers though...

My Mom is a treasure! She has always had a funny way of hearing what I needed to say and then moving the conversation on and away from the drama.  She didn't ignore or diminish my thoughts and fears, but she didn't let me dwell too long on the crisis of the day.  I try every day to channel her with my girls, but I'm a work in progress ~ I still get sucked into the drama too easily.

I'm lucky enough to have not one, but two Mother's-in-law!  My children have benefited by having the love of three Grandmother's and I have had the support and love of three wonderful women to guide me!
Jeff's Mom has taught me so much over the years about being a mother and wife ~ She has been patient and sassy with me and overall has appreciated how very much I love and cherish her son and her grandchildren.
Jeff's Step-mom has been a sweet bonus!  Over the years, she has supported my mothering choices and nurtured my need for girl time.  While the other mother's have sometimes openly disagreed or challenged some of my choices, she has always been clear that I know my children best and she knows I will make the right decisions for them.

I've learned about mothering from so many others, it's hard to touch on them all, but here are a few...

*Woodbury, MN neighborhood Mama's.  I was so lucky to be surrounded by strong, smart women as a girl.  They were friends of my Mom, mother's of my girlfriends, and women in our church.  They were my "other mothers" and always opened their arms when I needed them.  They, along with my many Aunts, taught me that I could trust other grown-ups and I was never alone even when I needed space from my own Mama.  All of these women showed me that there were many options for being a mother and a woman.  Staying at home, working part time, working full time....  I learned I could be anything I wanted to be as long as I was willing to work for it.

*Our pediatrician taught me that while books and advice are good, the most important thing is to listen to my children and trust my instincts.

*My sisters and girlfriends have taught me that there are so many different ways to give birth and nurture life ~ there is no room for judging, we need to love and support each other even when we make different choices.  They also taught me to always have chocolate.... and to remember the phrase "This too shall pass."

*My three sweet children have taught me the most.  From the moment they were born, they have taught me how to be their mother.
Andrew has been working for 19 years to teach me how to just relax.  "It's cool Mama..."  I'm a slow learner, but I think there are moments when I breathe and know that he is going to be just fine.
Katy came into the world like a dynamo and has always been clear about what she needs from me.  As an infant, that was constant body contact and nursing.  She was a sling baby who taught me that if I listened to her and met her needs I could move on with life.  She taught me more than anyone that ignoring someone's needs just makes those needs stronger, but will eventually squash that someone's spirit.  Better to meet the need so they can move on with life.  From the moment Katy decided she was ready to venture out into the world at 18 months, she has been the most independent, confident, strong girl I've ever known.  I'm SO VERY PROUD of myself for listening to her as a baby because the long term results are looking fabulous!
Helen is an interesting combination of her siblings and has worked hard to teach me that life is to be lived in the moment ~ why would you focus on cleaning your room when there is a beautiful sunny backyard that is calling you to come dance???  As my "baby" I know she will have many more lessons to teach me over the next several years and I hope I'm a good student.

The latest surge of media attention directed towards parenting choices has been both frustrating and enlightening.  So much has been written about the Time Magazine cover, and the "radical" parenting methods of famous Mama's.  I've decided that I'm not going there.
I'm going to focus on loving up the Mama's I know.  I don't agree with all of them.  I feel sad for some of them.  A few of them frustrate me.  But I love and honor all of them for the very powerful work they do raising their precious children.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

musings on the nest

I've had so much activity in my head lately that finding a focus to blog about has been impossible.  Maybe if I just meander through my thoughts I'll find the focus. 
I started the week finishing a book called "The Descendants."  I haven't seen the movie yet and am not sure I will for a while.  It was an interesting book, but didn't really hook me until the last hour.  That bit focused on the father and his daughters waiting for the mother to pass away. 
I've only "watched" someone die once.  It was also a mother and wife who was leaving her husband and children behind.  She was a dear friend and it was time - the cancer was too persistent and wasn't going anywhere.  The last few days were difficult, but I was so absorbed in "being there" for her husband, who is a dear friend, and his children that I could distance myself from the reality. 
Reading about someone else deteriorating in a similar way brought back the events of 4 years ago like a wave pulling me under and I cried as I read.  I've been exhausted ever since.
How did families of past generations cope when death came more frequently to both parents and children?  Illnesses, accidents, wars...  There are so many things we think we can control, but aside from the benefits of modern medicine and an increased awareness of safety, we ultimately have no more control over death than they did.  We all die - it's just a matter of when and how.
I read the book for my book club and at our discussion, we ended up talking about keeping children safe.  How do you keep them safe without sheltering them?  Most of the other women in the group have younger children than I do, so when we talk about raising them, I'm often looking back rather than where I am currently.  So many awful things can happen to our young ones... They can get on the school bus and it could go over an embankment.  They could walk to school or a friends house and be snatched.  They could get to school and be offered drugs or alcohol or worse yet, killed by a tormented classmate. 
While we like to think we can protect them from the world by building fences and giving them phones earlier and earlier to keep in touch, and hovering over them, we can't keep them safe from everything and we shouldn't.  In many situations, natural consequences will be way more powerful than any consequences we might impose.  THEY have to learn how to keep themselves safe, and we need to trust them (and God) to be aware of the world while not being frightened by it. 
"Into the Woods" is a favorite musical in our house and a song I love and am always moved by, is "Children Will Listen". 

How do you say to your child in the night?  
Nothing's all black, but then nothing's all white 
How do you say it will all be all right  
When you know that it might not be true?  
What do you do?
Careful the things you say 
Children will listen  
Careful the things you do  
Children will see and learn  
Children may not obey, but children will listen 
Children will look to you for which way to turn  
To learn what to be  
Careful before you say "Listen to me"  
Children will listen

We can talk all we want and hover and shelter and discipline, but at the end of the day we have to trust that THEY will be alright.  We need to watch what WE say and do as much or more than what THEY say and do.  That's what they learn.  From day one they watch us.  They learn trust when we meet their needs.  They learn empathy when they see us acknowledging and supporting others (and them).  If we Hate, they will Hate.  If we Love, they will Love.  If we ignore others in need, so will they.  If we serve - they will learn service.  If we choose to live a life full of love and joy, they will see the path.  We can't make them choose it.  We can't hang onto them and pull them down the path after us.  We have to trust that they have learned what we wanted them to learn so when they are choosing their path, it's one we can accept and embrace even if it is different than the one we "saw" them going down.  Be careful what you say and do - children are listening and watching.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012


This morning I read a blog post regarding how important it is to acknowledge a child's feelings or experience.  GOOD STUFF.  Hard to remember in the moment.  It can feel like we are are indulging them or condoning bad behavior, but it's really not.  There is a big difference between holding out your hand to go and saying "I see you are frustrated with me.  It's hard when I tell you we have to go and you're having a good time, isn't it?" and saying something like "ok we can stay a few more minutes," or "if you don't come now, we won't ever come back to the park."  We all need to know we are understood.

While the blog was particularly speaking to those caring for young children, it's thoughts are applicable to EVERYONE!  We ALL need to feel understood.  The blogger suggests writing the word "acknowledgement" on your hand as a regular reminder.  I'm not sure I'll do that, but I might put it on post-in notes around my house!

 I wonder how my daughters would react if instead of saying "Would the two of you quick bugging each other!" for the millionth time, I said something like "I can tell the two of you are trying to figure out how to be together.  It's frustrating when you want to say something or ask a question and your sister doesn't let you finish or snaps at you, isn't it?"  Sounds too easy, but I just might try it.

Acknowledgement probably works with dogs too!  Lily and Daisy are trying to figure each other out and while they mostly ignore one another, when treats or affection are involved, there is some "frustration" on their part.  I'm getting used to the way they "argue", and while Lily is beginning to stand her ground more, Daisy is pretty quick to back off when I command.  This morning, I made the mistake of giving Daisy a treat slightly ahead of Lily - Daisy headed for Lily's as well and they had "words."  Totally my fault; I know this is tricky for them and it's easy enough the give them treats separately.  Calling them off and then giving them each some love and acknowledging that they aren't sure how this all works and are figuring it out, helped me feel better and they each calmed quickly and went to their respective corners where they are currently snoring away.

It's interesting to think about "acknowledgement" instead of "understanding".  They are similar, but not the same.  Acknowledgement indicates that you "see" something or someone as valid, but not necessarily that you understand, agree or like.  When my son was a little boy he went through a phase where he would simply walk by people at our church who would greet him.  He also did this (and sometimes still does!) to his sisters.  What would make me most upset with him and what I think he finally understood, was that when someone speaks to you and you ignore them, your lack of acknowledgement tells them that they don't matter.  It invalidates them.  The worst thing you can do is pretend someone doesn't exist.  You don't have to like someone to simply say "Hello!"  Saying something like "I can't talk right now, but it's good to see you,"  says "I see you, I acknowledge you," but allows you to move on your way.   This also explains why I ALWAYS respond when a baby or young child says "HI!" at the grocery store.  Nothing used to annoy me more when my children were little than when they would say "Hi" to someone in line and would be completely ignored.  IT'S RUDE!

As my children get older, I don't always "understand" their feelings and choices, but I know that I need to be better at acknowledging them.  I have to let them muddle through and make their own choices and inevitable mistakes, but it's important they know that I hear them and that they can share their innermost thoughts and feelings with me without fear that I will judge them or reject them.  I think I do pretty well at the thoughts and feelings thing, but I need to work on the "choices."  Acknowledging choices I might disagree with is trickier.  I hope they know that no matter what choices they make in life, I am always here for them.  I will love them forever and will do my best to always "acknowledge" their struggles and victories.

Monday, April 23, 2012


So less then one month ago I said to my youngest daughter "We are done with dogs! Lily is the last one; NO MORE DOGS!"  I have said many times "If I want another child I'll have a baby, not a dog." 
This morning starts our first full day with a 90 pound 5 year old Cane Corso/Presa Canario mix testing out our family.  What is this you ask?  Daisy is a very large, very sweet dog.  The two breeds she comes from were bred for guarding cows and farms and fighting lions in Roman times respectively.
To make a short story shorter, we heard through the grapevine that there was this dog in Philly whose owner had gone into the hospital for some tests, and two weeks later was dead from Pancreatic Cancer.  The dog walker was caring for Daisy and trying to find her a home outside of Philly as the possibility that she would end up in the illegal dog fighting world was substantial.  Translation... Dog needs rescuing, she's very sweet, her name is Daisy, she needs us.
Lots of dogs need rescuing!  We couldn't rescue a dog that is at least smaller than my youngest child and isn't a breed that scares the bejesus out of me???
Her name is Daisy.  My first dog as a little girl was Daisy.  That Daisy was an 8-10 lb. Miniature Schnauzer.  This Daisy could eat that Daisy for a snack.
I could go on about how as we launch our children we needed something else to care for, but we are a long way from an empty nest.  There is no reason we have to keep filling it up right now.  But, there she is, lying on the floor near me as I type, looking like she should be guarding dragons.  She looks a little like Fang from the Harry Potter movies. 
We are taking two weeks to see how she fits into our lives and whether she wants to keep us or not.  The girls are in love, especially Katy who slept downstairs to keep her company last night. 
Our other dog Lily is not at all sure what the story is with this interloper.  Time and exposure may tell us that they will be best friends, tolerant siblings, or they may not be a good match in which case Daisy will need to find another home.  I hope that's not the case, but it's a possibility. 
We have to figure out if this is the right nest for her.  

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

a paradox

I started a class with a group of teen mom's in Hartford on Monday night.  The volunteer mentor's are women who were teen mom's themselves and are GREAT!  The mom's are, well... teenagers.  The kids were hilarious and were no different than those in my traditional family classes.  As soon as the music started, their faces lit up, their little bodies started to move and you could watch the wheels turning in their heads as they started to process a language they were born with the ability to understand.

The mom's were quietly interested.  A little mystified and self-conscious.  I hope intrigued.  Mostly, they were young.  As I have been searching for ways to find more professional satisfaction, I've been exploring how to merge my previous life as a therapist/youth services person with the Early Childhood Music Specialist I am now.  As part of a project I need to complete, the opportunity to run this class fell in my lap and I jumped at it!  How perfect!  Bringing Music Together to Teen Mom's~ what a great way to "teach" them and provided them with some ways to play with their kids.  The very nature of the work I do is that lots of parent education is woven through the fun and hopefully translates out of the class and into the family's life at home.  No matter how old we are or how long we've been parents, we all need to keep adding to our "bag of tricks!"

This all sounds so great!  But here's the paradox.  How do you take a group of teen mom's who have had babies and are raising them, and love them up, play and give them ways to really embrace being a mom, without encouraging them to do it again? 
Indulge me while I muddle through this.  These young women have all been through pregnancy and childbirth - some of them twice - at an age when I could barely get myself ready for school on my own.  Despite their less than ideal entry into motherhood, they deserve tremendous respect.  The newest mom was there with her 2 week old baby who was breastfeeding.  A 16 year old mom, breastfeeding a baby, AND getting out the door at 2 weeks postpartum.  At 29 I don't think I even left the bedroom for two weeks after my second was born!  She wasn't alone of course.  Her aunt was with her and I'm sure was instrumental in bringing her.  The other "mom's" have also managed to muddle through those early years and had toddlers in tow.  I am in awe that they are managing.
But, I don't know their back stories yet.  How much are their mother's (or aunts or grandmothers) doing for them to help out?  Are they responsible for a home?  Are they working?  Are they going to school?  These are questions that will be answered as we get to know each other.  But at the end of the day, they went through pregnancy and childbirth.  My sister's and I used to joke that once you had a baby, you were elevated to "goddess" and should be treated as such.  It's hard work!
So, they've made it through all that and in order to ensure positive outcomes for their little ones, it is only logical that they need to be loved and supported and guided in really bonding with and loving up their babies.  Motherhood is so amazing and the more they embrace their role as a mom, the better off their children will be.
Here's the paradox.  These are young women who need to NOT have motherhood glamorized or put on a pedestal.  They should be going to school and playing sports, making music and going on dates.  How do we validate their role as mother without encouraging or suggesting they do it again?   How do we help them see alternative paths that may include motherhood, but also include education and satisfying work?  Can they successfully master the developmental tasks they still need to master while providing the environment their little ones need to master theirs?
After each of my children were born, I promptly "forgot" the difficulties of pregnancy and childbirth.  I couldn't wait to do it again ~ only extended breastfeeding and a husband with some common sense kept me from having my babies super close together.  Through each stage of raising them, I conveniently "forget" the last phase that put me over the edge.  I call my mother once in a while and say "How on earth did you survive me at 13????"  She says "Oh you weren't that bad..."  I remember.  I was HORRIBLE!
Ranging in age from 16-21, these girls have taken on a role that our society is not really designed to support until you are "older", but "grounding" them or scolding them for this "mistake" is not the same as the other mistakes of adolescence.  So many of the mistakes teen's make can be either chalked up to a "learning experience" or addressed by removing privileges.  It's amazing how quickly they learn when you can take away a car, a phone or internet access.  This is totally different. 
For most women, having a baby is celebrated!  It's a miracle and it's something that only we can do.  How do we celebrate the gift of a child to these young mom's while giving them the vision to see other possibilities for themselves?
In our culture, parenthood is generally seen as something that comes after you have "left the nest".  It doesn't always work that way though and in many places it never has.  Extended families live together and children are raised by a network of adults.  Young women maturing earlier and earlier are physically capable of child-bearing whether they are ready for child-rearing or not.  While my bias is that being a mother at 16 or 18 is too young, if this is a role that brings a young woman fulfillment and joy who am I to judge that.  Is it ideal?  no.  Am I encouraging teen pregnancy?  no.  I do think that once someone has carried a child, given birth and made the decision to raise this little one, they deserve respect and all the support they need to give that child the best start in life.  They are entitled to the same joy and fulfillment that motherhood brings to those of us who waited longer. 
But maybe if these girls saw other options for themselves, had the education and the role models surrounding them showing them how they could be more, they would wait.  Maybe if the choices our children in the suburbs take for granted, like college, work and even travel, were actually choices for them they would hold off on motherhood.  Maybe they are perfectly content with their life - they have these beautiful children who love them, who they brought into the world...
a paradox.

Friday, April 13, 2012

girls and boys and marsupials

Before I had children I was adamant that I was going to treat my girls and boys no differently from each other.  They would all have the same rules, privileges and freedoms and I was prepared to fight anyone who treated them differently.  My boys would be allowed to be soft and gentle and my girls could be tough and strong.
Here's the thing... If you have been raising children, you know that when it comes right down to it, children are who they are almost in spite of us.  We can dress them neutrally, we can insist that they all learn how to clean a bathroom, cook, change a tire and do their own bookkeeping, but we don't determine who they are.  They do.
For all practical purposes, my oldest (and only) boy child is halfway out of the nest.  He is probably out of the nest from his perspective, but I still have a gentle grip.  Not quite ready to completely release him to the world.  As a little one, he was the sweetest, happiest little guy, who loved his mom, dad, books, legos and his baby.  Yes, he nursed his baby when I was nursing his sister.  That's just how you take care of babies, right?  We didn't have guns or weapons of any kind in the house and I let his baby curls get really long.
By the time he was 4 (maybe before) everything was turned into a weapon or a vehicle.  I was sure I had failed as a mother because the influences of the world had taken over my sweet boy.
I know that's not true.  We have our differences and our disagreements.  I know he has and will continue to make choices that I disagree with, but as a whole, he has grown into a sweet, caring, nurturing young man who cares about social justice and loving EVERYONE.  I could not  be more proud of who he is becoming and am excited to follow his journey.
Overall, launching A has not been terribly rough.  Most of the time I trust him and I haven't worried too much about the world - he is well over 6 feet tall, white, male and doesn't make enemies.
Here's where the difference with my girls comes in. 
I still have years to go to prepare them for the world and up to this point (they are almost 16 and 13), they have had many of the same experiences as their brother.  Same rules, chores, privileges, freedoms.  All of a sudden though they are turning into young women.  We have been lucky ~ they are both late bloomers, so some of the challenges that face parents of girls have been delayed for us.  Not anymore.
My middle child, K, has been a dynamo from birth.  We've had no doubt that she will take over the world someday, or at least do great things to make it a better place.  She is an energizer bunny who has no tolerance for hate or evil - much like her brother.
She is also a beautiful young woman.  The challenges that she will face simply because of this make me cringe.  Don't get me wrong ~ Just in my lifetime, the rights and freedoms women experience have exploded!  The journey of women from the 1960's to today is unbelievable.  We have choices available to us that our mother's never dreamed of for themselves, but made possible for us.  The same is true for our girls.  They really can do anything they set their minds to.
Despite the progress made, the playing field is not level.  I worry about them when they are out in a way I never worried about their brother.  I don't trust the world with my sweet, smart girls.  While I struggle not to squash their spirit and vibrancy while teaching them how to be a member of society, the idea that there are many out there who will try to do just that makes me seethe.  They are in more physical danger than their brother, but more so, they are in more emotional and social danger.
The current "war on women" being waged in the media and politics stuns me.  The idea that there are still so many out there who would try to police my daughter's personal choices about motherhood, as well as the latest questioning of whether women really "need" equal pay, boggles my mind!
What kind of CRAP is that?  I have been and will continue to teach my daughter's that they can do and be who they want to be.  They can change the world, while nursing a baby and caring for a family.  Maybe not at the same time, but they can do it.  It will be up to them to determine their path in life; will they choose motherhood, a career outside the home, or both?  Will they do them at the same time or sequentially?  It will be their choice.  I will be there to help clear the way when they need me just like my mom was there to clear the path for me.
While I know that there are forces out there that would try to keep my girls down, I will fight for them. Just like their brother, they have the power to change the world for good and it's my job to fly below them and boost them up when the forces above try to shove them down.
Go girls, go boys, go PEOPLE.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

My date with "The Boss"

I had no idea how many Bruce Springsteen songs I knew.  I suppose when he's been playing as long as I've been alive they might provide somewhat of a soundtrack to my life, but when I was younger, aside from hearing him at dances, he blended in with the others.

That was until I had a date scheduled.
I did my research pre-concert and decided that not only did I still really like his old stuff, his new album "Wrecking Ball" was fabulous!  His music told great stories, was meaningful and I LOVED it.  I was ready for the concert.  Until we got there...

In 43 years I have never been to a "real" concert.  I know, it's shocking.  I've been to the symphony, choral concerts, Broadway, numerous professional and amateur theatrical and musical presentations of all sorts.  Tanglewood is one of my favorite venues - again, the BSO, James Taylor, Prairie Home Companion.  I saw James Taylor and John Denver in LaCrosse, WI when I was in college and a number of bands who came to my small college campus.  Oh!  My first concert at 16?  Amy Grant.

Nothing like being a "Concert, Bruce and Madison Square Garden" virgin all at once.  Talk about overwhelming!

So here's the story...  In my Saturday morning classes, there is this lovely family.  Over the almost 2 years that I've known them, we've become friends and I discovered that G does security for the Boss.  How cool is that?  I have colleagues who live in interesting places who have had "famous" people in class, but I live in the country in northern CT.
A few months ago we are chatting about the upcoming tour and G says "Hey, you and your husband should be my guests at a concert."  I start to laugh.  I completely didn't take him seriously - then he says "no, really! You just tell me which one you can make it to and I'll get it all set."
I still don't really get it, but I go home to tell Jeff - who looks like he won the lottery - and check the calendar.  Oooh, April 6th is Good Friday; don't know if that will work.  My Pastor says, "Bruce Springsteen concerts are a spiritual experience.  Madison Square Garden is a spiritual experience. Of course you should go!  I wish I could come with."
April 6th rolls around and all I can think about is "What do I wear?????"  Black and comfy shoes is what I came up with, but  it worked.
We trek to Queens to leave our daughters with my cousin A for a girls night, have some Thai food and head to the subway to Madison Square Garden.  Totally exciting, but still kind of surreal.  We don't do these kinds of things.
Next thing you know we are there, we have our tickets and our "E-Street Lounge" pass and we are hanging out in the "E-Street Lounge" looking around to see if we recognize anyone.  So annoying to discover once the concert starts, that we were hanging out near several members of the band, but had no idea!  Oh right!  They really are just normal people.  So easy to forget when they are up on stage.
G comes to see us, makes sure we have our wristbands for the pit - the front pit - right in front of the stage - and we head in.
Holy Crap!  walking out onto the floor at Madison Square Garden looking around is so surreal.  It is enormous and we were RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE STAGE!  Everywhere we looked there was a sea of people all looking crazy happy and ready for a good time.  Matt Lauer, the guy from the Soprano's, the guy from Law and Order, Brian Williams (Jeff bumped into him, but was to bashful to introduce himself)... who knows who else was there.  We were on the lookout for Matt Damon and Sting, but once the concert started, all people gawking was over.
Over 3 hours of non-stop fabulousness.  I swear that throughout the concert, there were maybe one or two moments when there was no music and those moments lasted less than a minute.  They just didn't stop.  Song after song after song ~ a beautiful tribute for Clarence Clemons, 15 foot knee slide across the stage, body surfing through the pit - Jeff touched the Boss's hand and since I was touching him, I TOUCHED THE BOSS.
OK, now I have to breathe...  This is starting to sound kind of religious.  Actually, it kind of was.  We were surrounded by people who are so moved and inspired by this man.  This good man who loves his work, loves his family and sings about normal, hard life.  He advocates for us all through his art.  A kid in his late teens, early twenties maybe, was so excited that he was introducing himself to anyone he bumped into.   He had tears in his eyes through much of the concert.  We kept meeting people who had been coming to these concerts for decades. Several a year. 
It was a family reunion of sorts.  Not only for the thousands of people gathered there to see and hear an icon, but for Bruce himself.  He introduced his family including his 80 something year old mom.  He beamed out at us he was so proud to share them all.  At the end, he brought his niece and his mom up on stage and they danced out one of the last songs, after which he gently lifted each one in his arms and after a squeeze and a smile, passed them down to the security guy waiting to safely return them to their seats.  We felt loved and included.
Everyone on that stage was having SO MUCH FUN!  Being so close, we saw interactions between performers that we would never have had the chance to see from the nosebleeds.  This is why we call it "playing" music and not "working" music.  They were playing and having such a great time, and we got to play with them.

I had a date with the "Boss".  Now I get it.  I never really understood the passion, but now I do.  I think I'm in love.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

It takes too much energy to be crabby...

I'm done ranting.  At least for now.  I forgot how much energy it takes to be crabby and to "fight."  It's good for me to remember that when something is under my skin, it makes more sense to dive in and make a decision to let it be or jump in and change it.
One of the things that makes me crazy is people who complain all the time, so I'm done.
Things I am grateful for this week that I'm going to embrace:

~ Blue skies and sunshine
~ Healthy kids
~ My BF/Husband/Partner/Love of my life
~ Music
~ Work that is important and happy
~ A home that needs my love (and time)
~ Friends who are patient, loving and sassy
~ Parents who are healthy and fabulous
~ In-laws who I love
~ A Church family I can joyfully celebrate Easter with
~ Hope that individuals and groups of committed people can and will change the world

~ The opportunity to see Bruce Springsteen at Madison Square Garden on Friday night


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Out of the nest or off the leash...

I'm beginning to wonder if the name of my blog is the right one.  Since I started writing it, the thoughts tumbling around in my brain have been a little overwhelming.  I feel a little like Lily when we get back from a walk and I take her off the leash in the yard.  It seems I feel very strongly about a lot of things and have a lot to say about them!
I have so much to get done this week and I finally decided I had to sit down and get some of this out of my "nest" so I can get on with the cleaning, scraping and painting that is supposed to be happening.  Here are some of the things (in no particular order) that get me riled...

1) People who curse loudly and frequently in public.  It's like verbal garbage.  It's ugly, hurtful and rude.  I use my own share of expletives at times, but hopefully they don't assault others ears.   If they do, I'm sorry.

2) Far right-wing fundamentalist "Christians" who don't seem to understand or follow the greatest commandment "Love One Another."  It doesn't say "love the one who looketh and acteth like me. " It doesn't say "love the one who can fend for themselfeth."  It doesn't say "love the people who do it my way." The Commandment is "Love One Another as I have LOVED YOU." PERIOD.  In my version of Christianity, God's love for me is unconditional, therefore I am commanded to love other's UNCONDITIONALLY.  Doesn't mean I have to like them, but if I am going to identify myself as a Christian, I am going to try to live by the greatest commandment and LOVE OTHERS.  The current Republican primary season is charging some of this up for me.  Candidates who claim to be Christians who are so willing to lie, judge and throw anyone under the bus (including those most in need) to get what they want make me want to hurl.  Their god is not mine.

3) The crazy expectation that everyone should be able to take care of themselves.  "Pull yourselves up by your bootstraps" kind of thinking.  If you don't have any boots to begin with it's a problem.  I am so very tired and frustrated by the idea that being totally independent is the only way we can be FREE.  There is nothing wrong with a balance of independence and dependence.  How about interdependence.  Sometimes I need a little help, sometimes you need a little help.  It goes back to number 2.    Perhaps if we made sure everyone in our country had "boots", or food, shelter, basic healthcare, whatever, then they could get on with making their life better, but it's not ok to push the homeless pregnant teenager in Hartford out of the nest unless someone is flying underneath her to catch her if she falls.  I'm not saying we should not hold people responsible for themselves and their families, but EVERYONE has a right to a safety net.

I could go on, but I'm feeling lighter.  I came to the realization that the other reason I am feeling the indignation and anger with the status quo in our country is that I have blossoming young adults in my home who are reminding me what it was like to feel that it's not ok that it's so easy for some and so horrible for others.  It's so easy to get cynical and say "that's just the way the world is."  I'm thankful that my children are reminding me that just because that's the way it is doesn't mean it's the way it needs to be. 
Maybe the nest I'm flying out of is safety and complacency.  I hope there's a net to catch me.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

now it's time for a rant...

I am by nature an optimistic, forgiving person.  I am inclined to ALWAYS give the benefit of the doubt and I never assume someone has done something hurtful intentionally.  Over the years, this way of being has led to a lovely life filled with many lovely girlfriends (see previous post!).  I'm lucky.  I've surrounded myself by and large with women who, whether they agree with me or not, support my choices in life, particularly as they have related to raising my children.  As kids get older, I think this can sometimes be easier; the choices are wider and more ambiguous and many of them aren't really our choices but our children's.
I'm working on a project related to my work and young mothers.  This has brought be back to a world of reading and researching on mothering infants and babies - even back to pregnancy.  Being immersed back in this world is reminding me how absolutely ridiculous and MEAN women can be to each other when they have made different choices.  It's also reminded me that not all choices ARE equal and maybe that's why some of us devolve into vicious, judgemental, "mean girls" in grown up bodies.
Here comes rant number 1, so if you're not up for it here's your chance to leave...

I keep seeing and hearing obnoxious media stories about women being harrassed about breastfeeding in public.  ENOUGH ALREADY!  Breasts are designed to feed babies. Breastmilk is uniquely designed for not only babies, but for YOUR baby.  Yes there are situations where breastfeeding is not possible, but not as many as you would think.  A great number of women who don't breastfeed may have if they had a number of things:  Accurate information, support to take the time necessary to "learn" how to do it, PATIENCE, healthy diets, a nation that supports families in caring for their very youngest children with paid maternity leave and health professionals who are well trained.
If you weren't able to breastfeed your baby for whatever reason, I'm sorry.  If you chose not to do so and made that choice based on accurate information and made the decision that was best for you and your family, more power to you.  If you didn't breastfeed because you didn't have the support, information and nurturance you need to be successful, shame on the rest of us for not being there.
There is no disputing that Breastmilk is superior to formula.  Study after study after study has established this fact.  Yes, there are times when an alternative has been essential, but breastfeeding is why we have survived as a species as long as we have.  It is a convenient, perfect food for the young of our species.  It nourishes not only the physical, but emotional development of the baby AND the mother.  It bonds women to their children in a unique way and teaches mother's how to read and respond to THEIR child.  There is also a reason that the longer you breastfeed (cumulatively), the lower your risk of breast cancer.  IT'S WHAT THEY ARE FOR.  We cause problems biologically when we mess with nature.
Ultimately, what makes me crazy is not the choices that women and families make about how to feed their babies (really not my business!) but when I hear over and over how it's disgusting or inconvenient or gross to breastfeed.  What if I walked up to someone bottle feeding and said "How can you put that disgusting chemical formula into your baby? How gross ~ it makes me uncomfortable, you should hide that away so I don't have to look at it!"  "Here, cover that thing up," or "The restroom is around the corner, maybe you can do it in private."
These are the things that breastfeeding women hear.  We show breasts (real and artificial) on billboards, in videos and movies, on beaches, EVERYWHERE.  We glorify breasts as sexual objects, but god forbid a woman uses them the way they are designed and we see her breast.
ENOUGH already!  If you see a woman breastfeed and you don't want to see her breast, DON'T LOOK.
If you are a breastfeeding woman and have felt compelled to "hide" either in a private room or under one of those ridiculous "bibs" (I apologize if you use and like them, but they reinforce the idea that there is something wrong going on that should be hidden!), be proud and strong and call me if you need someone to come and fight for you, because I'll be there.  The more we "see" women nursing their babies, the more normal it becomes.  When children see mother's breastfeeding, they don't see "yuck" they see "huh, wonder what's going on?" This can lead to a conversation about how this all works.  That's what women should be doing for each other ~ not gossiping or judging our different choices, but standing up for and defending each other and all of the decisions and choices we make because we are in it together.  Let's make it better for our daughters so they can embrace their amazing bodies and make choices based on facts, not biases.

This is just the beginning.... I have a list of rants in my brain that have been percolating behind my "don't say anything that might hurt someone's feelings or make someone feel bad" filter.  I've decided I won't apologize.  If you don't like it, don't read it.

Monday, March 26, 2012


I love having girlfriends.  One of my favorite things about Facebook and the whole crazy world of social media is that it allows me to easily maintain contact with friends from all the ages of my life.  Some of the friends I most enjoy seeing on FB are ones from kindergarten, many years and thousands of miles from here. There are girlfriends from high school, from college, from graduate school, from the early years of parenting, on up through today.  They all offer me different support and challenges and I LOVE them all!

My kindergarten buddy R. was one of the first friends who stuck up for me... Halloween, I'm a flower, some rotten boy comes along and teases me ~ R. steps in and I feel loved and safe.

The friends from H.S. who I have reconnected with were not the ones I spent the most time with when I was there, but they are the ones I should have spent more time with ~ they are fabulous and funny and smart and I love having glimpses into their lives.

My friend A. from college ~ we double dated together, got drunk together, cried together, celebrated together, defended each other, lived together and taught each other some basic cooking skills, were in each others weddings, and despite distance and times of disconnect, will always be dear friends.

My friend J. from graduate school who was my friend and guide around things like finding a way into being a strong woman who could be a professional, but still be "barefoot and pregnant."  We nurtured each other through the early years when we were parenting our babies in ways that were different from the mainstream.  She was at the birth of two of my three children and we can go months, even years without talking with each other and then when we are together, you'd never know we didn't talk everyday.

As my children have grown and I've been in and out of the work/stay at home world, I've struggled with finding a new bff.  Over the years there have been a number of women who have for a time fit that role, but for various reasons we've lost touch.

My current "besties" are funny, smart, of varying ages, opinions and professions.  What I love about all of them is they love me for better or worse.  They are there for me when I need them and they will always hold my hand when asked.

I wonder who will come into my life next?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

true confessions

Now that I've started writing, I have a lot to say ~ not sure if that's good or not, but I guess it's your choice to read it or not.
I started my grown up life as a Marriage and Family Therapist. I decided rquickly that it wasn't the right job for me. I was like a sponge soaking in people's pain and hate and misery and then I'd go home and squeeze it all over my sweet husband. He would patiently clean up the mess and then we'd move on.
Youth Services was a better fit ~ a balance of time with families and positive youth development work. Thought I just might have found my calling! Then baby number 3 came along and it just didn't work anymore.
After 6 years juggling babies and career, I was diving into being a SAHM (stay at home mom). I think it lasted for 6 months before I was planning my next career.
Fell into a teacher training for Music Together and thought "this will be fun for a few years!"
When I celebrated 10 years of teaching MT, I thought "I HAVE found my calling!"
Until the next week when I started to think, "What's next? I should be doing more. I want to do more."
So then, I apply to the PhD program at UConn where I did my Master's work. Whoo hoo!! Back to academia; I'll be a professor by the time Helen graduates High School!
Only, there were more qualified candidates and my application was rejected. Crap.

I love my work, I love my family, and I'm ridiculously blessed to be able to live the life I live.
Why do I always want more?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

holding your breath

I just saw a post on Facebook that got me thinking about something. The essence of it was that we are raising people, not children. The very job of parenting is to give our children the tools to leave us.
Why does this seem so hard these days? Everywhere you look, people make excuses for their children's bad behavior or poor performance. Many are so quick to blame others whether the others are teachers, coaches, bosses, whoever. They are protected and prodded. We push them when they are not ready for something, but hold their hand when they need us to back away and let them dive in for better or worse.
My husband is a High School Teacher. As long as we have had children in school we have reminded ourselves that we will not allow each other to be "those" parents. But when do you have to be one of those parents? There is a place where the line is crossed and we have to step in to advocate (not excuse or protect) for our little birds. Knowing when they need to advocate for themselves and when they need us to step in can be tricky. We want them to be happy.

Hopefully as they get older, the line gets further away. We don't do them any favors by protecting them from the consequences of their behavior, or the realities of the world. Isn't that how we learn best, by making mistakes and then learning to make different choices? Trying on different persona's until we figure out who we really are?

What about when they do "leave" us? When my son started driving, I felt my heart tighten every time he left the driveway. The news about the black teenager in Florida killed by a neighborhood watch person makes me sick to my stomach. He was walking back from the store with some snacks.
No wonder it becomes easy to hang on tightly, too tightly to them. It's not because we don't trust them, it's because we don't trust the world.
Raising children means giving them the tools to take on the world. If we have done our job well, all we can do is trust them to make the choices that will make it a better place for themselves and others.
It also helps to trust that someone else, God or whoever, is watching out for them too.

Monday, March 19, 2012

It's all about the love...

I've been saying that for years. For a long time I thought that would be the name of an eventual blog. It is the "tag" line for my business. I say it when I'm frustrated with someone, or when I'm delighted with them.
For me, everything comes back to love.

I've been planning this blog for years. What would it be about, why would I do it in the first place, who is it for. I still don't have those answers, but I decided it was time to push my own self out of the nest and get started.
I'm not sleeping lately and am pretty sure that it's because my brain is going through one of its busy phases.
Am I a good mom?
Why can't I ever finish anything?
What am I supposed to be when I grow up?
How am I supposed to change the world?
What are we having for dinner tomorrow?
Should I get hi-lights or try a little red in my hair?
Who really cares?

It all starts with love... I LOVE my family more than anything in the world ~ my kids are growing before my eyes and the decade of pushing them "out of the nest" has begun. I just want to make sure they always know they can come home... for a little while.

I LOVE my work ~ nothing can bring me greater joy than singing and dancing with families and and their children. When a family brings a new baby to class and I am given the gift of holding and dancing with that sweet, delicious bundle, I can't imagine how doing anything else could be as satisfying.

but what's next? is there more? should I be challenging myself?
I first thought that the 3rd decade of my "adult" life would be all about pushing my children out of the nest, but maybe it's really about pushing myself out.