the nest

the nest

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas time is here...

Christmas time is here
Happiness and cheer
Fun for all the children call
Their favorite time of the year

Snowflakes in the air
Carols everywhere
Olden times and ancient rhymes
Of love and dreams to share

Sleigh bells in the air
Beauty everywhere
Yuletide by the fireside
And joyful memories there

Christmas time is here
We'll be drawing near
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year...

This is one of my all time favorite Christmas songs.  I never get tired of it.  The meaning has changed over the years for me though and this year my soul responds more than ever to the melancholy tune of the song.  I'm sure it's been analyzed to death and I know that one of the reasons Charlie Brown and his friends endure is that they are so much more than characters in a cartoon storyline for kids.  

Christmas is changing for us this year in many ways.  It is the first year one of our children will be away from us~ Katy will be with the Luther Swim and Dive team in San Diego.  It is an awesome opportunity for her to really "dive" in to her sport and connect on a deeper level with her teammates.  We are lucky enough to have best friends who will be in Southern California with family so she will spend Christmas Eve and Day with them.

Andrew is in a house this year with people he really enjoys and will just be with us for a few short days.  

Helen and Jeff and I will head to Canada for a few days to see grandparents and cousins, but it will be quick and there will be some empty seats.

I just re-read that line and feel almost ashamed.  My empty seats are temporary.  Another holiday, another family trip or dinner, they will be full again.  What about the seats at the tables of the families in Sandy Hook?  What about the tables of the families of the police officers in Brooklyn?  There are thousands of seats that are empty forever because a vocal minority thinks that their right to own guns designed to kill people is more important than a human life.  

During this season of Advent and Christmas we are all waiting for something.  Those of us who celebrate the birth of Christ wait and watch.  We anticipate the birth of the Christ Child come to bring light back to a dark world.  Those who celebrate a secular Christmas wait and prepare for a time of giving and celebrating ~ they celebrate the light too, just with a different focus.  With the passing of the Winter Solstice, we embrace the reality that our days will get longer and the sunlight will return to us.  We all wait.

As my children grow and go out into the world, I will always wait for them to come home.  Their seats at the table will be there waiting for them.  I will always feel some relief when my table is full.  The families who have empty chairs that will never be filled again?  I hold them in my heart and I promise that I will continue to speak on their behalf.  I will continue to argue on the side of common sense and justice and kindness.  I will stand with those who will remember the faces of ones who will never come home and I will love them.

Waiting for my children to come home is pretty passive though.  I can simply wait and welcome them when they are here.  I can make it a welcoming place to come, but in the end, as they grow, they decide when to come take their place at the table.  I watch and wait.  

Waiting for Christmas and the symbolic celebrations involved can be passive to.  We are actively involved in all the "fluff" around the celebrations, shopping, baking, wrapping, but waiting for the days to grow longer, or waiting to be reminded of the birth of the Christ Child is passive.

Watching and waiting can be good in a way, but sometimes action is better.  We need to be actively loving others and bringing light to the world.  We are the light.  We must be the light.  We are called to be the light. When do we own our power to light up our world with love and kindness?  To hold those who are suffering?  Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless.  

Being a light in a dark world can be hard work, but it's better than watching the darkness spread.  

Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year...

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

And On Earth, Peace





It has been almost a week since I left home to visit my Alma Mater, Luther College, and see the yearly "Christmas at Luther" performance.  This year was the first time I attended since I was a Senior in December 1989.  25 years.  All I could think was "why has it taken me so long?"

Why this year?  My daughter Katy called in September from Luther, where she is a first year student, to tell us she had made the first year women's choir, Aurora.  As soon as I hung up the phone I got on-line and booked my ticket.  I'm pretty sure it was the most impulsive plane ticket I've ever purchased, but the idea of not seeing my daughter experience the magic that is music at Luther College was unacceptable.  I'm so glad I went, for so many reasons.

Seeing Katy walk onto the risers with her choir brought me to tears!  I knew the power of the musical experience to come and the thought that one of my children was going to be a part of such a powerful tradition was overwhelming to me.

Just hearing the choirs and being a participant in the evening (of course there were opportunities for the audience to sing as well!) would have been enough to fill my heart.  The music was exquisite~ the  CFL (Center for Faith and Life) was filled with light and love.  It was enough, but there was so much more.

As a mother who is slowly sending her children out into a world filled with hate and violence, with bitterness and fear, it would be easy to hold them tight, to not let them go.  We are surrounded by ignorance and snap judgments and all we hear about on the news is death and destruction.

The message of the concert recalled the angels' song from the Gospel of Luke:  "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace among people." (Luke 2:14)  The College President, Paula Carlson, noted in her introduction in the program that the theme was chosen to commemorate the Christmas Eve Truce of WWI, held 100 years ago on Christmas Eve.  "...close to 100,000 British and German soldiers on the war's western front in Europe made a temporary peace and celebrated Christmas together."  As they did then, we long for an end to war.  We long for peace and love to reign in our world.

And on Earth, Peace.

The theme of the concert.  Peace.  600 students at a small college in Decorah, Iowa singing songs of peace and love.  600 hundred young, hopeful, beautiful faces lifting their voices, creating some of the most beautiful harmonies together.  Are they all friends?  probably not.  Do they all like each other?  probably not.  But for the time they come together to create music, they are bound together in a powerful, intimate way, speaking a language that is universal.  You see, when we sing together (or play together) we cannot fight.

As the choirs began singing "Silent Night" in German, photographs of those German and British soldiers together on Christmas Eve were projected over the fresh faces of the choirs.  Young men in uniform, the same ages as the young men in their tuxedo's and robes, looked out of the pictures.  I could see my son and his friends in those faces.  The hall filled with the sounds of thousands of voices, the symphony and the organ.  All of us raising our voices together in a prayer for peace.

The music filled my heart, but the students and their passion fed my soul.  These are the ones who can change the world.  In the church we sometimes say we are one generation from extinction.  As a world, we are one generation from extinction.  Lucky for us that children are wise and each generation seems to find a way to pull us out of the depths.  I am hopeful that this generation, these young men and women will find the strength and the wisdom to create a better world than they have inherited.  They have seen the repercussions of greed and unlimited power.  As a quote I saw the other day noted, I hope that rather than accepting what they cannot change, they find the strength to change what they cannot accept.

I know that Luther College is a special place, but I also know that there are many "Luther Colleges" in the world.  I find great hope in the idea that the children we have raised just might be strong enough to re-create a world where we can all live together in peace.  It's a tall order, but if the 600 students performing last weekend in the CFL are any indication, there may be hope for us all yet.

The words of the hymn "O Day of Peace" will be my prayer for Advent.  May we all pray for peace in our world during these troubled times.

"O day of peace that dimly shines through all our hopes and prayers and dreams,
guide us to justice, truth, and love, delivered from our selfish schemes.
May swords of hate fall from our hands, our hearts from envy find release,
tip by God's grace our warring world shall see Christ's promised reign of peace.

Then shall the wolf dwell with the lamb, nor shall the fierce devour the small;
as beasts and cattle calmly graze, a little child shall lead them all.
Then enemies shall learn to love, all creatures find their true accord;
the hope of peace shall be fulfilled, for all the earth shall know the Lord."

Soli deo Gloria

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

staying out of the way

This launching of children is an always fascinating journey.  It is as much about launching yourself into the next part of your life as it is about actually launching your children into the next part of theirs.  Maybe that's why it seems so many don't launch successfully ~ we don't want them to.  If they do, then we have to move on.  The current cult of "Mommy" makes it all consuming for better or worse.  If our entire existence has been wrapped up in being "Mommy," what's next?
I expected sending child number two to college would be more difficult than child one for a number of reasons:  Number one is a boy and was not always communicative with his Mama.  He also went to school 30 minutes away.  I can take him to lunch pretty much any time.  Number two is a girl who tells her Mama almost everything.  She went to school 1000 miles away.  With Thanksgiving upon us, we are enjoying her company for the first time since we dropped her off in late August.  I miss them both, but it's honestly it's been an easier transition this time.
I can explain it in so many ways - she contacts me via text, phone, fb and FaceTime on a regular basis.  She's in a place that we know well and love, so even though it's far away, I can picture where she is at any given time.  This is comforting.  I don't think any of these are really the true answers though.
The first time, I was not at all sure I was ready to see my children grown up.  If they are growing up, does that mean I am growing old?  If I'm growing old, what have I done with my life?  What about everything I was going to do before I was 30? 40?
This time, it just feels different.  I can see my life evolving into one where being "mom" becomes a little less time intensive.  With one still at home, there is still plenty of driving around, writing checks, listening to dramas, arguing, laughing, etc... But it's different.
I'm seeing the grown-ups my children are becoming, and I LIKE them a lot!  I want them to be their own best selves and to do that I have to let them figure it out on their own.  I think I'm pretty good about not giving unsolicited advice, but what can be really hard is knowing what advice to give when it is requested.
My Dad is a master at this!  My whole life I have both been infuriated and grateful when he has answered a request for advice with a statement like, "I know you'll make the right decision."  He would thoughtfully help me weigh the options, but would NEVER TELL ME WHAT TO DO.  Even when I wanted him to.  His trust in me (well placed or not) empowered me to OWN my decisions.  Regardless of whether they were ultimately the "right" ones or not, the fact that I made them allowed me to accept responsibility for them and move on.
But this is risky territory.  I'm sure that before I moved from MN to CT at 22 years old, I asked my Dad what I should do.  I'm pretty sure he and my Mom would have loved to have said "It's too far! Stay here!"  But they didn't.  They let me decide and while I never doubted they would miss me, I never felt pressured to make them happy by staying.
Katy is home from Iowa for Thanksgiving because she won't be home for Christmas.  Her Swim and Dive Team will be taking a training trip to San Diego and she is too far away to come home for the few days before or after.  Last night she was having second thoughts.  Being away for Christmas doesn't sound right.  While I would love to have her home for the holidays, I'm also excited for her to have the opportunity to travel and see new places and experience new things.  Ultimately it's her decision and we will support her either way.  She will need to make her own decision, accept it and move on.
One of the real challenges of parenting is putting what is right for our children FIRST.  Their life is not about us, it's about them.  The cult of "Mommy" tells us otherwise ~ I see more and more children who can't make basic decisions for themselves because their parents make them all.  If we don't let them make little decisions, how do we ever expect them to make big ones that really matter?
Would I love for my children to all stay close by as they become adults? Sure!  Will I pressure them to do so?  No.  It is not about me and what I want.  It is about where they need to go and what they need to do to thrive and grow and contribute to this crazy world we live in.
When our children are born they need us to survive, but from the moment they take their first breathe, their life journey is to take on more and more responsibility for their own survival.  It is our job to model a good life for them. To teach them the skills they need and then stay out of their way as they try and experiment and play.  From the moment they feel air we are beginning to let them go.  It is scary but also exciting.
What have I done with my life so far?  Raised three amazing, compassionate, crazy people who will make the world a better place.  They're not done yet (none of us ever really are!), but I think they're doing pretty well!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


I am in awe.  We dropped Katy off at Luther College on August 30th and I have a feeling that by the time she graduates in 2018, she will know, not just everyone on campus, but everyone in Decorah, IA.  In the 2 plus weeks she has been there, she has ventured out on her own more than I ever could have imagined as a scared college freshman in 1986.
When I called home, I was homesick and wanted to come home for a weekend.  When she calls (or texts, or face times, or messages), she has an adventure to tell me about!  Opening her own bank account, finding a local chiropractor, starting classes, work-study, joining a variety of clubs and activities.... My little extrovert is IN HEAVEN.

When Katy was born, and ever since then, we have sometimes joked that if she survived to adulthood, she would take over the world ~  well world.... Here she comes!
As an introvert (yes, I AM an introvert), I am often stunned at the comfort of my daughters when they are around strangers.  I have no trouble in social situations when I have a job to do, or if I know everyone, but put me at a cocktail party where I don't know anyone?  I will hang on my husband's arm or go wash dishes.  Put me on a stage in front of 1,000 people?  No problem.  Ask me to chit chat with someone new at church?  That takes all my energy!

Katy and Helen have an amazing ability to chat up almost anyone~ I think they inherited that from their Nana.  I was amazed as a teenager by my Mom's ability to discover within 10 minutes or less of meeting someone knew that they were the child of so and so who went to school with so and so who was married to so and so who lived next to my Grandmother when she was a little girl!  Seriously.
I can remember being in a shopping mall in MN~ not even one of the big ones, just our little local one.  I was full of my teenage self and mom was waiting on a bench outside a store while I shopped.  When I came out 10 minutes later, she had discovered that the lady sitting next to her had grown up in the same town as she did and had gone to nursing school with my Grandmother.  As a teenager, I would sometimes be embarrassed by my extroverted Mom's ability to strike up a conversation with anyone.  Now as I watch my daughter's do the same thing, I'm in awe and just a little bit envious.

I'm all about honoring who we are and for the most part I'm comfortable in my introverted skin.  There are times though when I think that being an extrovert would be better for someone like me with a small business.  So many relationships to build, so many people to chat with, SO HARD FOR ME!

Today when I talked to Katy, she had introduced herself to my retired college choir conductor, Weston Noble, who's an icon on campus and much beloved by Luther alumns.  They chatted and ended their visit with a hug and good wishes.  Then she headed off downtown on her new bike, that she researched and bought, for her chiropractor appt. with a Dr. she researched and found.  Then she meandered into the StoryPeople Shop downtown ( and met the creator of StoryPeople, Brian Andreas. They chatted and took a photo for me.  If you don't know StoryPeople, you should.
If you are an extrovert, none of this might sound that amazing to you, but to someone who still doesn't like to call and order a pizza and who finds on-line shopping to be an amazing way to avoid talking to strangers, it's awesome. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Love and Thanksgiving to Camp Calumet

So many thoughts and "feels".  Over the next week I will be writing more... It helps me process and distracts me.  First on the list in my brain is a love letter to Camp Calumet Lutheran.

Dear Camp Calumet,

I can't believe that this was our last year with a "camper".  For 14 summers you have been a home away from home for my children.  I know this isn't goodbye in any way, shape or form, but it does feel like a transition that needs to be marked.  Here are just a few of the reasons I will forever be grateful that in 2001 I took a leap of faith and moved to NH for the summer.

You have offered my children the opportunity to be a part of a giant "youth group".  Having grown up in the Holy Land of MN, I had an enormous youth group and endless opportunities to explore questions of God and faith with my peers on a weekly if not daily basis.  Even when it was purely social (much of the time!), I was with adults, friends and families who loved me and cared for me within the context of the Christian Faith.  Calumet has been one giant youth group and for that I thank you.

You've provided my children with the opportunity to PLAY.  In our increasingly technological and test driven world, I'm certain that my children have learned as much if not more about what is important in life (skills and ideas), during their time on the shores of Lake Ossipee.  I can't even begin to list it all, but here's a sample.
 They have learned to be themselves- they are so much more sure of who they are than I ever was- I don't always agree with them, but I'm so proud that they can think for themselves and hold strong to what is important to them.
 They have learned to problem solve, cooperate, support, guide, nurture, play, think, argue, apologize, love and so much more.
 They have learned that there is a community of people out there who LOVE them and who will always be there with open arms and endless grace.
 I know they have learned so much more, good and not so good, but this is what is important to me.

I also need to thank you for what you have given me as a parent and an individual.  You've supported me and Jeff as we have parented our children far from "home".  In fact, I referred to MN as "home" for our first 10 years in CT.  I stopped the year we discovered Calumet.
  You've given me endless opportunities to observe my children growing and learning - I have to thank them as well for allowing me into their "camp world". Most parents will never have this opportunity.
  You have offered me a community as well where I can be my best self.  For that I thank you from the depths of my heart.

Our relationship will continue, but with my youngest hopefully coming back as a trainee, we are now fully immersed in the next phase.  It will continue to be filled with joy and laughter, frustration and tears.  It will continue to help us all grow into the best people we can be.  Thank you.

See you next summer!

Yours most sincerely,      Jane

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Ticki tick tick....

One month to go- even though Katy has been away from home working at Calumet, she won't really be gone until August 30th when we leave her in her dorm room.  Right now I can still get to her quickly if she needs me.  By September it won't be so easy.  It will all be good though - she is more than ready and while I will miss her, I'm ready to sit back and watch her discover her path.  It will be an exciting one for sure.  She will get hurt and lost.  She will make mistakes and bad choices.  She will also have lots of fun, discover amazing things about herself and others, and change the world.  Just like her brother before her, she will manage just fine without me and her dad.
I know this.  She has learned most of her lessons well and is eager to learn more.
She also knows we are here when and if she needs us.

We are lucky.  She has a strong network of friends and family.  We are educated, have lots of skills and are part of a faith community which has helped us raise our children within a moral framework based on loving and caring for each other and the world.

What about those children and families who don't have what we do?  Like baby birds that get pushed out of the nest too soon, too many children have no safety net.  No one is there to catch them.  I see more and more out in the world where instead of supporting and helping children and families who are struggling, our culture judges them.  We make assumptions about families who make difficult and sometimes wrong choices.  We blame desperate people who send their children to the "land of opportunity", for taking resources that are "ours."
When basic needs are not being met, we cannot focus on anything else.  Children who are hungry cannot learn.  Parents who cannot feed, shelter or clothe their children adequately cannot focus on "bettering themselves or their situation."      
Desperate people do desperate things.  What if, instead of catering to big business etc. our politicians and decision makers put some time, energy and resources to addressing the desperate circumstances people find themselves in.  Just maybe if we cared for others instead of just ourselves, the world would be a kinder, more peaceful place.  Maybe some people just don't care.
Judging, punishing, criticizing and berating people DOES NOT HELP THEM LEARN HOW TO DO IT DIFFERENTLY.   It teaches them that no matter what they do they will be judged, punished, criticized and berated.  We have to find a different way.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The world according to Shoodiya

The last month has been one adventure after another adventure after another!  It's also been super busy with work and house stuff etc.  Our special guest for the summer, my niece Julia, has taught us some very important life lessons and I want to share them with you on this, her 20th birthday.

1) breathe ~ it has been a breath of fresh air to have someone in the house who takes time to breathe, look around and take the world in.  It calms me.

2) EVERYTHING is fun!  No matter what the task to be done, the response is "I LOVE......... "  Weeding, grocery shopping, washing windows, chopping vegetables or fruit, Julia embraces them all with a joyful heart ~ her joyful heart is contagious.

3) do it now.  I'm the queen of "later" or "not now" or "in a little bit".  Since Julia has been here, we have made kale chips, picked strawberries and blueberries, made jam and pie, eaten lobster in Maine, been all over New England including the beach in RI, watch several well loved movies, been to concerts and laughed a lot!  She has a way of quietly suggesting that "there is no time like the present."  I'm learning to say "yes" more often and I'm pretty sure Helen hopes that continues.

4) just get through it  whether she is feeling good or not, she has a smile and a positive attitude about everything she does.  It is impossible to be around her and not feel hopeful about the future.

5) life options are endless!  There are so many things that she is interested in becoming, it is both fun to talk with her about the possibilities and a reminder that even though I'm MUCH older than she is, my options are endless as well.  We can always change our path!

Julia has been our transitional object this summer, creating a little bit of a bridge to the fall when we will be down to one child in the house.  She has a quieter energy than her cousin Katy, but has filled the hole that Katy left by going to Calumet, with just what we all have needed.

We have a few more days to enjoy this special young woman and I will relish every one of them.  Now I'm going to go eat one of the cookies she and Helen baked late last night...

Monday, June 23, 2014

feeling the world's sadness...

The whirlwind that is Spring with a H.S. Senior has finally wound down.  I brought Kate to Camp Calumet to work for the summer last Thursday and the house is settling into a new routine.  My niece Julia is here through the end of July and we've named her our transitional object.  She has a lovely presence about her and makes it very hard to be mopey!
There have been plenty of reasons to be blue lately... All the goodbyes over the last 2 weeks, coupled with the tragic death of a local Ellington boy, is enough to make anyone cry.  On top of that my daughter and niece and I went to see "The Fault in our Stars".  WEEPFEST.  I got a little teary but did not cry.  I expected to weep, but I didn't.

So why have I been so dry-eyed?  The older I get and the more sadness I see, the less I cry.  Especially about other people's grief.  I got teary at graduation and when dropping Katy off at Camp. I will miss her terribly and am incredibly proud of her at the same time.  Both things that make me cry.
A graduate of our H.S. in the class of 2013 was killed last week in a tragic ATV accident.  I didn't know him, but from friends and social media, I know I would have liked him.  He was an athlete, student, all around good kid. Well loved by many.  But I didn't know him.  His Mom was one of my daughter's favorite middle school teachers, but I just know her from a local committee we are on.  My heart aches for her, her husband and their other three children.  But their grief is not mine.  I felt like I should go to the local vigil, wake or funeral, but could not bring myself to go.  I prayed for them privately and offered my support to a friend who knew the boy, but I could not grieve.  His death is tragic, but their grief is not mine.
Watching the movie, I felt so sad for the characters.  It is a tragic story.  Kids, cancer, young love.... who wouldn't weep?????  me.
With the explosion of social media, the private grief of so many has become public.  We collectively mourn every time there is a shooting or when a "famous" somebody passes away.  I remember when Princess Diana was killed and the overwhelming outpouring of grief from the world seemed both touching and exploitive at the same time.
Since then, it seems that the thing to do is to take on the grief out in the world and own it.  We take it over and weep for people we have never known.  As I re-read this I feel a little cold and hard-hearted, but I don't intend it that way.  How we all deal with grief and tragedy is by nature personal.  This is not intended as a judgment on those who would outwardly grieve with and for others.  I just find myself stepping further and further away.
My first career a million years ago was as a therapist.  Therapists are trained to listen and guide.  We we're taught to maintain a level of distance because it wasn't our job to take on our clients "stuff".  I was a sponge!  I would soak it up and then come home and squeeze it out all over my sweet young family.  I couldn't do it.  I couldn't keep myself from taking on other peoples pain.  A few years ago, seeing "The fault in our Stars" would have dissolved me into a puddle.  What has happened to my heart??
Perhaps as I get older and see and hear about more and more tragedy and grief in the world, I have to protect my heart so I don't get consumed by the sadness.  Maybe my role is once again to listen and support and pray.  To be with others when they need me.  To be an observer rather than participant.

maybe that's enough.

Friday, June 13, 2014

tonight's the night...

So many BIG days over the last few weeks-  18th birthday, skydiving, concerts, recitals, 21st birthday.
Tonight child number 2 graduates from High School.  Child number 1 turned 21 yesterday.  Child number 3 is beginning to realize that life is changing quickly and will never be the same.  The "nest" is quickly gaining more room, but will be quieter and maybe a little lonely next year.
We've gained a transitional "niece" for the summer as Julia arrives to work with me and be a substitute big sister, but she will head home the end of July and it will be quiet.
We will put off the quiet a little longer by spending a few weeks in our favorite place - Camp Calumet.
The quiet will arrive though.  We might enjoy it for a while and we will adjust to it for sure.  She is right though.  Life is changing rapidly and will never be the same.
At some point she will realize that change isn't bad.  Really, life is just beginning!

As much as I'm feeling melancholy this week about my children growing up and moving on, I'm so excited for them!  They are becoming really interesting, awesome people and as the parent/child hierarchy shifts to incorporate more elements of friendship, I'm looking forward to following their adventures and maybe sharing a few.

Once in a while I think about what I really want them to know... here's what I have so far:

1) your dad and I love you more than we ever thought was possible

2) no matter how far you fly you can always come home

3) we will not always agree with you, but we will always support your final decisions

4) life is hard. surround yourself with people you love and who love you - it makes it easier

5) know how to say "I'm sorry" and "Thank you" and say them whenever it's appropriate

6) find work that energizes you and feeds your soul

7) live within your means - debt sucks

8) sing, dance, play, exercise and believe in something greater than yourself

9) be careful who you share your innermost thoughts and dreams with, but once you commit to a relationship, jump in with both feet

10) be happy

Friday, May 30, 2014

Hold your breath and jump!

This is a big weekend.  I'm both excited and terrified.  I'm not a thrill seeker - I don't like roller coasters or other activities that put my physical self in danger.  When my children were small though, I discovered that while I was not a thrill seeker, I LOVED seeing my children take risks and succeed.

When Andrew was about 2 we went to a playground nearby and he kept heading for this giant climbing thing.  I kept following him and taking him off.  "It's too big!"  He was persistent though and at some point I let him climb, staying nearby to "spot" him.  Wouldn't you know he made it to the top by himself and the look on his face was PRICELESS.  As he grew he continued to explore things like trees and jungle gyms.  As a young man, he loves to explore the woods, fly down the road on his long board and push himself to master the practice of Yoga.  I love to hear about his adventures!

Katy was a thrill seeker from day one from the moment that she burst out of me.  She has always been a jumper, diver, tumbler, flyer etc...  From tree climbing, swing jumping, roller coasters, gymnastics, trampolines, diving, etc... She loves the physical thrill of pushing her body and mind to JUMP!

Tomorrow my bundle of energy and nerve turns 18.  When she turned 15 she wanted to skydive.  We said when you're 18.  We figured she would forget or move on.  Sunday morning she is jumping out of a perfectly good plane and SHE CAN'T WAIT!

I will watch from the ground, take pictures, worry about her, cry, and exalt in her complete GLEE.

While there are times during this "launching" period that are really hard for me, I am so excited to see what comes next for my Katy.  I will miss her terribly, and will worry sometimes too.  You can't send a child out into today's world without worrying about something.  BUT, I will look forward to hearing about her adventures and discoveries, her thrills and disappointments.

Tomorrow it all begins in earnest.  Turning 18, jumping out of a plane, launching herself into HER future.

I will hold on tight and enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

I will always be their mama

 Time is flying by way too fast for me ~  Almost a month has passed since I last wrote and it's a blur.  So much to process and think about and no idea where to start.
The pictures are of me and my chicks with the Mother's Day tree they planted for me many years ago.  Someday I'll find pics from the past
years to show how they have all grown - the chicks and the tree.  I'm the only constant.  I hope that is how my children see me - as a constant in their life.

I know change is inevitable and in fact IS the only constant in life.  When they were babies and toddlers, one of my mantra's (compliments of my sister Mary) was "This too shall pass."  When they were up all night, or having tantrums or getting into messes, I would repeat "This too shall pass." Over and over and over again.  It always worked.

Children are by nature, creatures of change.  They grow and experiment and adapt and test and practice.  Their whole
focus in life is to try out the world and figure out where they fit.  There are times when I wish more grown ups would stay with this way of being.
We get stuck in ruts and obsess about doing things certain ways.  My general way of being is more like a child.  I'm inconsistent and unpredictable.  I start "plans" and get bored quickly.  I try out new strategies and then discover there are other ones out there.  Even I get stuck.  I want some things to stay the same.
When my chicks were small, it was the frustrating annoying things that I wanted to "pass" and they did.  Now the very things I want to stay the same are the ones that are changing.  Everything changes.

Life is about change.

I love watching my chicks grow.  I love watching them turn into amazing people.  I know that they will change the world for the better.  While very little about me stays they same, I want to continue to be their "constant".  I will always be their mama.  Like my sweet Mother's Day tree, I want to be strong and beautiful.  I want to be available to them whenever they need me.  Life is about change.  Our relationships will change and evolve as they have from the moment I gave birth to them, but I will always be their mama.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Two months to go...

This past week my husband and I had a rare 3 days home alone.  The girls were both away on a three day trip with their school drama club and we had a chance to imagine life with an empty nest.  It is not often that they are both gone at the same time for several days.  At first we relished the quiet and the calm.  We joked about our "glimpse into the future."  We are best friends and know that life together once our children have launched will be wonderful.  We will miss them, but we are looking forward to what our next chapter will bring.
By the third day I was reminded that I'm not ready for this chapter to be over yet though!  I missed their crazy energy and their endless chatter.  I missed their smiles, hugs and kisses.  I missed their presence.

I haven't been inclined to write much lately ~ life has been busy with kids, work, Jeff's knee replacement the end of March, etc...  I've had endless excuses not to sit down and write.  I'm pretty sure the only reason I haven't actually managed to write is that this is when I pause and really think about how quickly life is moving.  The next chapter is coming and I need to make sure that I'm not skimming the pages of the current one.  It's too easy to just glance a page and turn it.  I want to re-read some over and over again, but don't always take the time to do it.

Two months...

My middle child graduates from high school in less that 2 months.  The next 2 months are full of adventures: college registration, prom, concerts, banquets, awards ceremonies etc...  They will go so fast and I don't want to miss a minute.

Two months from tomorrow I will bring her to New Hampshire to our beloved Camp Calumet where she will spend the summer working as a Camp Counselor.  There is no place she would rather be... except maybe the next chapter of her story ~ Luther College.
After 2 months in New Hampshire we will bring her across 1/2 the country to our beloved Decorah, IA and leave her at one of the best places in the world.  We will leave her there and return home.  Life will never be the same.  She takes over her story and we will do our best to read along.  We can't read ahead because those chapters haven't been written yet.  There will be drama and grief, joy and pain, love and adventure.  That's the kind of girl she is.  I will be as close as a text message or a phone call, but will be too far to hold her hand.  I will have to be satisfied that I will hold her heart as I have for the past 18 years.

2 months is a blink of an eye.  So is 18 years.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Choices, obstacles and getting out of my own way

Yesterday I read a blog post of a friend of mine,, and was inspired to think about my own choices.  Like me, Gayle has a small business of her own and while it's a different kind of business, we have similar freedoms and restrictions that come with being a small business owner.

As a small business owner I choose whether to grow my business or not.  I choose when I work and when I don't.  I choose whether I hire others or do it myself.  There's a lot of choices.  Sometimes I wish I had a boss so I didn't have to make all the choices.

I have a 6 month cycle that I seem to follow ~  for 6 months I'm energized and focused and full of ideas and passion for building and growing my little music and arts community.  Then for 6 months I slide down, forgetting to follow up on ideas, make things happen, follow through.

This has gone on for years now.   I'm certain it is irritating to many of those close to me.  It makes me crazy!  I end up in the same place each time.  "If only I had a partner who liked the business side of things."  "If only I had some capital to invest in growing."  "If only..."  If only I put on my big girl pants and got out of my own way.

I think I'm afraid of some of the choices I'm faced with.  Figuring out why is the hard part.  I routinely come back to the big question:  Do I really dive in and grow my business or do I accept how it is now and maintain it?  The answer has almost always been DIVE IN!  The ideas start flowing, the energy gets going and then...

"Look, there's a chicken!"  The distractions begin.  The "what if's?" join in.  The "I don't know how to do that" starts up.  One by one the ideas and the energy get diverted into other things.  The list of excuses grows and grows.

The worst thing that would happen if I really committed to growing my business and making my vision a reality is that it wouldn't grow and I'd have what I have now.  A sweet, lovely little business that needs a little financial attention.  Not the worst thing in the world.

But what if I really did it this time?  What if I got out of my own way and actually did the things on the list?  What if I found the people to help with the tasks I hate and then actually gave them the power to do them?  What if I stood up, behaved like the smart, energetic, passionate small business owner I am and allowed my ideas and energy to come together to grow the vibrant music and arts community I see in my dreams?

I would have to make the choice to believe in myself.  I think that's the most difficult one.  I don't know why.  I'll add it to my list and maybe figure it out tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


The last few mornings as I've had my coffee, snuggled with the puppy and watched the TODAY Show, they've been doing these segments on Selfies.  The focus has been on "natural" selfies.  The anchors all showed themselves with no make up; then they quickly put it back on again.  People out on the street have been taking off their make-up, taking selfies, and having them show up on giant screens in NYC.  They have invited viewers to do the same and send in their "selfies."  Today a group of women over 40 talked about what they did and didn't like about themselves - baggy eyes, baggy belly's, etc.. They talked about feeling invisible. Then they took selfies which showed up….. on giant screens - not invisible anymore!  It's all about owning oneself, the good the bad and the ugly.  They've referenced a great photo project that involved Mothers and Daughters and selfies.  Really cool project.

With two teenage girls and a history of struggling with body image myself, I've become increasingly aware of how I speak about myself and others in terms of appearance.  Once in a while I slip.  At the mall the other day, I commented on the number of people wearing crop tops who SHOULD NOT be wearing crop tops.  My 17 year old turns to me and scolds me for being judgmental.  I was.  Besides the fact that it's CT and it's winter so crop tops are not weather appropriate, not everyone needs to share their belly.  Honestly it's none of my business but I was hormonal and spending a lovely day at the mall with 3 teenage girls.  I apologized.

I think I've gotten better about keeping my body criticism about myself, to myself.  My girls know that while I would love to have a smaller butt there are quite frankly more important things in my world and in the grand scheme of things, I'm doing alright for 45.  I want them to be strong and confident and to love their bodies, and so far, they seem to be OK in this department.

But would I take off my makeup and take a selfie for the world to see?  Nope.  I've worn make up since I was in Jr. High and my mom let me start wearing blush after I got sent to the school nurse too many times because I was "pale".  Mascara has always been my friend and even if I don't manage anything else, I rarely skip the mascara.  It's not that I think I "need" make-up, it's just part of me and sometimes its fun.  If I don't "need" it though why the complete refusal to take a selfie of my natural unmade up self?   I think I look more awake, more "put together", more me.  I do go without make-up sometimes - when I spend a few weeks in New Hampshire at Camp Calumet I rarely wear make-up (except maybe mascara).  So what's the big deal with one stupid picture?

I simply don't care.  I have no problem with pictures, but I prefer them with my family, my friends, my dogs.  I don't feel the need to take a picture of myself to see myself with or without makeup.  I can look in a mirror anytime I want.  The very word "selfie" is annoying me.  I have raised my children (and continue to do so) with the idea that they are NOT the center of the universe, mine or anyone else's.  They are a part of an amazing community of people and while it is important to take care of oneself, it is equally (if not more important) to take care of others.  When we focus so much on ourselves, we lose purpose and perspective.

I want my children to care for themselves but not be obsessed.  I want them to take pride in what they do, but not gloat.  I want them to reach their goals, but not at the expense of those around them.  Being self-obsessed is developmentally appropriate at certain ages, but isn't our goal as parents to help our children move past that stage?

It makes it hard when the media and pop culture seems so completely obsessed with youth, beauty, and SELF.  How about OTHERS?  I know there needs to be balance, and that some self-care is essential.  Women are often terrible at taking care of themselves and you know the whole airplane story about putting the oxygen on yourself first?  But I see people out in the world, women in particular who become so focused on caring for themselves, that they forget about the OTHERS.  Getting my nails done when I'm feeling blue helps me feel better for a little bit.  Buying someone else a cup of coffee or listening to a friend who needs to talk makes me feel better a lot longer.

I love the Random Acts of Kindness movement and the newer Suspended Coffees page on Facebook.  Helping OTHERS doesn't have to be a big deal, but it can improve your SELF in a very real way.  Think about the Golden Rule: Treat OTHERS the way you want to be treated.  How about "Love thy neighbor as thyself."  This is nothing new.  This is OLD STUFF.  We just forget sometimes when we live in a world that bullies us into focusing on ourselves.  Wear make-up if you feel like it, not because Maybelline says you should.  Exercise because it feels good, not because Planet Fitness says you should.  Care for yourself and others but don't obsess about either too much.

Love others, love yourself ~ care for others, care for yourself ~ be kind to others, be kind to yourself ~ forgive others, forgive yourself.

Friday, February 14, 2014

it's all about the love...

Since I last posted, I've written any number of blog entries in my head.  They just haven't made it here.  I've thought about how quickly time is passing.  I've thought about what is different about kids who launch successfully and those who stay home.  I've thought about new careers.  I've thought about a lot of things.  I've thought that blogging more often might be a good idea - maybe the middle of the night musings would diminish and I would sleep more.  Maybe not.  I have a busy brain.

What is most recently on my mind has been what makes the difference between successful launchers and unsuccessful launchers.  It's funny to me that this is on my mind as the last project I worked on in graduate school (a million years ago!) was exactly this.
There has been a lot of talk over the last decade about the increasing numbers of adult children who either never leave home or who move back home.  The conversation generally leads to talk of economics, lack of jobs, cost of housing etc…  These factors have often existed through time though, so what's different now? I'm going to propose a few other theories (I'm pretty sure ones that are out there too), that I think make a difference today.

1) We as parents sometimes make life a little too easy for our children.  Why would they want to leave to tough it out in a tiny apartment where they have to cook for themselves, do their own laundry, pay their own cable etc…  For some reason, the very things that so many past generations went through as part of "growing up" appear too hard or unappealing and we happily (or grudgingly) allow our kids to experience an extended childhood well into their twenties.

2) While the job market has been challenging over the last many years, there are jobs.  Many of them are hard, low-paying, and don't necessarily use the education that today's high school and college grads have gotten and are still paying for, but they are jobs.  They are not careers, but they are jobs and can help pay the bills and move you forward in life.

3) We've created a family system where our children are the center of our universe.  When they leave, what's next?  It's great to be friends with our kids, but that's not really our job.  When our world revolves around them, the idea of them leaving and creating a life that doesn't include us at the center can be terrifying.

4) There are teens and twenty-somethings whose families have gone through divorces, illness or death, right at the point when they are supposed to be heading out on their own.  Sometimes the very real needs of the parents trump the needs of the kids.  For a while this is reasonable, but for some families, they get stuck ~ you can't leave home when your parents desperately need you.  As parents we need our children to know we will be fine so they can move on.

I've just re-read all of that and it sounds academic and unsympathetic.  What's the benefit of launching our kids out of High School or College anyways?  What's wrong with them living at home well into their 20's or even 30's?

I've said this before and I'll say it again ~ from the moment we give birth to our children we are preparing them to leave us.  The more we allow them to do things they are capable of the more we reinforce the idea that we believe they are competent and more than able to take care of themselves and others.  If we continue to do things for them, the message they get is that we don't think they can manage.  We spend a lot of time building them up falsely with trophies and "self-esteem" building experiences when the very things that will most help them develop a sense of personal agency continue to be done for them.  We rescue them when they make mistakes, we bail them out when they do stupid things, we take care of them long after they should be taking care of themselves.  No wonder we have an increasing number of adults who can't function.  Sky-rocketing rates of depression, anxiety, suicide, etc…. If you grow up being told you are perfect and awesome, but you have no idea how to function in the world and are rescued and cared for at every turn, heading out into the world on your own must be terrifying!

As I've watched my children grow, particularly my two oldest at this point, I am more and more proud of them, and not for the things I expected to be proud of.  Andrew is one of the smartest people I know, but his grades wouldn't show it.  While I'd love to see him do better academically, I'm proud that he owns it.  I'm proud that he is working ridiculously hard in a dining hall, washing dishes and mopping floors to help pay for his living expenses in a tiny apartment and an education that while he is not necessarily enjoying it, knows will help him in the future in some way, shape or form.  I'm proud that he is teaching himself to cook and has discovered the joy of feeding others ~ I'm proud of the man he is becoming.  Any imaginings of who he might grow up to be have been replaced by an even better reality of an independent, caring young man.  He knows he can always come home if he needs too, but I suspect that will never be for more than a few weeks at a time.

Katy is preparing herself to leave home by the middle of June and after that, will most likely never be home more than a few weeks at a time as well.  She has hopes and dreams to do great things in the world and I can't wait to hear about her adventures.  Will I miss her?  Absolutely!  As much as I miss her brother.  But this is what they've been moving towards they whole life.  We've been raising them to be adults, not children.  I'm proud and humbled that they can change the world and have no doubt they are capable of doing so.  Will they live in tiny apartments and eat a lot of beans and rice?  Yep.  Is that ok with me? Yep.
When you can struggle through the tough times on your own, you gain the strength and knowledge to thrive and move forward.  At two, when they say "I do it myself!"  they mean it.  listen.

Monday, January 13, 2014

so it begins...

This weekend was the beginning for me.  A recognition that Katy is really heading to college next year; a long way from home.  A REALLY long way from home.  It seems like Andy just got back from his "Luther" visit in January of 2011.  Somehow we've sped to 2014, and while Andy decided against Luther, Katy is more sure than ever that it is the place for her.

I can't disagree and I'm sure I will blog numerous times about the merits of my Alma Mater, but today is about the recognition that the next 8 months are going to fly by.  If I'm really honest, it's only 5 and a half months before she heads out of "the nest," first to Calumet and then Luther.

The first time around (launching Andy), I was weepy from January on as I prepared myself, prematurely, to send my firstborn out into the world.  By the time he actually graduated and headed off to work at Calumet for the summer and then into his dorm at UConn, I was alright.  Granted he was 30 minutes down the road.  We don't see much of him, but just knowing that if he needed us or we needed him, we could get him home in a matter of a lunch break, has made it easier than I expected.  In fact, sometimes it's hard to believe he is halfway through his 3rd year!

This weekend when Katy was at Luther, I remembered how very far away it is.  While we have family and friends nearby who will step in if she ever needs "family", visits from us will be few and far between, and I will mostly be able to "be there" via phone and internet.  I won't be able to just drive over after work and take her out for lunch, or pick her up for a quick visit home.

I have no doubt that she is up to the challenge ~ She is far more independent than I remember being when I went off to college.  She has connected already with professors, coaches, peers, and admissions counselors with no prompting or guidance from us.  She knows where she wants to be and what she wants to do when she gets there.  The only tricky part will be making choices about how she spends her time.

I'm not sad yet.  We have months to go and I know that some of that time will be spent with her pushing us away; it's how it works.  I'll be ready to send her off when it's time.

I'm envious of the experiences she has yet to have and while you couldn't pay me enough to revisit middle school or high school for a minute, I would go back to college any day!

Like her brother, she is growing into an amazing, passionate, thoughtful young person with the potential to change the world for the better.  I'm looking forward to following her journey.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Fresh Start

2014 ~ a fresh year, a fresh start.

I didn't write yesterday because I wasn't ready.  I planned to start the year with a post on January 1st focused on moving forward and taking charge!

I couldn't do it.  It felt hypocritical.

At the beginning of vacation, I had a conversation with my son that started me thinking.  We were talking about school and his plans.  He has not had a great college experience, and while he has toyed with the idea of dropping out or taking a semester off, he's decided to plow through, finish his degree, pay off his loans and then get on with his life.
This seems relatively responsible - a college degree does increase his chances of getting a job in the future, paying off his students loans would be a load off and then moving forward would be exciting.  He could "get on with his life."

Today as I was bringing him back to his apartment, I struggled with this and what I realized was that HIS LIFE IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW.  If he's not happy with his life now, why wait?  why not change it now?  I wanted to tell him to either find a way to really engage in school, or quit and move on.  Why waste time and money doing something that you feel no passion for?  Sometimes you just have to slog through something unpleasant.  If that's the choice you make, fine.  Do it.  Put your best effort into it.  If you just can't do it, then move on.


One of the lessons I've struggled with as a parent is how to convey to my children how important it is to live the life you have.  I'm perpetually looking towards the next "thing".  I have a terrible time being "in the moment".  I constantly think about "what's next?" without really attending to "what's now!" I do not set a great example for "living in the moment."

Business is tough right now.  Numbers are down, I'm struggling with how to set up the studio in a sustainable way with partners I have and those I haven't found yet.  I've thought about ways to do it, but haven't followed through.  I spend time mulling about "what if I just can't do it?" instead of just doing it.  I think about other possible directions for my life to take, but have a hard time doing what needs to be done RIGHT NOW.  I'm not sure owning a business is my passion - teaching children and families is, but the business part is harder for me.  I'm the queen of "what if?"

I want this to be the year when I stop wasting time.  The year that I relish the "here and now".  I want to sent an example of "just do it."  Either run my business or don't.  Find a way to do the work I love in a way I can be successful.  Either dig in or move on.  I want to tell my son (and daughters) that while there are times when you just need to plow through something in life, it's also ok to say "ENOUGH! Time to move on!"  What is most important is that you find work that not only pays the bills, but fills your soul.  If you don't know what that is, figure it out.  Stop wasting time on things that don't matter to you.

I want 2014 to be the year when joy returns with a vengeance.