the nest

the nest

Monday, December 14, 2015

December 14th

Today is a Monday like many others. Everyone in the house is up early. My husband and daughter are out the door and I have a short time to soak in the rays from my HappyLight, check in on Facebook and take a quick peek at my e-mail.
Today is December 14th. It makes this Monday different. Today people throughout CT (and elsewhere) remember Sandy Hook.  We remember the 26 souls taken from the world by a lost and sick young man.  20 children, 6 teachers. Their deaths began a new age in our world, one where we don't feel safe even in the "safest" places.


3 years ago our middle child was struggling with mental health issues. Our December was completely absorbed in keeping her safe and getting her help. 3 years later she is thriving in college. She had access to good mental health services and she DIDN'T have access to a gun. If she had, we could have easily been mourning her suicide. If the murderer of Sandy Hook had better mental health services he may not have done what it did. If he did not have easy access to his mother's guns he would not have done what he did.  No one could have magically made him "better," but we could have prevented his access to guns.

3 years ago we all said "never again." the horror of school children being murdered seemed like more than enough to wake up the country to look seriously at gun control and mental health. While progress has been made, Since Sandy Hook it's not enough.  The Federal Government has been unable to make any progress, so any semblance of sanity on the issue of gun control/gun safety has fallen to individual states. Any progress is good, but as long as individual states have widely disparate laws, too many guns will continue to be available to those who want them.

Here's the problem though. When a "mass" shooting happens there is a lot of activity - statistics are thrown around, social media is busy with people on both sides of the issue. In the meantime, those who could make significant change in this land, don't. What we hear are excuses.  "It's not about guns, it's about mental health." "If more good guys had guns, we could beat the bad guys." "The second amendment protects my right to protect myself and my family." "More gun control won't work, 'cause the bad guys will get the guns anyways." After a week or so, the flurry of activity slows, we move on with our lives and wait for the next time we hear in the news "Mass shooting at a......."
Here's the thing.

"Mass shootings get all the attention, but they are a small part of the overall problem," "On the same day as the Sandy Hook shooting, about 90 other people died as the result of a shooting."(quote from the above link)

The number of people killed as a result of gun violence in this country outside the sensational shootings is not acceptable. Domestic violence, suicide, homicide, accidental.  Just the number of people who are injured or killed when a TODDLER comes across a gun and accidentally fires it should be enough for the powers that be to make some common sense reforms regarding the gun laws of the United States.   


Good Mental Health services continue to be difficult to come by even if you have resources. While progress has been made, there is still more to do.  The work that needs to be done will NOT be done until we value people over things.  As long as those in power value the almighty dollar more than the life of a child nothing will change.  Even when changes are made and those who need it get help, it will still take time. 


In the meantime, common sense gun reform nationwide, could make a huge impact.  To deny the progress made by neighboring countries is foolish.  Fewer guns = fewer gun deaths.  Will it prevent all gun deaths? No. Will reducing the number of guns end all mass shootings? No. Will reducing the number of guns in the US and requiring common sense protections like "smart technology," training, safe storage etc. significantly reduce the number of deaths due to gun violence. The numbers and the experience of Australia, the UK and Japan would suggest YES.


While I am horrified each time there is a mass shooting and December 14th will always be a sad day, I want to see change for the hundreds of thousands of individuals who deaths don't make the news or social media. 


Today on December 14th, I'm going to remember the 26 souls lost at Sandy Hook School, but I'm also going remember the 554 children under age 12 who have died since Sandy Hook due to 
intentional or accidental gunshots. I'm going to remember the 33,599 people who died LAST YEAR in the US due to gun violence. I'm going to remember the 497,632 people who have died because of guns since 1999. 

 I'm also going to pray for the souls of those who stand by and do nothing.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Gift of neighbors

Sunday was an awesome "re-set" day for me. I was wrapped up again in fretting and venting about things that are critically important, but out of my control. At least for now. I don't mean that I'm backing off on gun control, support for Planned Parenthood, or any of the other issues that are important to me right now, but sitting at my computer sharing everything I can find with mostly people who agree with me is not really a great use of my time!

Yesterday I started the day with some of my favorite people, leading the worship service at First Lutheran, followed by the fastest, most efficient committee meeting ever, followed by Christmas Caroling right in the neighborhood around our church building.  We have done Christmas Caroling in many ways over the years, sometimes going specifically to the homes of members of our congregation who can't get out anymore, or going to local nursing homes or assisted living facilities, but I can't remember ever going house to house in the neighborhood around our church.

Growing up, my family, along with many others, would go Caroling house to house. Many of you may remember similar experiences. We knew most if not all of our neighbors and knew they would welcome us. Somehow that seems less common.  To be honest, I was a little nervous. We had a number of very enthusiastic children with us and I didn't want them to get discouraged by closed doors. We've been members of First for 20+ years, but we don't know our "neighbors."

We quickly discovered there was nothing to fear!  While there were many neighbors who weren't home (it was a beautiful Sunday afternoon after all), those who were, welcomed us.  Several insisted on sending us away with treats and a few cars driving by stopped to listen.  We are not professional. We didn't rehearse.  We sometimes sang in a few different keys at the same time. No one cared!  We were sharing a gift with our neighbors and in their thanks, I was humbled. Holiday greetings were exchanged with great happiness.

There is so much emphasis on "not offending" anyone in our world today. What if we sing Christmas songs at the home of a Jewish family or a Muslim family? What if someone thinks we are trying to "convert" them? What if they don't like our singing? What if?

What happened to the idea of simply sharing our gifts with each other? When we work so hard to not offend, we build higher and higher walls between "us" and "them". The simple act of stepping off our church property and sharing our joy in the season with our neighbors was one of the most joyful things I've done in months! The smiles on the faces of our neighbors was a gift to us.

We cannot give in to a world that tries to tell us that we should fear our "neighbors." In a global society our neighbors are next door and around the world. Instead of fearing them, we must love them. When we assume the best in others, we are often rewarded with the best in return.

There will be times when a door will be shut, when a "neighbor" will disappoint. Doesn't this already happen though within our own families and communities?? We are all human and in our humanity we will fail and disappoint others. But, what if we lived our life assuming the best? What if instead of approaching strangers with the assumption that they should be feared, we approached them as a neighbor we haven't met yet?

We cannot control what happens out in the world, but we can control our reaction to it. If we react to terror with fear and hate, we do nothing to counteract it. If we respond with love and forgiveness we send a powerful message that those who perpetrate acts of terror or violence will not win.

I don't know about you, but I would much rather die with love and forgiveness in my heart than hate and fear.  

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The new normal ISN'T NORMAL.

I'm so disgusted right now. Over and over again it happens. Innocent people are slaughtered right here in the "land of the free". Those who we have elected offer "thoughts and prayers" to those in Colorado Springs, Savannah, San Bernadino, and then go back to business as usual.

Right now I want to be writing about the holidays with my almost adult children. Thanksgiving was a warm up to Christmas and it is an interesting time to be a parent when your children come "home" to visit. I don't want to be talking yet again about the incredible stupidity of the country I live in. WHEN DO WE LEARN?

Yesterday my 16 year old posted the following on her FB page, "I think one of the saddest parts of the San Bernadino shooting today is that I'm no longer surprised by this kind of violence. I shouldn't be used to hearing about shootings. So incredibly sad and WRONG."

This child has grown up in a post-Columbine world. She has been struggling with increasing anxiety since she was 10. On the surface she has little to be anxious about. She is loved, she is beautiful, she is smart, she is kind, she works hard, she lives in a "safe" town with good schools, she is blessed. She has also grown up in a world that seems to be increasingly scary and unpredictable. It is no longer "when is the next shooting going to occur", the question is "where is it going to be today?" Of my three children she has grown up with the most media exposure from a young age. It's everywhere. School is also increasingly stressful (for many reasons) and does not appear to be any safer than any place else.

The facts say that she is still safer in our small town and in her school that in many places. Logic should tell her that she has little to fear and everything to look forward to. Facts and logic mean nothing when you have been in a state of fear and worry throughout your formative years.  Brains developing while under constant state of "preparedness" cannot possibly be optimal. How much of the dramatic increase in depression and anxiety among our children has as much to do with the "marketing" of our dangerous world? When they are bombarded with images of violence over and over, in places that "they could be" why wouldn't they begin to fear for themselves? If the messages they get from the adults in their world be in family members or the talking heads, is that "there is nothing we can do about 'it'" why wouldn't they begin to experience feelings of hopelessness and despair. If you are perpetually in a state of "fight or flight," your adrenaline levels stay high.  They aren't supposed to do this. THIS ISN'T NORMAL. It isn't normal for us to be in a state of "preparedness" ready to react at the slightest threat.

After a rough few days, H was showing signs of her normal, happy, goofy self. She made it through the school day without a text or a call home or a visit to the nurses office. The early part of the afternoon she was a joy. As the day progressed and she saw bits of news, scrolled through Facebook, watch a video on Syrian refugees and followed news reports on the events of San Bernadino, she began to wilt. Her stomach began to hurt, her fears of getting sick increased, her anxiety began to climb through the roof.

Strategies to calm her didn't work and finally her dad ended up sleeping in her room so she would feel safe. This morning despite a night of sleep she was still feeling miserable and stayed in bed. Another day of school will be missed.  How do I know this isn't just some virus? Because it happens with increasing frequency and we have explored all the possible "medical" explanations.  She is dealing with anxiety and physical illness is how it is expressed in her body. THIS ISN'T NORMAL.

At 16 her worries should be few - school, driving, boys, maybe thinking about college, what to wear. She should be spending increasing amounts of time with her friends, moving away from the "nest." Instead she is spending more and more time at home. She doesn't like to be alone at night. She worries about her own safety and the safety of her siblings who have left home. She worries about Syrian children who have nowhere to sleep and nothing to eat. She worries about other vulnerable populations who are bullied and abused. I might be projecting my own worries on her, but she worries about the world she is going to be responsible for. The world that will exist when she is "grown-up."

Right now it is too scary. She doesn't want to grow up. My smart, funny, talented, compassionate child is doing everything she can to not grow up. To not have to "leave the nest." I can't say I blame her. She is coming of age in a world full of hate and violence. A world where money and wealth appears to be valued over people. A world that doesn't seem to care about children or others who need our care.

It would be easy to say it's time to limit her media exposure. Tell her to stop watching the news. Tell her to stay off social media for a while. I want to protect her and surround her in a bubble of Christmas music and cookie baking.  I want to hide her from the world.

While we will have this conversation, I can't protect her from the world she lives in. Social media is a big part of that world and she needs to learn how to navigate through it.  Like her mom, she needs to learn when to "turn it off." We will continue to work with the different professionals in our life who are helping us develop strategies to deal with anxiety. We will breathe, journal, add yoga to our routine, continue to eat as healthfully as we can, find ways to serve others, and try to keep some perspective.

This is all a part of parenting for sure, and I know I have pretty tremendous kids. They all have a strong sense of responsibility to make the world a better place and I know they will. I just wish the world they were inheriting wasn't so f'ed up.

I am angry that instead of the fire drills and tornado drills of my childhood in MN, schools now have "active shooter" drills. THIS ISN'T NORMAL. I am angry that those in a position to learn from other countries who have successfully addressed these very issues, like Australia, insist on spouting the rhetoric of personal "rights" without taking responsibility for the safety of the community. I'm tired that the "rights" of the individual to own whatever gun they want, trumps the rights of my child (and yours) to have a childhood and to feel safe. I'm angry that everything comes back to the almighty dollar and whoever has the most money get's their way.

Like my daughter, I can so easily get overwhelmed by the horror and tragedy. As a grown-up I have to keep perspective. I have to model balance in my life and in my use of and access to Social media. I have to acknowledge that I can't fix everything. I need to take one small step at a time. There is so much good in the world and so many good people doing that good.  We need to see them and be them.  We need to shine a light on those doing good and also shine our own light.

In the Christian calendar we have just begun the season of Advent. A season of waiting and anticipating. We wait for the birth of Christ. The Light of the World. Here's the thing.  The light is already here - it's us. We can't just wait while we share our "thoughts and prayers." WE ARE THE LIGHT. When we accept responsibility for a broken world and dedicate ourselves to loving and healing it, then we welcome the Light. Only then will we truly welcome the Christ Child. Those who hate and condemn and judge seek to put the light out. While we wait in the darkness, we must shine a light.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The others

Sunday my family went with others from our church to worship with a congregation in Northampton, MA.  We brought a meal to share and were welcomed with open arms.  This little congregation could not be more different than ours.  Many are homeless, physically or mentally ill, and/or drug addicted. Many are veterans. Many are recovering and struggling to re-build their life. Many are victims of violence; physical, sexual, emotional. All are food insecure.  For some, the dinner we brought was their first meal of the day.
We came from warm homes with cupboards and refrigerators and freezers full of food. We have closets full of clothing and multiple pairs of mittens or multiple hats and scarves and coats and boots to choose from when it's cold.
When we arrived, my 16 year snuggled up to me and whispered in my ear "is it terrible that some of these people make me uncomfortable?".  That my sweet child is why we are here.
We spend so much time with those who are just like us.  It's comfortable and easy.  The more time we spend with those like us the easier it is to look through those who are not.  To look at them as if they are alien.  But how different are they really?
They have flesh and blood. They feel pain and joy. They need to eat and and be sheltered. We also struggle with mental illnesses, addiction, violence. Many of them have or have had families who they loved and cared for.  They want to be able to live their life in peace.  They look out for each other. They are children of God.  They did not choose to be born into their life any more than I chose to be born into mine.  We all make choices that can either lead is in one direction or another, but here's the thing.  It's a whole lot easier for me to "pull myself up by my bootstraps" because I HAVE BOOTS.
When we first spend time with others who appear so different from us, it can be intensely uncomfortable.  The more time we spend, the more we remember that they are not so different from us.  Our discomfort increases when we realize that we could be them, but decreases when we share the Peace and are reminded that we are all children of God.
During the service there was a brief explanation of the difference between sympathy and empathy.  Sympathy is what many of us feel when we see someone who is "unfortunate."  Empathy is what we feel when we can put ourselves in their shoes.  Empathy leads to reaching out and offering a helping hand.  Empathy leads to kindness. Empathy is not just suggesting a way out of the pit. It's climbing down into the pit and being with the "other." When we can walk in someone else's shoes we realize that they are not "others".  They are "all of us".
The current political climate would lead us to believe that the Syrian refugees are "others".  While many are riding the tide of hate and fear, more and more of " us" are demanding that we reach out to those in need.  When we remember that the refugees are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, Christians and Muslims, we begin to demand that the rush to judgement be stopped.  When we acknowledge that the "others" are flesh and blood, they feel pain and joy and fear, they want to live their lives in peace, they didn't choose to be born in their war torn region any more than I chose to be born in the US, the more we are uncomfortable with the hate and fear-mongering.
Jesus was a refugee when his tiny family fled the murderous forces of Herod.  Many friends have told stories of parents and grandparents who were refugees from Poland or Germany.  We are a country of immigrants.  One of the things that makes the US such a great place is the Diversity that exists, but it seems like we allow the fear of the "other" to get in the way of celebrating the rich history and traditions of our melting pot.
In WWII we turned away refugees and they perished.  We said never again. We unjustly imprisoned Japanese Americans. We said never again.  Can this be the time we step up?  Can we show our best selves by honoring our commitment to the world community?  Can we acknowledge our fear and discomfort and then do the right thing?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

What I believe...

I'm thinking about taking a breather from my personal FB page.  I love FB.  With family and friends all over the country it has been an amazing way to stay in touch, share ideas, laughs and information. The potential for social media to do good in the world by mobilizing like-minded people to work for change is amazing.  The potential for it to do bad is the same.

The hate and divisiveness that is showing up around the refugee crisis is so disheartening.  I keep sharing information that I secretly hope will encourage those who are afraid to consider what they are really doing when they lump millions of human beings in with a small percentage of extremists.  I should know better.

We see what we want to see and I am as guilty of this as anyone else.  The difference is that our "differences" are so much more present now with social media.  Even 10 years ago, I could be friends with someone who had very different political and social views than I, because we didn't discuss them, and if we did it was a respectful debate/discussion that didn't include inflammatory photos and graphics and manipulated statistics.

This past weekend I was ridiculously weepy~ lots of reasons contributed, but what put me over the edge was the realization that no matter what I believe, there will be other's who don't just disagree, but who will mock my beliefs.  I can either argue with them, ignore them, try to persuade them, or agree to disagree.  There are many things I can agree to disagree on, but some differences are so profound they have completely altered my perception of some of those who cross my "cyber-world."

The thing is, I can't just let it go. No matter what I see to the contrary I still have hope that we can come together as a global community.  I still have hope that the "good" people in the world far out-number the "bad."  I still believe that when faced with an unreasonable amount of evidence that contradicts one's belief system, that one person's mind can be changed.

Here is what I believe ~ take it or leave it.  Mull about it, think about it, comment on it (respectfully), absorb it.  Anyone who chooses to be rude, disrespectful, reactive etc.. will be dropped from any discussion.  I'm not up for it.  Besides, I'd have to unfollow you on FB and since I'm taking a break that would be a nuisance.

~Lumping all Muslims in the same category as ISIS is like lumping all Christians into the same category as the Westboro Church. Most Muslims abhor what ISIS stands for just as most Christians abhor what the Westboro Church stands for.

~The process refugees must go through to enter the US is arduous enough as it is and to suggest that we add a religious "test" to it is contrary to everything I have ever learned or know about "the land of the free." We were founded on principles of religious freedom - to practice the religion of your choosing or not.  We are a nation founded on Judeo-Christian principles, not a Christian nation despite the GOP's current attempts to have us believe otherwise. You know that whole "under God" thing in the Pledge of Allegiance?  Added in 1954. History of the Pledge of Allegiance

~When we reject those who need us most we send them back to the arms of those who hate us and wish us harm. ISIS would like nothing more than for the refugees to be shunned by the rest of the world so they have no where else to turn.

~We can't fight an ideological war just with violence.  We have to educate; we have to offer an alternative world view.  We have to offer a future to those who don't see one for themselves.

~We must examine our own hypocrisy.  If you say you are a Christian, that means you are a follower of Jesus.  Jesus tells us to LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.  He doesn't say "love the neighbors who look like you, believe like you, live like you." Jesus made it a point to preach to more than just the chosen people; sometimes to the dismay of his disciples.  He tells us to LOVE. The Gospel in a word is LOVE - period.

~We can use these horrible events like the bombings in Beirut on Thursday and the killings in Paris last Friday, to separate us.  We can use them as an excuse to close our borders and our homes. We can use them as a reason to turn our backs on a world that doesn't look just like ours.  Or we can use them as an opportunity to unite with our fellow citizens around the world to fight extremism of all kinds.

~Call me naive, innocent, Pollyanna, whatever, but I believe, AND WILL ALWAYS BELIEVE, that love wins. Making decisions out of hate and fear will only lead to more hate and fear.  Making decisions out of love, kindness and compassion will lead to more love, kindness and compassion.  Yes, there are risks to making decisions out of love, kindness and compassion, but those risks pale in comparison to the consequences of making decisions out of hate and fear.

~When we realize that we are in more danger from the terrorists who look just like the "boy next door," or when we accept that we are more at risk of being killed by one of the obscene numbers of guns in our country, then maybe we will stop demonizing all the "others".  THERE ARE NO OTHERS.  We are all one people.    We all breath, eat, sleep, love, hate, live, and die.

It is so easy to be afraid.  It is so easy to react to those things that horrify and frighten us.  Life isn't easy.  It's not easy for the mother with the baby trying to escape to safety.  It's not easy for the homeless vet who's been forgotten.  It's not easy for the teenage boy who's been bullied one too many times.  It's not a contest, but let's be honest - our life in comparison?  Pretty freakin' easy. Challenging ourselves to be courageous and reject hate isn't easy when we are afraid, but it is the right thing to do. I will be grateful everyday for the challenges of life in my world.  I will pray everyday for those whose lives are so hard and I will speak up for them when I can.  I will speak up for the bullied child.  I will speak up for the homeless vet. I will speak up for the Syrian refugee.

Sometimes I see all the hate and violence in the world and I am overwhelmed.  I want to make it all better but I can't.  I need to filter what I see for a while and re-focus on what I can do right here.  How I can serve those right around me, how I can raise my children to be kind, compassionate, tolerant and loving.

I will post this on FB.  I will not discuss it there.  If you have comments or thoughts, please post them here on the blog.  Please do not be rude or disrespectful to me or other's who comment.  I'm thankful for thoughtful discussion.  I appreciate solid data. I look forward to other perspectives and conversation with people willing to be open-minded and consider all perspectives. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Fresh Starts

Starting fresh ~  I am the queen of the "fresh start."  I love to start things over, like budgets, lists, plans ~ anything that I can't seem to finish, I just decide to start over.  I'm pretty sure that this can be a useful strategy for a lot of things, but sometimes it seems like it's just an escape from something that isn't working. When do you just move on?
Starting over a list because it's gotten out of control and you have so many checks and marks and scribbles that you can't even see what's still on the list seems like a good use of the "fresh start" strategy.
Starting over a recipe when you've been trying to multi-task and have doubled some ingredients but not everything and you've completely forgotten few ingredients, also seems like a good time to "start fresh."
Starting over a budget because priorities have changed, line items have morphed and your current software makes it difficult to modify too much seems reasonable.  Starting over a budget because you don't like the numbers seems futile.

I'm thinking about giving my blog a fresh start ~ my current platform is really set up for a personal blog.  If it is to become part of my "work", it may make sense to start it over and rebuild using resources more designed for it's new purpose. The question is, am I considering a "fresh start" because it makes sense given my revised direction, or because trying to figure out ad's etc. on my current platform is hard? How hard does in need to be before it makes more sense to "start fresh?" Starting over on a new platform would probably mean asking for help, investing some resources in having someone who knows what they're doing help me out, or taking time away from other work to dig in a figure it out myself.

One of the tricky things about working for oneself, or doing work that is not compensated monetarily (being a mom, a volunteer, etc) is coming up with a way to value your time.  When is it better to pay someone else to do something that I could do, but that they could do in significantly less time?

In business I've gotten better at figuring this out.  I have a ballpark figure of what I "pay" myself.  There are some tasks (like bookkeeping) that it is more economical to pay someone else to do because it would take me twice the time and end up costing more. With a blog that is not yet earning money, how do I decide when it's time to pay someone else to help get it up and running in a new way, assuming that those expenses will be recouped when I have a wildly successful blog, vs. just taking my time to figure it out at my leisure because I really have no idea whether it will turn into anything more than it is?

How do you value your time?  As a mom and volunteer I struggle with placing a dollar value on myself.  Where this can be so frustrating is that we live in a culture that puts a monetary value on everything - if something costs a lot it must be more valuable.  When I look too closely at what this says about what we "value" as a country, I am so discouraged.

We spend unbelievable amounts of money on technology and other things, on concerts, on sporting events, meals out and entertainment of all sorts.  We pay for what we value, so what does that say about how we value children and education?  Childcare workers are some of the most poorly paid people in our country.  Teachers in many parts of the country have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet.  We "pay" for college degrees, but we don't "pay" the very people who are teaching our students what they need to learn - in many academic settings the actual professors are paid for research while graduate assistants who are still students themselves are being paid poorly to "teach" college students.  What are we actually paying for here?  Facilities, a "name", layers of bureaucracy. This is something I'd like to dive into more later, but it's a whole other blog!

When do we decide to make a "fresh start?" Is that even possible?  When do we decide that rather than fixing a political system, or an educational system or any kind of "system," that it's time for a "fresh start?" A "clean slate?"  While all this gets mulled about, I'm going to go create a fresh list for the week - Monday is a great day for a "fresh start."




Thursday, November 5, 2015

Taking a leap...

There just might be some changes to my blog in the future.  It's been a personal blog for me and the few select friends who read what I have to say.  I've gotten enough positive feedback over the last few years that I've decided to be more intentional about it and to be honest, use it to increase my income.

I've been leary of advertising on my blog as it feels sketchy to me.  Not sure why, but it does.  That being said, if it is a simple way to bring in some additional income, why not?

With one child out of college (with loans), one in college (with loans), one in High School looking at college (most likely with loans), finances have been on my mind.  I know I'm in good company when I say that while my husband and I have a very comfortable income (mostly his), a comfortable life, and a strong support network, we still live paycheck to paycheck.  Over almost 25 years of marriage, this has been our primary source of discord.  The only thing we ever seem to fight about is $.

We've tried a number of budget programs and are currently using one called YNAB (http://www.youneedabudget.com).  It is super easy, links my phone to hubby's phone to the desktop to my iPad etc... No excuses not to keep it updated and pay attention.  4 basic rules to follow and we are hopeful that if we can stick to it, we will slowly find our way out of debt and begin to save better for our future.

Managing the funds we have is one way to find our way to a less stressful financial life.  Increasing my income (even for the short term) is another.  As a small business owner, there is nothing consistent about my income.  As I work to grow my business and expand the reach of Music Together  (https://www.musictogether.com) through Arts from the Heart, llc (http://www.artsfromtheheart.net), I need to be investing in teachers and materials and locations and marketing etc... Maintaining my small draw, let alone increasing it, is a challenge!

I've contemplated lots of ways to supplement my draw - teaching Community College classes  (they all have my resume and application), working part time for another agency (great interview, didn't get the job, would have been tricky to manage logistically), adding programming to my center (working on it, but takes time and energy and I'm a little short on both!).

This brings me back to the blog. I love to write. I love to contemplate. I love to engage with people on topics I'm passionate about. I have blogged sporadically mostly because it's been for my own self, but perhaps if I had more of an external "purpose" for it I would engage in blogging more.  If blogging more and hosting some advertising on my blog could supplement my draw, how could that be a bad thing?

Here is where I need your thoughts - what would you like to see my blog about?  What would you like to know, think about, discuss, hear my thoughts on?  While this started as a blog about launching my children, it has really become more a blog about me launching my thoughts, ideas and passions out into the world.  Share your ideas with me and maybe they will show up in the future!

I'm committing to blogging a minimum of 1x per week to begin and then we will see where that goes. If you want to keep up with me, subscribe.  Let me know what you think. If you really want to support my effort, click on an ad (but only if you really want to!)


Friday, October 23, 2015

being there

Luther College Graduation, May 1990
I've struggled with writing lately. Not sure why other than life is busy and it can be tricky to write about your experience launching your children into the world when they are struggling. I don't want to invade their privacy or share too much. I've dealt with that in the past by writing about my own journey out into the world as an entrepreneur and advocate. Even that has been tricky lately as I'm having my own struggles and am feeling the need to pull back on the sharing.

Last weekend was my 25th College Reunion.  I just felt a wave of nausea as I wrote that, but YES, I have been out of college for 25 years.  I really thought I would know what I was doing "when I grew up" by now, but I guess it's ok to be on a perpetual journey. It was a wonderful weekend shared with my partner in life who is also a Luther grad from the class of '90, but the best part of the weekend was reconnecting with friends I haven't seen.  One particular friend is pictured above and below.
25th College Reunion, Oct. 2015
Annie is one of my life long friends - we've know each other longer now that we didn't.  We met as 18 year old first year students and over the next 4 years, we lived together 2 years, sang together, laughed together, cried together, got drunk together, danced together, grew up together.
After college our paths were different - I dove right into marriage and children along with school and work.  Annie pursued her passion for music, studying and singing around the world.  We connected less often as our lives were so very different.  She got married when I was pregnant with my third child and we laughed that my children would be able to babysit her's.  As she entered the world of motherhood, we re-connected more often.  
Our lives have been busy and we live far apart, so we never see each other or talk as often as we would like.  We are often in different places politically, but our love for each other allows us to agree to disagree when necessary.  It is one of those friendships that can be dormant for weeks or months, but when the opportunity arises, it is like no time has passed.
Reconnecting this past weekend was particularly important as just a few days before Annie was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma.  When she first messaged me that she was having a suspicious lymph node removed and didn't know what the weekend would bring, all I could think about was how could I get to LaCrosse.  How could I be there for her.  There were days of worry about the actual diagnosis and then the severity and prognosis.  During that time my thoughts were with Annie and her husband and her 4 daughters.  The prognosis is excellent, so while the next 4 months will be unpleasant for sure, her Doctor is confident that she will be cured.  
This is when I hate being so far from "home."  I can't just bring a meal over or drive her to a chemo appointment or pick up her girls from a lesson or class.  I can pray and talk and maybe send a donation to help with extra costs, but I can't BE THERE. At least physically.  I can BE THERE in so many ways and when I stop having a pity party because I'm far away I remember that.
This is when the reality of life sets in.  The reality that we are getting older.  Our parents are getting older.  Our friends are getting older.  Each reunion will include more "in memoriams" to classmates who have passed away.  Each one will include more of us with parents who have passed away.  More of us will have struggled with our own illnesses.  
We will also be celebrating the graduations and marriages of our own children.  We will celebrate the births of grandchildren. We will become that next generation. 
I am grateful to have a wonderful life.  I am blessed with a husband I adore, children who are going to change the world, friends who love me (and I love back), an extended family full of amazing people and work that I love.  
It is so easy to get sucked into worrying about the little things, but so important to remember that life is not about the stuff or the money or the details.  It's about the people and the relationships.  It's about make the world a better place.  It's about caring for those who aren't as lucky as we are. It's about connecting and caring and BEING THERE.  Life is about love.




Wednesday, October 7, 2015

thoughts this morning

Some thoughts that have been percolating in my mind over the past week.

~ Guns do kill people. They kill children, mothers, fathers, friends, enemies, strangers.

~ Dramatically decreasing the number of guns available in this country would in fact decrease the number of deaths by firearms.  The accidental shooting by the toddler in a home, the suicide of the distraught teenager.  The "in the heat of the moment" shooting of the husband or wife.  If guns are not available (destroyed or responsibly stored), they can't be used.

~ the right of our children and families to be able to go to school, church, a movie, the park, ANYWHERE, and feel safe completely trumps the right of anyone to own weapons whose sole purpose is to kill people.  Who the hell are you afraid of?????  Maybe if we stopped fearing each other and actually cared for people the way we care for money and stuff, the rising number of alienated, hurting individuals in our country would decrease.  Maybe if we valued kindness and empathy and serving each other more than doing just that which makes us "happy" fewer people would feel the need to lash out. Maybe if we made sure as a nation that ALL people had the basic necessities of life, we could be less fearful.

~ responsible gun owners who hunt or use guns for sport should have no beef with common sense gun reform.  Weapons designed to kill people should not be available to the general public for any reason.  Those who do own guns should have to demonstrate competence, pass a background check, be licensed, pay insurance just in case, and keep those guns safely stored in a locked safe with ammunition stored elsewhere.

~ none of these measures would eliminate all deaths by firearms, but they sure would dramatically decrease them.  How do we know this?  Because we've seen it happen around the world.  When we refuse to learn from the experience of our global neighbors we reinforce the idea that Americans are narcissistic assholes.  Not really how I'd like to be perceived by the world.  It's actually pretty embarrassing.

~ when the same people who want so badly to regulate my reproductive choices and those of my friends and daughters are as protective of the LIVES OF PEOPLE WHO ARE ACTUALLY LIVING AND BREATHING INDEPENDENTLY, I will discuss their "pro-life" agenda.  Until then I won't.  I'm not interested in talking with hypocrites who will do anything to "defend life", but refuse to address issues of healthcare (including mental health) education, poverty, gun safety.

~ my brain has been very busy lately.

Friday, September 25, 2015

which path?

I am an anticipator.  I'm always thinking about what's coming next.  I started a blog about emptying the nest at the beginning of a 10 year journey to launch my children.  I start thinking about the "next" project or program before the first one is done.  When I celebrated my 24th birthday I stressed about turning 25.  29, and 39 were tough too.
Being an anticipator fits with my tendency to be an idea person as well.  I HAVE GREAT IDEAS!  What happens with these ideas though is completely dependent on who is around me at the time.  If there are "doers" who are on board, amazing things can happen.  If I'm alone, or not clear that I need "doers" the ideas just sink back down and either re-surface later or disappear.
One idea has repeatedly re-surfaced for the last 20+ years.  I've probably blogged about it before.  Here I go again because it won't leave me alone!
I have imagined an amazing place where children, families, and individuals of all ages could come together to learn and grow using music, movement, theatre, play, and conversation.  I can see it.  I dream about it.  I've taken halting steps to make it a reality.  As soon as it starts to seem like it could happen, I get distracted (or scared) and let it drift away.
Right now I have a choice to make.  I can be brave and move forward in a clear focused way to assemble the people I need to make my vision a reality, or I can thank that same vision for inspiring me for so many years and let it go once and for all.
But which way to go?  There are implications on both sides.  If I move forward, it will mean a lot of work, financial risk, probably some compromise, being very vulnerable and quite possibly failure.  It could also become one of the most amazing experiences of my life and become a place that brings tremendous value to my community and the people in it.
If I say goodbye to it, there is no risk,  life continues as it is. Aside from constantly stressing about finances, my life is pretty amazing, and finances can be worked on to reduce that stress, so not a bad choice. There is the risk of disappointing the people who I've told about my vision, but I've disappointed people before and I'm sure I will again.  After 47 years I'm getting better at not beating myself up for this, but it's still hard. It would also mean that I will never know if my dream of 20 years could have become real.  I will never know what my legacy could have been.
I read this and think it's kind of a no-brainier.
It's just not that simple.  Finances are a stressor and I can't expand my business without resources and financial risk.  I also have a child in High School who is really struggling with some tough issues and who needs her mom to be available.  I'm starting to think about what retirement might actually be like and instead of imagining perpetual boredom, the idea of reading, puttering in the garden and singing sounds lovely.  Do I really want to ramp it all up now?
Maybe there are "doers" reading this who are ready to dive in with me and get to work.  Maybe not.  Maybe you're saying to yourself "sounds good Jane. Have fun with that."  I have a list of doers in my brain.  Maybe you're on it.  Maybe I'll send you a message. Maybe I won't.  If you send me a message I might be more likely to "do" something, even if it's just meet for coffee.
Now it's back to life where the paths diverge.  Which way to go?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

the compound

Once upon a time there was a sweet family with a mom and a dad, a little girl and a little boy.  They created a life for themselves in a community who loved them.

One day the mom got sick.  She saw doctors, took medicine, prayed, but eventually she couldn't fight anymore and she had to say goodbye to the family she loved.  She worried about leaving her little girl and little boy behind, but knew that it was time.

The community who loved her also loved the dad and the little girl and the little boy.  They were embraced and loved and fed and cared for.

Life moved on and the little girl and the little boy started to grow up.  The dad became mom AND dad and the children grew well and were happy.  One day the little girl became a young woman and flew across the continent to begin an exciting adventure.  The community cheered and shed tears as they said goodbye.  The mom, where ever she was, smiled.


Friday, August 28, 2015

The world is STILL a good place...

It's been almost two months since I visited this page... Many times I began blogging in my head, but never succeeded in getting any of it down "on paper."  Maybe if I don't write about it it won't happen. Maybe if I allow myself to be paralyzed time will stop.

I don't really want time to stop, but I have allowed myself to be paralyzed over the last week~ the list gets longer and I add to it and then go back on Facebook, or drink another cup of coffee, or both.

This time of year is both my favorite and most hated.  I love the cooler mornings, the excitement of a "new year," the continued harvest from the garden.  The shorter days and the clear sign that time is marching on compel me to curl up in a ball on the couch with the dog, coffee and the Today Show and refuse to do anything.

Yesterday I got wrapped up in gun reform debates on Facebook.  While it's important and I feel more driven than ever to be a voice for reason, yesterday it was a strategy to ignore the things I need to attend to; bills, schedules, plans, to-do's, saying goodbye to two of my children.

Katy leaves tomorrow to begin her Sophomore year at Luther College in Decorah, IA.  I'm both excited for her and sad to see her go. We will have a quick visit in Oct. when Jeff and I attend our 25th College Reunion, and then we will see her at Christmas. She is becoming exactly who we predicted from the moment she was born; A force to be reckoned with!  I couldn't be more proud and I look forward to hearing about her classes, adventures and friends.  I will miss her.

Andrew leaves Sunday to move to New Haven.  Grown up life is calling and while he has no idea what it will look like, he is moving forward.  I'm both excited for him and proud that while he knows it will be difficult at times, he is ready to take on the challenges that the world will put before him.  He can fly, knowing that there is always room for him in the "nest" if he needs to re-group or rest or just visit.

I love that they seem to be moving forward unafraid.  So much of what I see in social media and elsewhere is fear-based.  We're becoming a culture of "us" and "them."  We are so afraid of the "others."  Our children are bombarded with images of shootings, natural disasters and other "things" to be afraid of.  We all get overwhelmed and focused on the negative in the world rather than the positive. We don't SEE the positive enough. On top of the things they can't control, we're pushing our children to work harder and excel because we are afraid they will be left behind, not because we want them to be happy. Our "fear" of failure can rub off on them and leave them with the sense that there is nothing in their life that they can control. They must do x, y, z or they won't get into the right schools and won't get the right jobs.  If they don't take every AP class they won't have college credits when they start college and will be behind.  Rather than supporting them in making choices that are right for them, we pressure them (or allow them to be pressured by others), to keep up and to do more. The list goes on and on and our children become more and more anxious, depressed, overwhelmed and fearful.

My oldest was in kindergarten when the shootings at Columbine High School happened.  I will always remember walking him home and trying to answer his questions.  We worked hard to keep the news off and to not overwhelm our children with images of tragedy.  We tried to do the same after 9/11.  Since then, it has gotten harder and harder to block the horror that is in the world.  Media is EVERYWHERE and while the world really isn't more dangerous than it used to be, IT SEEMS THAT WAY.  We don't see stories of goodness.  We don't see stories of joy.  We are overwhelmed with the bad and allow ourselves to begin living out of fear.  While we still try to protect our children from the horror in the world, we forget to protect ourselves from it and allow it to seep into our pores and turn us into fearful beings. Our children learn from what we do, not what we say.

Our youngest has grown up with less protection simply because it isn't as easy as turning off the tv.  As a third child, we have sometimes had conversations that we wouldn't have had at the same age with her older sibs.  She is still more protected than many and less fearful than many.  She successfully navigated a summer away from home and returned to the "real" world, more confident and vital after a summer of work and play. She is still more anxious and fearful than her siblings. We're working on it.

I could be afraid of so many things ~ I could be paralyzed by fears about plane crashes, shootings in the city, and on and on and on.  The truth is I don't want my life to be ruled by fear.  I don't want my children to live in fear.  I don't want them to be foolish and put themselves in harm's way, but I want them to LIVE.  If we are fearful and live our life constantly afraid of what might happen, what kind of life is that?  Accidents happen. Tragedies happen. Illness happens.  HORRIBLE THINGS HAPPEN.  We can't control so many of the things that paralyze us, but we can control how we react to them.  We can control how we choose to live our life.  We can control how we interact with the world.  We can be proactive and create "villages" filled with people who fill us up and provide is with a "nest" to visit when we need a little extra support.  We don't have to do everything by ourselves. Rather than becoming overwhelmed by the "what if's" I want take charge of the things I actually can control.  I want my children to make decisions based on what is good for them, NOT based on what everyone else is doing.  I want them to think for themselves and not get overwhelmed by the things they can't control.  I want to do a better job of modeling this for them.

I could be so afraid of sending my children out into the world, but I'm not.  I will miss them and I will worry about them, but I'm not afraid.  Despite popular opinion, the world is an amazing place filled with wonderful people, places and adventures to be had.  I could be afraid, but I'm not.  I'm excited to follow their journeys and I am proud that they are people who will make the world an even better place as they go.

Monday, July 6, 2015

An empty nest... for now

This morning marks our first real glimpse at what an empty nest will be like someday.  Yesterday we dropped off Helen for 6 weeks as a CIT at Camp Calumet. We will see her for a few days in the middle at a family reunion, but for all practical purposes our nest is empty.  There are 3 bedrooms upstairs with no one sleeping in them.  Laundry will decrease, clutter will decrease, trips to Target will decrease. Quiet will increase, time will increase, projects will increase. Excuses to not get things done will decrease. Arms and legs twirling through the house will decrease.

MIXED EMOTIONS!

A week or so ago, Helen and I spent an afternoon bickering with each other and then went to see "Inside Out", the latest Pixar film.  Perfect movie for a 16 year old and her Mama to see when they've been fighting.  This latest milestone in her life (and ours) is full of mixed emotions ~
Joy! 
Spending a summer at Camp Calumet is something I wish everyone could do!  It is truly one of the most amazing places on the planet - For the past 15 years my family has been a part of this beautiful, loving community and I will forever be grateful that my children have had the benefit of being exposed to a place where love and acceptance is truly practiced 24/7.  It is not a perfect place, but in my experience it is as close as one can come to it.
Sadness... 
My youngest child's journey into the world is ramping up.  For both Andy and Katy, it seemed that beginning with their "trainee" summer, everything just moved faster and faster.  While I didn't want to hold them back I did sometimes want to "freeze" things for just a moment.  Like her brother and sister, Helen is more than capable of holding her own. Like them, she often seems to function better (or in a more adult like manner) when she is away from us. This is how it should be. I know this. I studied it in grad school. I'm still feeling a little sad that another chapter is beginning to wrap up.
Fear.
This has not been an easy year for my youngest.  She has struggled with anxiety that has manifested itself in all kinds of physical discomforts - headaches, nausea, the works. Changes in diet, vitamins, sleep habits etc. have all helped, and she is doing better overall, but knowing that I am 4 hours away makes me a little fearful.  I fear that she will give up on herself.  I fear that she won't trust those around her to help her. I fear that she'll be just fine and not need me (that's a hard one to admit!).

MIXED EMOTIONS!

I'm excited to have time to really dig into some of my own work without interruptions! I am excited to have time to enjoy my partner in crime and very best friend/husband/love of my life.  I'm aware that 6 weeks is really pretty short in the grand scheme of things, and it's not really 6 weeks. 3 of those weeks I'll be working hard, the next week I'll be singing with my Dad and my sisters at our own camp followed by a family reunion. 1 more week to get my act together then I will join my girls at Calumet on staff for 2 weeks.
It is still more time than we've ever had where we are only responsible for ourselves. I don't want to waste it!  Time to make a list and enjoy the "rehearsal" as the final production is only a few years away...

Friday, June 19, 2015

an addendum...

My anger has passed and I really don't want to remember this day of celebration for so many with glimpses of the worst in ourselves.

I really do believe that humans by nature are good.
I believe that the country we live in is an amazing place.
I believe that we do have the power to change what isn't working.
I believe that we are only stronger when we have a higher power to call upon.
I believe that the children we raise will be the ones to restore what is good.
I believe they will find a way to raise their voices and drown out the messages of hate and violence.

I believe that the young ones graduating High School and College over the past month will change the world for the better.

Welcome to the world of crazy.

I want to write about all the High School and College Graduates we know who we are so proud of.  I want to send them out into the world with wishes for a long and amazing life.  Children, nieces, nephews, friends, a daughter from another mother.... On and on... They are AMAZING.  They are capable of great things.  They better be ready because we are launching them into a crazy world full of hate and violence, selfishness and pain.

This morning as I watched the news, the shooting in South Carolina is all over the place.  The emphasis of the story is on the vigils, and the community coming together to pray, the clear indication that this was a HATE crime.  A young man filled with so much hate that he sat with a group of people in a church for an hour and then slaughtered them.  So many prayers.  Some asking how can God let this happen.  God didn't let this happen.  I'm pretty certain SHE is weeping and despairing that we can't seem to get our act together.  We are responsible.  All of us.  We live in a world that separates us from each other by our differences.  Babies are born ready to love anyone.  We teach them who is the "other."

The attention is on the victims. The media is trying to take the focus away from the baby-faced killer and I think that's good.  We need to know the victims so we can truly mourn them.  Maybe then we will get off our fucking asses and CHANGE THINGS.  I know my parents read this and I apologize for my language, but I am so angry right now and no other words suffice.

There will be calls for more attention to mental health and to racism and hate and all this is good.  These are discussions that need to happen and changes need to be made.  Perhaps more attention will be on how children are loved and nurtured from day one.  Maybe there will be talk of communities pulling together to create stronger villages so children who are suffering, struggling, or being raised in hateful circumstances will be identified and supported before they become hateful killers.

THESE ARE ALL CONVERSATIONS THAT NEED TO BE HAD.

What will be touched on and then swept away however, will be talk of guns. This is where I can't stand it anymore.  What the hell is wrong with this country that despite shooting after shooting, horror after horror, we STILL CAN'T ADDRESS THE OBSCENE NUMBER OF GUNS AVAILABLE IN THIS COUNTRY.  I'm not even talking about reasonable guns for hunting.  I'm talking about guns designed for the sole purpose of killing PEOPLE.  We've done this to ourselves and it will continue until those in positions of power at the local, state and federal level stop bowing down to the special interest groups and say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.  There are weapons that simply shouldn't be available to anyone.  There are weapons that should be restricted.  IF GUNS ARE NOT AVAILABLE, THEY CAN'T BE USED TO KILL PEOPLE.

But wait, guns don't kill people, people kill people.  FUCK THAT.  In countries where guns are not available death rates are dramatically lower.  Look it up.  Any rational person looking at the rates of gun violence in the US vs any other 1st world country (and many 2nd and 3rd) can see that eliminating or even reducing access to guns significantly impacts on gun violence.  This is not rocket science.  But what about the second amendment you say??  What about it?  What part of anyone and their dog being able to have as many guns as they want, says anything about a "well-regulated militia."  Pretty sure the Founding Fathers (and Mothers) didn't have this insanity in mind.

So many of the discussions that need to be had around mental health, race, poverty etc., are so critically important, but perhaps if we could get our heads out of the sand and get the weapons out of the conversation, we would actually have time to have these conversations.  Instead we are spending more and more time, mourning, praying and cleaning up the blood of innocents.  I'm pretty sure God is saying ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.  When are we going to listen?

Perhaps the current crop of Graduates will be strong enough and smart enough to change things.  Right now I feel like we have failed them and left them with an awful mess to clean up.  If anyone can do it though, I bet they can.  I hope they can.

Friday, June 12, 2015

First one out of the nest!

Three baby birds hungry to grow....

Time has passed and #1 is ready to fly solo!

Today I'm thinking of all the ways my life has changed because of these little ones.  So funny to call them little ones as they have all passed me up, but in my heart they will always be my babies.

22 years ago today I became a Mama.  While I was more prepared than many, you are never really ready to meet the one who will transform you.  I had always loved babies and been good with them.  I had read every book under the sun and was surrounded by a support system to be envious of.


22 years ago this morning I had already been in labor for 16 hours.  Back labor in a hospital where my birth plan was being ignored, my wishes were being ignored, and my husband and best friend were doing their best to give me what I needed without getting themselves kicked out of the labor and delivery room.  I was so young, but had prepared myself to have this baby the way I wanted to. While I was struggling to keep it together, I was having to defend myself from hospital bullies.  NO, I don't want to breathe that way, I learned THIS WAY! NO, a resident cannot check my progress, only my Doctor.  NO, I don't want an epidural for the millionth time. NO, I don't want to lie on my back. NO my husband may not leave my side. NO I will not be quiet!  I'm in labor and will yell if I want! NO NO NO NO

After 20 or so hours where despite their best efforts to suggest otherwise, this little nugget was still doing fine and while he wasn't interested in joining the world just yet, was in no distress. I agreed to an epidural so I could sleep.  After a rest, the pace picked up and after 28 hours of back labor, I gave birth to my firstborn.  I was exhausted, starving and so happy to meet him.  I had also learned that I was a force to be reckoned with.  So many mama's were and are manipulated and bullied into procedures and medications that they don't want or need.  After my experience with Andrew, I became an advocate for INFORMATION.  If someone knows all the information and makes the educated decision to have this or that medication or procedure, good.  As long as they have the information.  This was my birth and my child. Given the facts it was my right to decide how to proceed.  Doctors are not God and I learned at that point not to treat them as such.


 Every step of the way with this guy taught me to question and challenge and inquire and keep seeking the answers.  When I had trouble nursing him, we kept working at it and found the support we needed.  When we were looking for the right daycare setting for him we listened and watched his reactions until we found the right fit.
In third grade our sunny, happy boy was becoming surly and withdrawn.  We listened to him, pulled him out of school and spent a year learning together until we found a new school that was a better fit.
For a while in Middle School and High School I stopped listening. I was busier with my work, he had two sisters who demanded my attention and he was moving into adolescence where kids need to figure it out on their own.  Sometimes I wish I had paid closer attention.  There were times when it might have been better to step in had I been "listening."

The path my compassionate, tie-dye loving, hula-hooping, long-boarding, forest loving boy has chosen is different than the one I might have imagined for him.  There are moments when I think "why can't he just wear khaki's and a button down shirt and be a professional of some sort or other."  Those moments pass quickly though because that's not who Jeff and I raised.  We raised a boy who is so kind and compassionate. We raised a boy who refuses to accept the status quo if he believes it is wrong. We raised a boy who does his research, gets the information and then makes his decisions based on that, not on what everyone else is doing. We raised a boy who has no patience for stupidity.  He has made choices we don't always agree with, but takes 100% responsibility for them all and respects us for the choices we make even when he disagrees with us.


I have no idea where his journey will take him.  I do know that I want to always be listening and paying attention, just in case he needs me.  Actually, I may have learned more from him, so perhaps just as he was my teacher 22 years ago, he will continue to teach me into the future.

Either way I know that I am so proud of the young man he has become and am looking forward to his visits home to the "nest".

"I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always. As long as I'm living, my baby you'll be"
                                   Robert Munsch

Monday, June 1, 2015

It will never be the same... and that's good.

I was so excited for Katy to get home last weekend after her first year at Luther College in Decorah, IA!  She has had such a great year and is turning into the confident, amazing young woman we always knew she would.
I forgot that when they come home they become their younger selves😏  I still do this when I return to my parents home in MN- while I'm 47, I find myself lounging on the couch and feeling a little like the teenager I was when I left home for college almost 30 years ago!  Andy did it when he came home after his first year.  Why did it surprise me this time?  I should have been more than ready!
We've shared texts, phone calls, messages of all sorts, and have increasingly become friends ~ this doesn't mean that I'm not still mom and she's still not my child though.

That first year out they stretch their legs and experience life without having to report in or follow someone else's rules and requests.  It's AWESOME!  They handle their own mistakes and figure out how to negotiate the world (at least a small piece of it!). Then, they come home.
There are house rules, there are shared chores, there are expectations and demands.  Ugh.  I wouldn't want to come home either!  It's not quite that bad, but there is negotiating that needs to happen and give and take on both sides.  Young people returning home need to realize that when you live with any group of people there are rules and norms and the ones at your family's home are different than those in a dorm.  Parents need to realize that their child is not a child any longer and to impose the rules and expectations of High School won't work.  Renegotiating how to live together is important and will help all members of the family enjoy the short time together.
Now if we figure all that out, I'll let you know!

We just celebrated her 19th birthday yesterday.  The weekend was super busy, so the best we could manage was a delicious dinner and cake with the family ~ Andy came home and our neighbors/family came to join us.  It was a day of up and down for my girl - she's excited and happy to be home, but misses her friends and "new" home terribly.  Along with that comes that angst that we will be hurt if she tells us that while she loves us more than anything, she'd really rather be with her friends.  Again, that's as it should be.
This whole process of growing up is about moving out and creating a life for yourself.  While I don't mean to imply that I don't want to see my children and have a connection to them while they create this life for themselves, I want them to know that I'll be fine.

When I was a little girl, I was obsessed with the "Little House On the Prairie" books.  One of my earliest memories as a reader was reading "Little House In the Big Woods" and trying to wrap my brain around the idea that when they left the big woods they would most likely never see their grandparents again.  When you moved away, you MOVED AWAY.
In today's world of transportation and communications, it is easy to stay connected and in someways too easy.  I look around and see a lot of pressure to BE TOGETHER.  Again, I hope that I will always be a part of my children's lives, but I want them to follow their path wherever it takes them.  They need to live THEIR life, not mine.  Was it strange last Christmas when Katy was away from us? YES! Was it fine? YES.  She was having an experience and that's awesome!  As Andy considers his options for the future now that college is finished, some of those options might take him far away from us.  Is that a little sad for us? YES! Is it fine though? YES!

I want our children to remain connected to us because they love us and want to have a relationship with us, NOT because they feel obligated or required to.  While I am sometimes nostalgic for the past and thoroughly enjoy loving up other people's babies, I'm excited for the future! My children will have interesting, wonderful lives and Jeff and I will move onto the next phase of ours ~ that's the piece that really makes it exciting!  After a lifetime together, we are really just getting started!  We like each other more than ever and dream of the adventures WE will have and the life that WE will live as our children pursue their life journey.

Friday, May 8, 2015

and one leaves the nest...

So 22 years ago this weekend I was graduating from UConn with my MA in HDFS (Human Development and Family Studies), days away from my 25th birthday and weeks away from welcoming the young man who would change my life forever.  
This little one would teach me so much starting with his birth!  He was stubborn and facing the wrong way, but after 28 hours of hard work he was born and I learned the first lessons of motherhood.  I was stronger than I ever knew AND if ANYONE messed with this little bundle I would unleash a whole lot of crazy! I also learned that starting from day one, he was going to do things his way.

Here he is on his 18th birthday as I'm getting ready to send him out into the world.  4 years ago when I started this blog.  I needed a way to process the next phase of life. Launching my babies.  It used to make me nutty when people would say "enjoy every moment!"  Seriously? Some of the moments are not enjoyable!  Now, I say it a lot.  From the moment you birth a child they are beginning the journey to leave you. Over 18 years, I hoped that he learned the lessons I wanted him to learn.  I never imagined I would learn so much as well. You can despair and fret and demand, but once they start their journey when the umbilical cord is cut, all you can do is guide them, keep them from going completely off the rails, and enjoy the ride.

This week he graduates from UConn with a BA in HDFS.  He has worked a ridiculous number of hours in a dining hall kitchen while in school full time and has found his voice. He has no patience for entitlement or inequality. He knows that while I will argue with him and disagree with him, as long as he does his research, is respectful and open-minded, I will ALWAYS listen.  He is passionate and smart.  He challenges the status quo.  When he was young I wanted him to learn to follow HIS path. I didn't want him to blindly live his life following the rules.  He learned those lessons well! When people ask me what he's going to do now and I say "I'm not sure," the assumption is made that he will be moving home.
Here's the thing... While he is welcome to come home if he needs to, I don't think he ever will for more than a brief visit or transition.  He has become practical, capable, responsible and independent.  He's learned to pay bills, cook, negotiate and handle problems that arise. 
He's ready to fly and I'm so very proud.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Shining a light on some Mama's

It's Monday morning.  I made my list and now I'm ignoring it.  The need to write and process life is feeling too strong.  I guess just like rules are made to be broken, lists are made to be ignored.

The last few weeks have been filled with sadness ~ four lovely women gone, 3 of them too soon, one gone peacefully.  Riots, violence, Nepal, nastiness in the news.  On and on.  It can overwhelm the heart and soul. I've struggled with blogging, because it has seemed like so much of what's on my mind is dark and heavy.
The sun is shining, life is amazing in so many ways, and yet I'm so sad.  Sometimes a hug, a deep breath, and thinking of someone else is the only thing that can lift me out of darkness.
I'm getting really good at deep breaths after 22 years of being a mama, and I get more hugs in my life than anyone deserves, so it's time to think of someone else.
A post on Facebook inspired me to focus my blogging for now on those who have touched me or my family in special ways. The world spends so much time watching and focusing on the darkness and the violence and I'm tired of it. My focus for a while will be on the amazing people who make my world and my family's world beautiful.

With Mother's Day approaching, I want to shine a light on a few of the many "Mama's" who have shown me the way.
My Mama, Juanita, has taught me so much from the beginning. Always there but never intrusive or overly directive, she taught me how to be present for my children without dominating them.  I remember in Junior High and High School, coming home from school so many times, yelling down the basement to say hello (she would be doing laundry or something!), and then not seeing her until dinner, but I KNEW SHE WAS THERE.  I was a very dramatic, emotional kid and while I'm sure I overwhelmed my Mama at times, she never let it show.  I grew up with a rock.  Even when we made each other nutty, I never doubted that she loved me and was there anytime I needed her.  Hundreds of miles away this still holds true today.  I'm sure that some of my life choices have left her questioning, but for the most part she has trusted me to follow my path and kept her doubts to herself.  As my own children begin forging their paths in the world, I hope I can do the same.
My Mother-in-Law, Noreen, came into my life when I was still so young.  Getting married at 23 felt a little like playing house.  While my MIL is very different from my Mama, she also taught me so much about being a wife and a mother and a woman.  She loved me from the beginning because I loved her son.  She would share her advice and opinions freely, but would support us even when we disagreed.  As someone who is not particularly good at organizing my household and my life, I learned so much over the years about juggling work and family.  I continue to relish my relationship with my MIL and again hope that I will be as gracious and loving to the future life partners of my children as she has been to me.
One more Mama who helped me find my way is my dear friend Julie~  I met Julie in graduate school and while the time we were in close contact was short, just a few years, she continues to be one of those Mama-friends I have thought of often over the years, and on those rare occasions we are able to talk or see each other, the years melt away and it's as if we've never been apart.
What I learned from Julie about being a Mama was how to own my power and my voice.  From pregnancy and birth choices, to breastfeeding, cloth diapering, questioning everything.... she opened my eyes to the power of listening to my body, my babies, and my heart.  She helped me find my voice as a Mama bear and those early lessons of being mama's together shaped so many of the decisions I've made over the past 22 years.  Being a Mama isn't easy and having women around you who trust and value you as a Mama and a woman is an amazing gift.
I hope I have been and will continue to be a guide, friend and support to the many Mama's I cross path's with. The Mama's who have guided me will always be in my heart. Sadly women can be so hard on each other. Finding ways to support and hold up each other regardless of the choices we make as women and mothers would go a long way to strengthening our power and our ability to raise strong healthy children.  Isn't that how we will ultimately make the world a better place?


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

stop. breathe. love.

I keep trying to sit down to write and every time I'm distracted by my own inner thought process.  So much to think about, to write about, to talk about.  Where to start?  I want to ponder the recent death of a kind, beloved young woman who I was privileged to have met at Camp Calumet.  She is added to the deaths a few weeks earlier of two other women - also too young.  Death surrounds us lately.  4,000 and counting souls in Nepal.  Freddie Gray in Baltimore.  Death leads us to mourn, to cry, to get angry, to hate.
These are the times when I find myself angry with God at the same time I pray for understanding and solace.  How could these souls be taken from the world so soon?  We need them here!  This is when I have to believe there is something waiting for us after death.  I can't accept the idea that we die into nothingness.
Death spurs us to action - in Nepal, there are stories of so many survivors helping each other.  I just read a story about a group of girls cooking for and feeding hundreds of survivors.  Donations from around the world will pour in and volunteers will stream across the borders to help.  Tragedy and death can bring out the best in all of us.
Death can also bring out the worst.  I don't live in Baltimore, I am not black and I am not poor.  I will never truly understand the conditions that have led to increasing violence each time another young black man is killed by police.  The violence and rioting just make things worse, but law enforcement has to accept their role in tipping the balance and take responsibility for their part of the equation.  The vicious cycle of suspicion, harassment, aggression, violence is replaying over and over again.  I know there are good police - I believe more good police than bad.  But I also know there are good black men - more good than bad.
The news and social media have a responsibility to share information, but when they share it in a skewed way, spending way more time on the violence and hate than they do on the peaceful protests, the survivors feeding others, we foolishly accept that THAT is the world.  There are posts going around disparaging the violence and the riots.  I agree they are terrible, but when we deny the conditions that have led to this point we should be ashamed of ourselves.  We live in our privileged bubbles and have NO IDEA what has led to this.  It's way more than the death of one young man.
In my lifetime I would have hoped we would have moved beyond the violence and protest when I was born in 1968, to a place where what color you are, what gender you are, what religion you are, wouldn't be an issue.  But we are afraid.  We are afraid of anyone who is different than us.

This is when I have to believe in an afterlife and I have to believe in the words of Jesus Christ.  Even when I don't believe in God, I still believe that what is most important, and in fact, the only thing that will save us from ourselves is to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
We have to look for the sameness in each other - we all bleed red.  we all need food and water.  I don't accept that because someone LOOKS or ACTS or BELIEVES differently than I do that they are less than I am.  They are just different.
We have to stop looking for the worst in others and instead look for and expect the best.  Make eye contact. Smile. Be polite. Share. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Get off your privileged high horse and LOVE.  If you say you are a Christian or a Jew or  Muslim or a Buddhist or whatever. If you are male, female, trans, gay, whatever.  If you are white, black, yellow, red or purple!  Stop living your life in fear of different and instead be curious.  Learn, grow and LOVE.  These are lessons we teach little children in songs - "Jesus loves the little children, ALL the children of the world".  Children learn what they see though and if they SEE us hate and disparage and fear, that is what they will learn.

We will all die someday.  It's what happens.  I believe that when we do, there something else for us.  It's what is left behind that I worry about.  Our time is short.  Quit spending it hating and fearing and instead LOVE.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

stream of consciousness...

I've had so much in my head since I last wrote and I've been so reluctant to put it in "writing."  Good, bad, annoying, surprising, all of the above...  Sometimes I think if I could get into a routine of writing a little bit everyday that would be a good idea.  That would be great if I did well with routine!  I do know that some things are just better when they are scheduled and regular.  Writing is something that I just have to let burst out. My lack of follow through with routines has sometimes been a liability when it comes to raising kids.  We went through more "systems", tried more strategies etc.... They ALL worked..... When I actually followed through.
Right now I'm trying to set more routines for myself- since doing the Design Your Day coaching over the winter, I can see which ones are really useful to me.  The last month or so though I've been testing... Not doing the things I know are helpful.  Guess what?  I'm not working efficiently, I'm not sleeping well, and I'm crabby!
What I've maintained has been hot water and lemon in the am, and getting to the gym.  Until now.  No worries on the hot water and lemon, but I haven't been to the gym since Monday.  My knee is causing trouble and so I thought I should rest it.  What that means though is my routine is interrupted and I'm terrified that getting back into it will be tough.  It stuns me how such a small interruption to a routine can mess it all up.
I've been getting stronger, my clothes fit better, my energy was great and now I'm feeling old, achy, and sorry for myself.  WHICH IS RIDICULOUS!  So much of my headspace right now has been taken up by death.    I know right?  Where did THAT come from?
The older you get the more death touches you.  A few weeks ago, a lovely acquaintance passed away unexpectedly.  She was my age.  Within the same week, the wife of a friend passed away after a long battle with cancer. She was a brand new grandma.  This week, every time I go on facebook or into my email, I'm afraid that I will see the news that another friend who is fighting cancer (cancer SUCKS), has passed away.  No matter how sore or achy or crabby I am, someone else is fighting a much harder battle.
Thursday night I had a rehearsal for a concert I'm singing in this weekend.  I was sitting because my knee hurts, and was feeling a little petulant.  The words of one piece jumped up and slapped me-

"Why then should I be afraid? I shall die once again to rise an angel blest.  Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting; the soul that rises with us, our life's Star, hath had elsewhere it's setting."

Powerful words for sure, but what really created the emotional impact was the music.  Without the music they are lovely for sure, and maybe that's enough for some people.  But the music shoots those words right into your soul.  It's like an infusion of new blood~ the melody, harmony, rhythm, dissonance coursing through your veins recharging your spirit.
Last night we rehearsed again and a different piece moved me ~ all the works we are singing are about death and life and resurrection and the SOUL.

Music Feeds Our Souls.

This is why I feel so passionately about the work I do with little ones and families.  To be fed by the language of music, to get that infusion of new blood, you have to know it ~ we have to be immersed in it from the beginning of time... The language of music is primal and powerful, but if we allow the brains of our little ones to develop without it, those pathways in the brain will get filled up with other things leaving no room for music.  It's so easy though.  Sing, dance, play, sing some more.  Sing with your friends. Sing with your family.  Make music and allow it to fill your soul and hold your memories.

Music is life.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

soon

One week and I bring my girl home for a short visit.  The first time since Thanksgiving.  I am so excited to have her home!  The boy will be home for about 36 hours when the girl is home, so all my chicks will be here for a brief time.
I'm trying not to be too excited, but I am.  I miss them so very much.   I love that they are living their lives, but I miss them every day.  Just now I had a call from the girl.  She is struggling with her asthma.  I said "go find your RA and get to the ER."  This is the 3rd asthma  attack in a week.  She's never really had attacks, just the asthma cough.  I hate being so far away right now.  I want to scoop her up and take care of her.  One week to go.
I know that she will find the help she needs right now.  She is in a wonderful place with loving, caring people who will make sure she gets the help she needs.  That doesn't make it any easier knowing she is having trouble breathing.
This is what makes it hard to be a mama.  When they are small you can feed them, change them, snuggle them, hold them.  Most of the time one of those choices will help.  When they are grown and away from you, all you can do is trust that they will find someone to help them if they need it.
It's hard being a mama when her chicks are far from home...