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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

New school jitters


I mentioned earlier that Charlie is going to a new school this year. After several years of him asking to switch to the public school, we have decided to give it a try.

We didn't make the decision lightly. Mike, Charlie and I met with a family therapist to talk about the decision and the reasons behind it. We prayed. We thought about it. And ultimately, we decided that it was the right choice for Charlie.

The day came to go pick up his schedule. We were in the building for about an hour. He didn't say more than 10 words. Maybe he was having second thoughts? If he'd said, "Mom, I changed my mind," I would have had him out of there and back in a Catholic school uniform faster than you can say "Pope Benedict the sixteenth." But he didn't.

Later that night, Mike asked him how he liked it. His response was classic Charlie:

"It was awesome, Dad. There were SO MANY pretty girls there."

Still, I was nervous. He moved from a school of about 500 kids to a 7th grade of nearly the same number. He had a healthy dose of nerves, but was mostly excited about the opportunity. The first day, our neighbors and his good friends met him in the driveway to walk with him to the bus stop. He wasn't too happy that I was hanging out at the bus stop, but other mothers were, so I figured it was ok. (I haven't gone back since then.)

When he came home after the first day, he said it was great...but when I asked about lunch he said he'd eaten alone. My heart sank a little bit. He didn't seem too bothered by it, so I tried not to be.

That first week, Charlie would come home and talk about teachers whose faces I didn't know, whose names I'd only seen typed out on his class schedule. About the third day of school, I realized I didn't even know the principal's name or the names of the school office staff. That just felt wrong.

The school he came from -- where Robbie still goes -- is like home to me. We've been there since Annie was 5 years old. I know the staff and the teachers. They know me. Why did I let myself be convinced that this whole switching schools business was a good idea?

Early the next week came back-to-school night. It was the same night Mike broke his ankle, so I was flying solo. I arrived a little early to attend a new family meet & greet. The principal was there, so I at least knew his name now. I talked to three or four families of other new students and then it was time to join the masses of humanity streaming through the halls, following their own students schedules.

I walked into the first classroom and introduced myself to the teacher. Much to my happiness, she knew exactly who Charlie was and told me we have a connection. Her sister-in-law teaches at Charlie's old school and her brother is our eye doctor. The massive public school world got just a little bit smaller and more personal then.

The rest of the night brought more surprises. A science teacher who is good friends with Charlie's former art teacher. An English teacher who I just wanted to hug because of her obvious passion for teaching and love of the students. A social studies teacher who clearly knows her stuff. A math teacher who made it a point to ask about Charlie's transition. And in the hallways, faces of neighbors I know by sight, but not by name because our kids have always gone to different schools.

Back-to-school night may as well have been named "Mom Breathes Easier Night." Yes, the school is BIG. Yes, I will make a point of wearing tennis shoes whenever I have to go trek across that building.  But I can say with certainty, it's a good place. And the right place for Charlie right now.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Two lies and a truth

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Scenario #1: About 7:00 this morning, I awoke to the sound of breaking glass. I sat up to find two knife-wielding ninjas (thanks for the inspiration, Judy Daniell) coming in through the bedroom window.

"Mike!" I screamed. Upon hearing the panic in my voice, Mike leapt from te bed and engaged in some fierce hand-to-knife combat with these two very bad dudes. In the melee, he ended up with a broken ankle and torn ligaments.

Scenario #2: Early this morning, Mike was out riding his new FatBike (that's really what it's called). He heard shrieking and saw an old woman frantic because her little tabby cat had run into the street and into the path of a garbage truck. Mike pedaled with heroic speed and threw himself in front of the truck, saving the cat. However, the truck's rear tire ran over Mike's right leg, breaking his ankle and tearing a few ligaments in the process.

Scenario #3: While getting dressed this morning, Mike tripped over a pile of clothes that have been waiting for several weeks to be taken to Goodwill. He felt 3 pops and was in excruciating pain. A trip to the walk-in orthopedic clinic revealed a broken ankle and torn ligaments that will require surgery to repair next week.

Which do you think is the truth?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Hello darkness, my old friend

Simon & Garfunkel, anyone?

Wow. It's been a really long time since I've written a blog post in the middle of the night. But here it is, 3am on the night before 2 of my kiddos go back to school and I am awake. No Diet Coke to blame. Just back-to-school excitement/jitters. Oh and a really irritating tickle in the back of my throat that keeps me coughing.

Thank you all for your support regarding my Grandma's death. Her funeral was Monday and I have to say, it was a good day. It was sad to say goodbye, for sure. But I have no doubt she is in heaven and I will see her again. She was almost 89 years old. She had a long and happy life and a peaceful death. What more can you ask for?

Getting to spend 2 days with my extended family was such food for the soul. It really reinforced for me what a blessing it is to be part of this "empire" (as my cousin Carrie put it) that my grandparents created.

More thoughts on death and the celebration of life at another time.

School starts today for Annie and Charlie. This year, Charlie will be going to a new school -- the public middle school. He is excited -- and a little nervous. Even though I'm the one who dragged her feet about making this decision, I'm excited for him too. I really think he's going to flourish. I also hope he figures out how to make it to his locker on time. It's about three counties over from the front door. Man, that place is BIG!

I took this week off of work so I could get everyone back to school (Robbie goes tomorrow) and maybe catch up on some things that have been neglected around here. Such a dreamer, I am. This is how the week is really shaping up:

Monday - Funeral
Tuesday - Dentist (Like the people, hate the process. I'd much rather just go to lunch with them.)
Wednesday - Two kids to school, one kid for a final summer's hurrah, slight window for productivity
Thursday - Doctor's appt and a date with 2 bottles of heavy duty colon cleansing
Friday - Colonoscopy

Yep. I think I might need another week off to recover.

I think there was more I wanted to say, but the fog of sleep is finally falling over me again and I don't want to miss my opportunity. If I hurry, I might be able to squeeze in another 2-1/2 hours of shut eye.

Good night, John Boy.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Love, personified

Soft, wavy white hair, speckled with a few black strands that refused to back down. That's what I saw as I watched my Grandma sleeping so quietly and so small in the bed at the hospice center a few weeks ago. I leaned in to kiss her wrinkled cheek and followed with my eyes as it led to her beautiful, wrinkled ears. How do ears wrinkle, anyway?

I reached down and rubbed her wrist. Her skin hung loosely, but so softly, around the bones of her arm. Under the pink and white afghan, I could see how much she had shrunk in stature, so tiny in that bed.

I couldn't help but smile. That tiny frame could not contain the enormous strength of my Grandma, of this woman who had born 13 children and buried two, one in infancy and one in adulthood. I looked back at the defiant strands of black in her hair and smiled more. They were a biological symbol of the fight my Grandma had within her.

Death is a part of life. And when my mom called to say Grandma passed away this morning, I was immediately sad for the missing piece of my heart. But I am also filled with joy because if there is anyone who has earned this rest, it is Grandma.

She earned it through the days and nights of worry over her love -- her husband -- off to war and later off to fight fires in his job as a fire chief.

She earned it through more than 65 years of marriage. 

She earned it through the raising and correcting and loving of 13 children. In the thousands of exasperated utterances of "Patricia!" or "Bill!" or "Paul!" -- or pick any other of her children's names. 

She earned it through the thousands of meals, hundred of jars of home-canned foods, mincemeat pies, peanut butter frosted cakes and dozens of gumdrop cookies and springerles that came from her hands.

She earned it through the quiet rituals -- the wooden stable and nativity put under the Christmas tree each year; the cherries pitted with hairpins at the kitchen table on hot (and un-air-conditioned) summer days; the quick and certain kisses she gave to say good-bye at each parting. 

She earned it in the loving, but not indulgent, manner with which she greeted every child who crossed her door. Grandma showed us the only riches you need to raise an army of children and a legion of grandchildren are plenty of love and some chocolate ice cream dished up in avocado-green bowls.

She earned it in the faithful example of her life as a woman of God. It has been said "Preach the Gospel often. Use words if necessary." That was Grandma.

My Grandma was not a woman of many words. (In recent times, the deterioration in her brain loosed some of the quick-witted things she must have been thinking, but not saying for all these years, much to our amusement.) But her actions spoke volumes. They spoke love and compassion, loyalty and service and humility.

This is my Grandma (with my niece Kate):


She loved.

She was loved.

She was LOVE.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Parental Jeopardy

The answers:
  1. They might get scared.
  2. They might put it in gear and cause a wreck.
  3. They might get out and run into traffic.
  4. They might get abducted.
  5. They might get overheated, go into convulsions and DIE.
The question:

Why shouldn't you leave small children unattended in a car, especially on a hot summer day.

Seriously. How hard is that to understand?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Way out of my comfort zone

I really should be in bed. If I were in bed, I would not be sitting here with my laptop, writing a blog post that I may or may not have the courage to actually publish. But sometimes a girl just has to step out of her comfort zone and say what's on her mind.

I have never had to bite my tongue or at least hold still my fingers on Facebook more than I did today with all this "Boo Chick-fil-a," "Yay Chick-fil-a" chatter going on. But as I was attempting to sleep tonight, my brain wouldn't shut off about the topic, so, good idea or not, here I go.

All the Chick-fil-a talk made me really hungry for a crispy chicken sandwich with buffalo sauce and a side of waffle fries. But I didn't eat at Chick-fil-a today. It's not that I am protesting Dan Cathy and his personal beliefs, but I had no desire to wait in line for an hour or more for my dinner. Instead, I ate at Panera Bread, which has probably ticked off some group somewhere along the line.

However, I am sure that I will eat at Chick-fil-a sometime in the future. That doesn't mean I am anti-gay or a member of some hate group. It means that I like those chicken sandwiches. As far as the company itself, I am more concerned about how my local restaurant treats its employees and customers. If the owner of the company has extreme views, my buying or not buying a sandwich from his restaurant is not going to change those views.

Others think it's important to express their dissatisfaction with their money (or lack thereof). That's fine with me. There are organizations I choose not to support because they are affiliated with other organizations that I have moral disagreements with. It's our choice as informed consumers to decide where we want our dollars to go. 

I'll admit, the idea of gay marriage is tough for me. I do believe that many people are born gay, that it's as intrinsic to who they are as a predisposition to right-handedness or left-handedness. And I don't think anyone should be made to behave in a way that is contrary to his or her true self. I also think that in today's world, some people choose to participate in homosexual relationships because the opportunity presents itself or because they feel like the right person of the opposite gender hasn't come along, or maybe doesn't exist. The latter makes me sad.

I also think, and I know this is likely to be wildly unpopular, that God calls us each to a different life. Those called to marriage are called to be true, physically and emotionally, to their spouses. Those called to religious life are called to be celibate, as are those called to the single life. And if you are born gay, is it also a calling to a chaste life? That's not to say those who are not married are not privy to love, but perhaps are called to a different kind of love.

I honestly don't know. I know what my church says. And I know that other churches have different thoughts. I know that friends -- intelligent, thoughtful and moral people -- have different views. For all I know, God is in His heaven wondering why we humans have made love so complicated. Which is why I didn't beat the drum for or against Chick-fil-a on Facebook, or anywhere else, today.

Maybe that makes me a non-committal coward. Maybe some people will stop reading this blog because I'm not prepared to draw a line in the sand and choose my place on either side.

Maybe. But at least, for today, I'm not too chicken to say what I'm thinking.