One could go on and on forever talking about anything, but I'll just touch on it here.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Maybe This Stubborn Boy

Maybe this stubborn boy will stand
for something bigger than himself,
when he grows beyond the center
of his world to see that others hurt too.

When he surpasses his now,
to find that empathy is love for more
than just Mommy and Daddy,
maybe his streak of "NEVER" will
fight for those broken under men
whose selfish egos festered
until they forgot that anyone else mattered.

Maybe this stubborn boy will not stay
quiet when the bullies come for strangers,
or friends, or him.
Maybe he will champion
the voiceless as the super hero
living under his pajamas.

Maybe this stubborn boy will not back down in fear
because he is made of steel-wrapped love.



Saturday, June 24, 2017

Hand in Hand

My parents have been married for 45 years. I sent them a text message on the morning of their anniversary. They acknowledged it with thanks, then promptly forgot all about the specialness of the day. Apparently some time later they realized it again and decided to go to the movies and watch Wonder Woman, which they would have done anyway. I think they walked there, as they walk almost everywhere in their countrified little city of two grocery stores (both owned by the same corporation, but that's another story). You might guess that many people walk around the town, but I think my parents are the most recognized residents to choose feet over wheels.

And they know almost everyone.

My husband and I grew up in their city, so we know quite a few people as well, including my father-in-law and many more family members, but my parents can't travel two blocks down the road without stopping to chat with somebody. This has a lot to do with my mom's occupation. She not only knows hundreds of people by name and face but could rattle off their phone numbers if she wasn't so trustworthy as to keep them confidential.

Since Dad's retirement he's become quite social, thus he knows a lot of people too. From playing piano at a local church to performing at many art shows and singing in the community choir, he's rather active. When he and Mom walk down Main Street, they might end up visiting with people outside of every other store. Usually what happens is someone will say, "I saw you walking the other day!" as sort of an ice breaker to a further conversation.

Walking is probably the main hobby or activity that my parents have in common. When they really want to do something together, it will probably involve walking, which is great considering the health benefits. It might be an early-morning venture to get in a quick walk before the heat of the summer settles in. Or it might be an evening walk when Mom needs to shake off the work of the day and Dad needs to step away from his computer. Then there's the walk to the library, the river, the ice cream parlor, the art showing, or the aforementioned movie theater when they just want to get out of the house.

When my family or my sister and her family visit, we get swept up in the walking schedule. I love it, as it brings back memories of all the walks of my childhood and teenage years. We used to walk for fun or when there was something important to discuss that just seemed easier to talk about side-by-side instead of face-to-face in the living room. Burning off stress while having someone to talk to makes walking, I think, a relationship must in our family.

What's also great about my parents when they walk is that they often hold hands. Maybe they've been frustrated with one another, maybe they haven't had the best day, but I'm willing to bet if they hold hands when they walk, they just know that they have each other's back. Love in the beginning is fireworks and fun. Love after 45 years is commitment and trust (and probably some sparklers and bottle rockets, but sheesh, I'm talking about my parents, so I can't really go there!).

A few weeks ago my parents shared a story with me about how their simple walking routine speaks a testament of love to all who see them.

They were not far from home, going or coming I don't know, when a young man walked past them on the other side of the street. They noticed him but just kept walking, as did he, when abruptly he stopped, turned back, and approached them. He told them that he had often seen them walking about town, holding hands, and he just wanted to say that it meant a lot to him, especially with the recent passing of his grandfather. Something about them made him think of his grandparents and the love they had. My dad shook his hand and told him that walking would be good for him, too, as he went through the grieving process. They then parted ways, walking into their separate spaces of life, having collided for one moment to recognize and appreciate a little bit of love.

Just this morning my husband and I went on a walk in our slightly-bigger-than-hometown city. Our four-year-old son, not willing at first, joined us. We did a lot of stopping for ant inspections, stick collecting, and careful avoidance of "laser" cracks in the sidewalk and "lava" rocks that our son warned us about. But here and there we had the chance to hold hands with each other and with our son. I thought about the people who might be noticing us, out of the corner of their eye or through their windshield as they waited for us to cross a street. Would they see a little bit of love quietly passing before them?

_____

Love takes your hand, remembers the best, forgives the missteps in life, and walks with you side by side.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Geddy's Day Address

Four score and seven years ago—wait, no, just four years ago—we brought forth into this world a crying baby boy. And by we I mean my husband and I as well as the doctor and her medical team; my sister, who provided physical and emotional support; and God, showing up in the details small and enormous. We brought forth a baby, because he wasn't willing to make his own exit from his watery nest.

Four years feels like ten most of the time. How do I remember the baby so needy when my son stands before me independently wanting to do so much on his own?

Four years feels like a mere couple of weeks some of the time. How can I forget the worry that he wouldn't figure out how to nurse, the excitement when he first rolled over, the joy at his baby giggles?

This boy, ready to be big and ride his new bike but still wanting to be small when he crawls in my lap for a story or for comfort when he's sad.

This boy, so tall, so ready to race out of my sight as he has fun with friends but still clinging to my hand when he falls asleep, making sure I stay as long as he can get me to.

What a journey from wish to real live child! Our home before had no marbles rolling across the carpet, no Hot Wheels on the dining room table, no wooden blocks balancing in towers in the living room. Now we can't imagine a room without some sign of the child who lives here. A sticker on the wall, a stuffed animal in our bed, a drawing on the refrigerator door.

The years will continue and the signs will change, as they already have, with pacifiers and teething rings and burp rags already hidden away. But for now we celebrate today.

We celebrate in mud between toes and cake between fingers, friends flashing smiles and family sharing hugs. Balloons, new toys, and ice cream sandwiches. Batman, fierce, crouching on top of the birthday cake.

Today we celebrate the boy: four years strong, four years wise, four years ours to love.

Happy birthday, Geddy.









Friday, May 12, 2017

"Daddy, is That a Dang it?"

Parents worry about a lot when that first cry awakens them in the night, when the toddler takes her first steps and stumbles, when the five-year-old smashes his face from falling off his bike. They worry that something is worse than it is. They sigh in relief when the moment passes and their child is OK, all patched up in Batman bandaids or soothed to sleep again with a pacifier. They settle down to sleep at night, thankful that their child has made it through another day without catastrophe, or in spite of it.

But then, if any parents out there are like me, they might lie awake at night wondering how their great and healthy kid might still get hurt or sick the next day or, even worse, how they might be screwing up as parents, causing irreparable damage by cursing in front of their little cherub.

In this family, choice words sometimes come out of our child's mouth and they can most certainly be blamed on me. It isn't that Luke never cusses—he's not that squeaky clean—but with Mommy home all day carrying on with all the duties of house and child, she (I mean I) can sometimes let slip a taboo word or two. You'll laugh when I share what those words are, but, let me tell you, when I was a child the only expletives that were OK to use—because they didn't count as expletives—were made-up ones or those of the "shoot!" or "rats!" variety.

Fortunately, Geddy's first word in life was "more" followed by other G-rated words like "ball," "go," and "hot." Oh, and "Mama" and "Dada." As I weekly added to the list of words he was saying (I stopped doing this by the time he was two because it was hard to keep up!), they remained on the safe side, though we had to be careful to explain to others what he said for "cup," and "cracker." From age three to now, however, it has been common to hear "What the heck?!" and "Dang it!" come out of Geddy's mouth.

I could paint myself in a positive light by chiming in with, "Hey, at least I didn't say the other words in front of him!" but I think that's really just a way of patting myself on the back for the fact that I did a better job of whispering those so Geddy wouldn't hear. While you laugh, let me add that it is entirely possible that "crap" will be the next word in his vocabulary.

Send me some soap to wash out my mouth, but in the mean time get one last chuckle at my expense. The first time Geddy used one of these words from Mommy in front of Daddy he asked, in all seriousness and with great curiosity, "Daddy, is that a dang it?" Perhaps he'd been wondering for some time just what it was that Mommy was always talking about. Maybe at last he had solved the mystery and could identify a dang it. Luke laughed too hard to help poor Geddy out, so he may never know the answer.



Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Efulents and Whales: Chasing Water with My Son

My son has a friendship with water that started where else but in the bathtub. From the moment he could sit up on his own he became a slippery bundle of laughter and splashes. Sharks, turtles, and a rubber ducky taught him to squirt Mommy even though she scowled. The first time he wiggled on his tummy in the tub, shouts of "Daddy! I'm swimming!" echoed around the bathroom. When Daddy came in to see, the water sprite shrieked, “I got you!” and soaked Daddy's pants. The joy of staying wet means getting out of the bath after "two more minutes!" turns into five, and the shark and the boat have time to squirt the wall again. When the water starts to gurgle down the drain I hear, "Where it going?" and always wonder if I should say, "To the ocean."

Summer vacations at the coast gave him new water words: beach, crash, and wave. He liked to yell, “Throw it, Daddy!” and watch his daddy throw rocks and shells into the ocean to make them splunk and disappear. From his first summer visit at age one, to the latest at age three, he’s been fascinated with the ocean. I imagine he dreams of whales when we leave the window open at night to hear the aquatic lullaby. Sand in his diaper, wind, cloudy skies—nothing keeps him from crawling, tottering, and running in the sand to touch the water of the big, blue sea. At home when we are far from any ocean—landlocked, dusty, and dry—my son asks to “drive really fast” to get there.

Without an ocean we settle for dancing in occasional rainstorms, wading in the backyard pool, and playing Pooh Sticks with pinecones racing through the culvert under our favorite path. When summer storms flood our street, my son collects sticks, pinecones, acorns, and leaves—his mini gondolas to navigate the raindrop river. The moment he notices the water out the window he begs to march into it. The big kids slosh their galoshes up and down the curb and my son follows. His friend across the street comes to wade and chase and scream too. They don't mind the wet clothes and cold fingers. When it hasn’t rained for days and the sun screams heat on our heads, we set out the pool and have stick-boat races. Water cannot sit idle at our house.

During the winter, bath time becomes my son’s main way to keep wet. Sometimes it just isn’t enough. One night last winter my son, settled into bed, stretched an open hand up over his head in the dim light. He turned it back and forth, looking it over as if for the first time. He began to talk about the water-spraying elephant statues at the zoo. "I want to get my sweeve wet at efulents," my boy whispered. "Wait for summer," I told him. I pictured the fun he would have as a little efulent, trumpeting water over his back.

This summer I decided my son needed more water than could fill a tub or wading pool. My husband and I don’t swim, but we want our son to learn, so I signed him up for a two-week parent/child swimming class. I thought he’d take to it like a whale, diving and spouting water all over me. We visited the pool before lessons started, to let him explore. He loved it, bravely going in as deep as his waist, laughing and splashing just as I had guessed he would. But when lessons began a few weeks later, he showed me quite fiercely that they were not according to his terms. I feared I would scare the love of water out of him, and he would dry up. Each day we struggled into the swim clothes while I prepped him for swimming with little mantras of “I’m so proud of you for trying!” and “You are so brave!” My husband even bribed him with ice cream. Fortunately, he always smiled at some point in each lesson, always went in the water of his own free will, and always made progress. He stayed friends with water, and I think I see signs of a bold swimmer yet.

Just when I thought our water days were at an end for the season, I found myself saying yes to a family-floating adventure down the Boise River. My husband invited me to go along with some friends, thinking I’d want to get a sitter for our son. It was too last-minute to get someone to watch him, so I worriedly imagined us huddled in our raft in the middle of the river with our son screaming to go home. Would he get scared or would he love it? But how could I have doubted our water-obsessed child! Clad in a lifejacket, he clawed his way over the side of the raft time after time, wanting to dangle in the water while I held him by his armpits. And the only screams of the two-hour float were exuberant joy with many a “WHOA!” as we faced the few small rapids. Even when his friend showed fear, my son only wanted more water to fill the boat.

Lately, when we can’t get outside to dance in the rain, go to the river, or pull out the wading pool, my son delights in the water of the kitchen sink. He drags a chair, scraping across the floor, and parks it in front of the sink where he spends time filling and dumping cups and bowls of water. As I sit here writing he exclaims, “Mommy, there’s a lot of dishes to do!” He may not always want to do the dishes, but I have no doubt we’ll be chasing water for many years to come.


Monday, March 20, 2017

In Sickness and Sickness: A Story of Lava, Love, and the Silver Bowl

"Mommy, when it's morning, I want to go to WinCo or Fred Meyer and buy ALL the cookies!"

"No. No cookies. Mommy is sick. Go back to sleep. Wait, are you even awake?"

Our son snuggled up next to me in bed and said no more. Luke coughed and stirred in the guest bed downstairs. We were now all in various stages of illness, the first attack having started in the night not many nights earlier.
______

It began with a whimper from Geddy's room. My brain went into the normal do-I-go-check-on-him-or-do-I-wait conversation in my head before I rolled out of bed and into his dark room to hear him sobbing. Thinking he was having a bad dream, I reached out my hand to where I thought his back was and touched instead a sticky, glumpy goo. The dread had hardly time to sink in as he continued to vomit.

"Oh, baby, you're sick!" Nice of me to state the obvious. I turned on the light and started flinging blankets and animals out of the way and wiping up with his shirt as I pulled it over his head. Luke came running to hold a shivering boy and calm him while I took all the yuck to the laundry room and set up a bed on the floor in our room. Geddy had made it to almost four years old without having such sickness.

"Time to check off another milestone on your growth chart, buddy!" I thought as I settled him in the new bed and sent Luke back to his. But since Geddy had never experienced such trauma to his body before he naturally wanted to talk about it.

"Well there's a sick germ in you, hun, making you feel bad. But you have a strong body and it's fighting back."

"I think the germ has a knife. Or a sword."

"Yes, I'm sure it feels that way!"

"And I have lava in me!"

I smiled at his accurate description of the vile vomit erupting from his system. We soon settled back down for sleep, but the lava had other ideas. Two more eruptions followed. This was getting a bit much for me, so Geddy, ever concerned about his parents, said, "Don't worry; I'll get better."

"Oh yes you will, buddy, you are so right! I know you will be OK." Maybe I could give myself a pep talk too.

But when I tucked Lambie up next to Geddy his optimism wavered. "No, I don't want Lambie to get the lava." So we stuffed Lambie under the mattress.

Better Geddy did get. The following day I decided that he must have eaten something bad and didn't have a virus. Luke and I had hope. But after hours of running around, being hungry but only getting gentle foods for his tummy, and having a grand ol' day as his normal self, Geddy erupted again while sitting on the couch next to me. My slow-motion reflexes left me sitting there watching and waiting for the action to end. His tears this time were for his favorite shirt, and I soothed him with the promise that we could wash it and I wouldn't throw it away. The couch, however, to me was a total loss. If I'd had the strength I would have heaved it out the door and placed a "free" sign on it.

Geddy went to the tub and there he was when Luke got home. Somehow I made dinner that night—not for Geddy—and Luke and I took comfort in the fact that Sabbath was next and we didn't have to go anywhere or do any work except to keep cleaning up lava that might continue. Oh how we hoped it wouldn't.

My reflexes were starting to kick in once 24 hours of volcano silence had passed. In his sleep Geddy coughed and I lurched up and grabbed him, ready to put his face in the silver bowl.

"I'm not sick!" He hollered.

"Oh. Sorry."

But then the lava came for me. When I first started tossing cookies Saturday night I told my son I was sorry to wake him with all my noises.

"You didn't wake me. I was just listening. It's funny."

"Funny? Don't you remember how it felt when you were vomiting?"

"It's funny."

And here I thought he had been scared.

"I'll hold the bowl for you when you have the lava."

"Thanks, Geddy. You're a great helper."

"Yeah, I know. If Daddy gets the lava he won't think it's funny."

No, when the lava erupted from Daddy he did not have a smile on his face, but he was ready.

While I had been moaning in bed wondering how Geddy had all his energy and yet I was completely incapacitated, Luke had spent most of Sunday doing chores around the house and stocking up on sickness supplies. What I didn't know as he was making his favorite Jell-O, was that he knew the germ was coming for him.

Luke went down hard, just as I had, and Geddy remained the helper. On Monday I managed to drag myself out of the house for more supplies. Geddy wanted to help by buying jelly beans, cookies, and more Jell-O, but I firmly declined. Yet Jell-O dinners with a side of saltine crackers became a staple for the week.

Through it all the silver bowl was our constant companion. When Geddy was at his worst he carried the bowl around, from room to room, as I directed, just in case one of the eruptions could actually be contained in it. Then it lived on the floor by his bed for a time, getting a rinse once or twice. By the time Luke joined the party the bowl took up residence in bed beside him, moving to the couch when he was able to sit up for a period of time. Like another member of the family, the bowl was loyal and ready to carry our burdens.

When the wave of turmoil had passed, once and for all, I didn't put the bowl away immediately. Weakness and the inability to consume much food still left me skeptical that the danger was over. It was kind of like wanting one more day to stay home from school or one more reason to drink 7-Up through a straw: The bowl was a crutch to lean on.

Now the bowl is back on its shelf yet still ready to serve. If such an illness ravages our family again—you say "when," but I can't face that—we and the bowl will be prepared to care for each other. And if you find yourself in volcanic distress, just call on Geddy, because, as he said, he'll "help anyone who has the lava." He'll hold the bowl for you.






Monday, February 20, 2017

In Bed With Luke and Louis (L'Amour)

Insomnia strikes me infrequently—really never—though I sometimes argue in my brain instead of sleeping. Even in the months of little sleep during Geddy's babyhood falling asleep happened easily for me. I don't get enough sleep, I don't get the best sleep, but I sleep. I stare at my husband's sleeping form next to me in bed, grumble because he can fall asleep seconds after hitting the pillow, but still I do sleep. Luke, however, doesn't always. His instant sleep state offers no promises that he won't be awake at 3:00 a.m.

What causes Luke's wakefulness has a lot to do with me, but when I am not the cause of his sleeplessness it is usually his active mind. All the stations are turned on and turned up. He has to have something override them. Sometimes it just takes an episode of Star Trek. Or a few chapters in a good book. But when he just wants to close his eyes and get good rest he can count on the audiobooks of Louis L'Amour. The tricky part with any of his methods is that I prefer darkness and quiet while I sleep, so he usually has to go downstairs and create his atmosphere for rest in the guest room.

Recently I relented to letting Louis in our bedroom. I didn't want to banish Luke and he wanted to stay upstairs. I figured after he fell asleep I could just turn off the iPod and then I would sleep too, because I knew there was no way I could sleep with Louis' stories playing between the pillows. What a shocker, then when morning came and I had no recollection of the story or the night. We had both fallen asleep before the story was over and no one had needed to turn it off! In fact, I think I might have even fallen asleep first.

Years of sleeping alone gets a person comfortable with the whole situation, and one of the challenges of marriage can be having to share a bed, a blanket, a space with another body. I've mostly gotten used to Luke in my bed, but when Geddy comes crawling in I usually lose comfort, a pillow, sometimes an eye. With Louis, however, this new guest in our quarters, I surprise myself saying he just might be welcome to join us any time!



Sunday, January 22, 2017

God's House

Sometimes I remember to talk to God out loud so Geddy will know that I ask for guidance and express thankfulness. Modeling my relationship with God helps me to work on actually having a relationship.

The other day we were out driving and I told God how grateful I was that we were safe. We had been having car trouble before being rescued by my sister. Rather than breaking down on the freeway the car had died in my friend's driveway. It was the perfect place to hang out, happy and warm, and wait for my sister, whose house was right around the corner.

While I was thanking God for being with us, I heard Geddy ask from the back seat: "Is God in the clouds?"

"God is down here and up in the clouds and everywhere at once. Isn't that great about God?"

"But where's her house?"

(Geddy always refers to God with female pronouns. I pretty much adore this.)

"That is a good question. I don't know if God has a house. Maybe more like a bird, just flying around everywhere. But I guess birds do have houses."

"Yeah, birds have nests."

"Well maybe God has a nest too."

That night I tucked Geddy into bed and said prayers with him. Luke usually leads this, but he wasn't home yet, so I was going on like "Please be with this person and that person" when Geddy interrupted me.

"Tell God to be here with me because I don't want her going to somebody else."

"Well remember, God is here and everywhere, for everyone, but yes, please God watch over Geddy tonight. Amen."






Thursday, January 12, 2017

When Winter Goes too Far

Winter falls in beautiful snowflakes that dance to the rhythm of excited children. Snowmen and snow angels, sledding and skiing, holidays at Grandma's house, hot chocolate, fuzzy hats and new boots, snowshoes and snowballs—winter is enchanting and cozy by the fire and the best friend whose visit you never want to end.

Until this year. Now, winter for many on my slice of the planet has become an unwelcome guest. And it's only mid January. I smell the work of the White Witch, because, like that time in Narnia, it feels like "always winter but never Christmas."

Honestly, the cold hasn't gotten to me yet. Neither has the dark sky or the snow—or what's left of the snow here. What makes it a bit too much winter is the rain uglifying the snow and flooding our sidewalk and the ice building up in between the meltdowns. And my car trapped in the driveway. These are minor problems considering those of people dealing with leaking or caving in roofs and other ice and water damage.

For many days, Geddy and I relished the snow fun right in our neighborhood. We did all the snow cool events, from sledding and snowshoeing to just flopping in the powder and taking a bite of nature's ice cream. But now we mostly stay inside. It's not so bad, not like it is for the children and teachers whose snow day wishes came true, just in excess. But just as they want to go back to school, we are kind of ready to get outside again.

So yesterday we went out to shovel some water around. We tried to clear the path for the water to have a steady flow down the street. Geddy had fun, as he doesn't seem to notice that the weather is less than ideal. I slogged through the water cringing at the thought of it all freezing, which it did. I guess today I can get out my ice skates.

Perhaps that is bringing this winter full circle, because the thought of ice skating conjures up all the warm fuzzies of this season again. Concern has settled into a steady resignation that winter isn't going anywhere yet so we might as well make the best of it.

Geddy certainly has no complaints. He keeps asking to go camping. As we filled up jugs with water and got out the oil lamps—just in case—he reminded us to not forget the marshmallows. This morning he and I made a makeshift tent, packed it with stuffed animals and a flashlight, and told camping stories. We looked at colorful stars and talked about chipmunks following us for crumbs. Then Geddy said the chipmunk was running through the snow. I said What? No snow here; we're camping. He said Yes, there's snow! I said OK, some people do camp in the snow but Daddy and I are not those people. Somehow, I think Geddy will be one day.