Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Not My Problem

I have a problem. A big problem. And I'll tell you what my problem is: I can hardly tell the difference between what is my problem, and what is not.

The problem shows up in all my relationships, but nowhere more so than with my children. Yesterday I spent all day, ALL day, doing the laundry, errands, phone calls, e-mails etc... necessary to get my perfectly capable 16-year-old ready for high school (which starts today for her). I had three e-mail exchanges with her math teacher to determine if the calculator she already has, will, in fact, suffice for this year. I cleared up a problem with Powell's Bookstore, found the books I'd ordered on-line two weeks ago and requested be shipped to a nearby location, and drove to that "nearby" location to get her entire year's worth of American Literature reading material. She suddenly remembered that she missed the day when you get your locker assignment (we were out of town) and so we reshuffled the entire day to make that work yesterday.

Went on a walk with Nancy last night and I asked, "How do other parents do it? Especially those that work? Especially those with a bunch of children? How do they get it all done?"

Of course that is the answer, they don't get it all done. The world would probably still spin if Woohoo went to high school with the wrong calculator on the first day. She could probably squeak through Am. Lit. with only the book she needs for the first 5 weeks, and then manage to get the other ones eventually. She could probably order a book on-line all by herself. She could probably manage the complexities of a washer and dryer and do her own damn laundry.

Part of my defense is that I have Rojo who cannot fend for himself, whose every need is my problem. Part of it is habit. Sixteen years is a long time to do things one way, and it's hard to adjust my parenting according to her ever-developing independence, even though I know that's what's best for both of us. Part of is is sheer practicality. I know that Rojo needs to eat his Trader Joe's spinach pizza AT 5:00 PM each and every day. I know that it takes our oven 20 minutes to heat up to 425 degrees. I know that if I'm not in my kitchen by 4:15 every afternoon, his pizza will not be cooked, cut, and cooled BY 5:00. And then, my friends, we have a problem. I know that it will not work to pick Woohoo up from school at 3:30 this week, and then learn that she needs such-and-such by tomorrow. There is no wiggle room. There is not we'll-just-run-by-and-get-that-now time.

In two years my daughter will be off to college. TWO years! 24 months! I am committed to turning the reins over to her in a deliberate and careful manner between now and then.

Starting tomorrow. Right now I have to go make her bed.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Top 10 Things I Will Miss About This Summer

Was going to do a Top 10 Things I Won't Miss About This Summer list, but am working on venting less and being grateful more. Working. Heard recently that venting really isn't good for you or whomever you vent to. I'm struggling with that one, because nobody loves a good vent more than I do, and I'm quite happy listening/reading a good one, too. Anywho, something to think about...

10.  Windows open day and night

9. Long hours of daylight

8.  Meeting Above and Beyond at the school playground with her ice chest full of popsicles

7. The Magic Bench

6. Walking in the warm and dry mornings with Kathleen

5. Walking a second time in the evening with my friend, Nancy, and Flicka

4. Joey and Iris at the snow cone stand

3. The wading pool where Rojo first swam and continued to swim throughout the summer

2. Watching Rojo swing in Nancy's backyard, singing church songs, while Nancy's husband brings me a beer and/or a Margarita, and/or snacks

Photo from www.keywestsebago.com

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Been thinking a lot about the word/concept/notion/ability of some people to be "selfish." Worked with a woman, Ruth King, for awhile, and she pointed out that one of the sources of my rage (and we all have it) is my resistance to being selfish. Actually, what she prescribed was for me to take six months and be completely selfish.

Never did it, and that was years, and what feels like lifetimes, ago.

It's about a lot of things, this resistance to being selfish: my concept of selfish (bad), my misunderstanding of being Selfish vs. selfish, my confusion over what is being self-loving/caring vs. what is being selfish. It's about my own bias against those I perceive as self-absorbed/self-involved and Selfish. All of that and none of that. It's about what I was taught as a child about God, it's about what I consider being a good mother/wife/friend/daughter. It's about guilt. It's about martyrdom.

For years I've had a book bubbling in me about Rojo and what I consider his divinity, his special needs that come with incredibly special gifts. I've tried not to write the book for a number of years. I wrote a whole different book instead. I've distracted and diverted myself in every way imaginable in an effort to do anything but write this book.

If you knew how many times a day my mind goes there, you'd have me hauled away in a straight jacket. As Rojo is talking I'm thinking of how to write that, where the commas go, the other punctuation, which parts of what he says to keep, which parts to drop, how much of his ADHD the reader can take without going crazy, that sort of thing. Every day, all day long, for years and years.

When I went to Iowa to work with 11 other memoirists and one gifted teacher, I went with 20 pages of what I was hoping might turn into that book someday. My pages got workshopped. My pages had life breathed back into them. My pages made me (for the first time in months) want to write more pages.

So. I have decided to turn this next school year into my Year of Being Selfish. I am going to go big with the question, "Does this serve my needs?" when asked to do one of the many things I get asked to do on any given day/week/month/year. If the answer is "no," then I'm not going to do it.

I am going to write this book. The book may never be great, never be sold, never be read, never be anything but out of me and onto the page. And that will be enough.


* Photo from http://www.madebyhans.com

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Resurrection. The reversal of what was thought to be absolute. The turning of midnight into dawn, hatred into love, dying into living anew.

If we look more closely into life, we will find that resurrection is more than hope, it is our experience. The return to life from death is something we understand at our innermost depths, something we feel on the surface of our tender skin. We have come back to life, not only when we start to shake off a shroud of sorrow that has bound us, but when we begin to believe in all that is still, endlessly possible.

We give thanks for all those times when we have arisen from the depths or simply taken a tiny step toward something new. May we be empowered by extraordinary second chances. And as we enter the world anew, let us turn the tides of despair into endless waves of hope.

- Molly Fumia

* Photo from http://www.saintsebastianchurch.org

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Our Mother

Look at this picture that Kathleen's daughter took of her on her birthday. Not only does Kathleen radiate, and not only is her home gorgeous, and not only is she wearing the love. T-shirt I gave her, Mary earrings and bracelet I also gave her (it's all about me), but look at her prayer table. Yea, that one, the one with Our Mother in the corner. The one that has a GLOW all around it. It's important to note that those candles are not lighted. The afternoon sun is not coming through the window(s), there is no "logical" explanation for why Mary, Our Mother, would just LIGHT up like that.

Except she's Mary.

Enough said.

But not enough made of it.


Thursday, August 19, 2010


Rojo and I walk into Safeway, hand in hand, and we immediately see Carmen. Carmen has worked there approximately forever, and definitely all of Rojo's life. She's seen him at every age and state. "Hi, Rojo," she says.

"Hi, Carmen," he answers.

"Boy, you're getting so tall," she declares.

"Yep. I'm 5'2" now," he continues.

"Are you excited for school to start?"

"Yes," he says looking her in the eye.

"Have a great rest of your summer, Rojo!" she says as we push the cart through the aisle.

"I will," he says.

He puts one arm around my neck, the other hand pushing the cart along side of me. 

"Rojo?" I say, "that was a really nice conversation you had with Carmen. I didn't have to tell you one thing to say, you did the whole thing!"

"That's because Papa knows how to roll!" he says, stating the obvious.

Roll, Rojo, roll.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Deal All the Way Around

We're up early, filling ice chests, grabbing blankets, sunscreen, hats, flip-flops, and sunglasses. It's as much work going to the beach for the day, as for the weekend, but we don't do weekends at the beach, we do one day trip a year, same beach, same activities, same everything. For Rojo. He looks forward to it all year long.

"Did you program the DVR? We want to make sure 'Bachelor Pad' tapes," STM says.

"Got it," I say.

We both want to make sure that at the end of this very long day, there will be really good, really bad TV.

We pile into the car, Flicka and Rojo in the back row, Woohoo and her pillows and iPod in the middle, STM and me in the front. We drive the 90 minutes to the Oregon Coast, leaving the 95 degree day behind and head into fog and a 30 degree drop in temperature. Relief.

We head straight to the arcade, load our plastic cards with credit and begin swiping. First on the list is "Wheel of Fortune," but that one machine is out of order, as is the Gatorade machine, another top attraction for Rojo. He is not deterred, the show will go on. We move throughout the twisty and turny should-be-demolished building and find "Deal or No Deal." $2.00 a game. We play several. Magically, tickets come pouring out of the machine as Rojo makes, and does not make, deals. He's offered 100 tickets in exchange for his one remaining case. Two boys about ten, standing behind him watching (and waiting for the game) shout, "Deal!" Rojo says, "No, I don't want 100 tickets, I want 200 tickets."

Rojo slams the No Deal button and we all groan. He then is instructed to open his last remaining case. 200 tickets. As 100 tickets come out of each the dispensers by his legs, the boys in line look incredulous. Rojo sees their faces and is more excited that they are excited, than anything. "Want my tickets?" he turns and asks the boys? "You can have 100 each."

They gladly take the tickets.

We gladly leave and go to the beach to set up.

We spend the day throwing a football, playing with Flicka in the water, eating snacks and watching the sand TV (a yearly tradition).

Wouldn't negotiate a trade for anything.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

This is a prayer for
the illumination of the body
the body of the earth
which is our rock and breath
the body of the self
which is the shining
eternal strand of
the soul
the body of material substance which
is the ancient gentle
temple of the spirit.
May you move your divine hand
across us in each of these planes,
allowing the earth
of our bodies 
and the ether
of our souls
to become fit grand vessels
for your and our own
illustrious light.

-Daphne Rose Kingma

* Photo from http://blogs.suntimes.com

Friday, August 13, 2010


Dragged Rojo to the Verizon store with me for about the umpteenth time this summer. I have qualified, and needed, an upgrade for my cell phone for months, but each time I go in there I get overstimmed and walk out.

Now that I've (finally) discovered the wonders of texting (NEHBM of a phone that does not require TALKING), I really wanted one with a full keyboard. So, Rojo and I went in fully caffeinated, freshly peed, fed and rested and tackled it yesterday morning. He was darling, pointing out all the "flip" phones and really pushing me towards all the ones that came in shades of red.

At last we settled on pretty much the most basic phone they have that can text with a keyboard, and he was jumping up and down with excitement as we finished the transaction, so excited for me.

On the way home in the car he says, "My friends all have cell phones. M. has a cell phone, G. has a cell phone, K. has a cell phone..."

I couldn't tell from his tone if he was hinting around (not his style) or merely informing me (totally his style). Finally I asked, "Rojo? Do you want a cell phone?"

"What in the hell do I need a cell phone for?"

Point well taken.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


We're at Bi-Mart picking up a prescription, the cashier at the pharmacy, Sandy, says to Rojo, "So, are you excited to go back to school?"

"I have 27 more days until I go back to school."

"Oh," she says, "well are you excited?"

"Yes and no. Some of it is going to be BORING!"

"Well, that's an honest answer," says Sandy.

"And being bored KILLS me. I don't want to die!" he says with a huge shit eating grin.

"No," I pipe in. "You can't die, what would I do without you?"

"What would the world do without you, Rojo?" Sandy says, "You have a purpose."

"I couldn't agree more," I say.

And we leave Bi-Mart a little lighter than when we entered.

*Photo from www.tribalshapes.com

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Happy Birthday, Kathleen

Today is my friend Kathleen's birthday. No accidents that two of my dearest friends have their birthdays a day apart. I do love Leos. Not enough has been made of having a Leo for a friend, and I have several! I am blessed, blessed and more blessed.

Kathleen and I have been daily walking buddies for eleven years now. I think it's fair to say we've talked about everything on those walks. We've raged. We've cried. We've laughed. We've contemplated. We've processed. We've grieved. We've recovered. We've healed. Together. Can't imagine my life without her, without her steady, calming, loving presence.

Since first grade Kathleen has been Wil's 1:1 aide one morning a week. Who does that? Who takes time out of their busy schedules and lives to volunteer consistently like that, who never calls in sick or flakes out, but who shows up week after week, year after year, sleeves rolled up and ready to Rojo? Kathleen.

In September she will begin her final year with the class that she's moved up with through the grades. It will be emotional for everyone as we go through the "lasts." The last first day of school. The last Halloween carnival. The last Advent program, the last Field Day, Mass, day of school...

Fortunately, June will not signal the end of Rojo and Kathleen's special bond, it will move and shape into something else, just as my relationship with Kathleen has. Something that looks and feels a lot like love.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Toeless in Philly

Today is my friend Toeless' birthday. Many of you faithful blog readers know all about Toeless, the fact that she lost a pinky toe in a motorcycle accident when she was a teenager, and to this day asks for a 10% discount every time she gets a pedicure. You know that we both hate tea (although my position on that has been upgraded to not-liking-as-well-as-coffee). You know that she's an amazing parent, and that I have learned some of my best moves from her. You have learned that most everything I say that is funny, originated with her. You have learned that there would be no NEHBM (not enough has been made) if she hadn't said it first.

When I think of Toeless Terry I laugh. Every time. And I think of her every day. You do the math, at least once a day I have a laugh, and not enough has been made of that.

I love you, Ter, I miss you, not enough has been made of all that you've brought to my life through the years, and all that awaits me, I'm sure.

Happy birthday!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Top 10 Things Not to Do While Wearing a Little Black Dress (And don't ask me how I know.)

10. Get on a step stool and attempt to swipe cobwebs off the ceiling

9. Take the screen off your stove venting system and degrease it

8. Dodge the resulting icky rolls of grease and grime that fall from said venting system

7. Take all the burners off your stove and clean them, too, long as you're there

6. Throw ten million greasy gross paper towels in the garbage can under the sink, and notice how nasty that area is

5. Take everything out from under the sink and put it on the freshly washed kitchen rug

4. Windex the hell out of the under sink area

3. Swear and throw a mini tantrum when you see how far off everyone in your family but you is, when throwing stuff in the garbage

2. Marvel at how quickly fruit spoils and grows fuzz when it lands not in the garbage can, but directly behind

1. Give your family a cleanliness lecture while covered in dust, grease, moldy fruit and Windex

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

That's About Right

Played Banangrams with my cousins the other night. A fun game - version of Scrabble. I suck at Scrabble and I suck at Bananagrams, too, as it turns out. Lots of things that aren't my specialty were called upon these last eleven days on the road: patience, sleep deprivation, heat, humidity, lots of togetherness with very little solitude, grief, directions, travel, flexibility, faith. The list could go on and on but I can't.

I'm scrambled.

Want to tell you all about Iowa. Want to tell you about the eleven other students in Hope Edelman's memoir writing class, each one unique and amazing with a story to tell!

Want to tell you all about the Summer Writing Festival in Iowa City and how wonderful and intimidating it is to be with "real" writers for a week.

Want to tell you all about Mary and how she's led me from Portland almost back to Portland (in my last airport now). How every time my faith wavered, she sent me a sign. A clock that read 11:11 as I passed the 111 more miles to go sign to Chicago. The truck that I followed when I thought I was lost that said, "Cleaners for the Lord." How I was listening to Meg Hutchinson and as I crossed the Mississippi River in my rented yellow economy car, she blared out, "America." How the clerk at the hotel that greeted my weary body at the end of a very long day was named Mary. That kind of thing.

Want to tell you all about time with my cousins, their children, cousins that aren't cousins but are.

Want to tell you about what's on my STM Miss List and how excited I am to get home to him and the kids tonight.

Want to tell you how much I missed Flicka. My friends. My house. My neighborhood. My life.

Want to tell you how grateful I am for the opportunity to travel.

And to come home.

But for now my brain is ENJXQE. The word I made up in Banagrams to end my turn and move on.

As we all must do.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Miss List

The funeral is over.

Most of the out-of-town guests have left. Reality is setting in.

It's Monday morning and over coffee Emily and I start making a list of who needs to be contacted, the order in which to do that, the papers we need to locate, on and on. Overwhelming.

She goes to her computer to investigate Social Security benefits. Finds out she needs a marriage certificate. Doesn't have one. Did at one time, no idea where it is now. Goes online to order one, one To Do turns into ten sub To Dos. Overwhelming.

I'm emptying the dishwasher, trying to be helpful, nearby without hovering, available but not insensitive. "You know," she says, looking up from the computer"we were married 22 years. We had a good life. There are going to be so many things I miss about him. Sure, there were things that drove me crazy, but what I'm going to miss is so much bigger. Put that on your blog. Make your friends start a list of what they would miss about their spouses. Tell them to focus on those things, instead."

I started a list.


* Photo from: http://www.socialsecurityinsider.com


Driving a car without brakes--stopping the card Fred Flintstone style, new year at college with new roommates, a house so filled-to-over-flo...