Thursday, June 30, 2011

You Raised Me Up, Thank You

"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."
 Dr. Seuss

We said goodbye to our beloved priest today. Tomorrow there will be a new priest, and I hear he's great. I am feeling a little like the step-child that doesn't want to like the new "dad" just because the mom does. He's going to have to win me over.

We moved to this neighborhood just days before Rojo was born and just days before this priest came to this parish. And Rojo left the school just days before this priest leaves, too. You don't think that's an accident, right? 

The priest did a Mass this school year where he used the Josh Groban lyrics and talked about the importance of raising each other up - not tearing each other down. Then he demonstrated by having the eighth grade boys lift him up. It was powerful. I tear up each time I look at my photo from that day. I tear up each time I say goodbye to this priest (and I've been dragging it out - it's been three goodbyes so far). I tear up each time I think of how I wouldn't have reconciled so many powerful and persistent inner struggles had it not been for this man - a man who 100% gets it. A man who preaches on a God of love. A God that does not want our sacrifices - only our heart. A God that forgives. A God that heals. A God that does not "give" us our struggles, but the grace by which to handle them. A man who lives his life like the God he shares with us.

It's fair to say I would not have found a church home at all had it not been for this man. It's fair to say that he has shown me what can be right about "organized religion" and the power of a faith-based community. It's fair to say this man has inspired hundreds and hundreds of people in his 15-years in this parish. It's fair to say his legacy will live on and on and on, because we've been raised up. And up we will stay.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Listening and Hearing

I have a blissful hour to myself and am in a coffee shop listening to good music and trying to loose myself in the comforts of my laptop. Around me are students with highlighters, people with books, friends talking, people having business meetings. Then over in the corner is a foursome, two men, two women, all grey haired, having coffee. They are all using sign language.

Although I don't know their story (and am dying to), I'm so distracted by them I can hardly enjoy my sinfully delicious beverage. What I am most struck by is how only one of them "speaks" at a time. The other three "listen" with rapt attention. There are lots of nods and smiles, even silent laughs. Can you imagine how different the hearing world would be if people stopped interrupting each other? We are so used to it we don't even get annoyed when it happens to us - we accept it as "normal" to be asked a question and then not have the opportunity to answer without being interrupted, particularly if we're in a group of more two.

This is a particular pet peeve of STM's and so I am extra aware of how badly most people listen. We hear but we don't listen. These people don't hear but they do listen. They must hear so much more that way.

* Photo from

Monday, June 27, 2011

Top 10 Things I Need to Record Myself Saying and Then Re-Play in a Continuous Loop

10. Wash your hands.

 9. With soap.

 8. No, not on top of the clean dishes in the drying rack.

 7. See how the sink is divided in two? See how that half has clean dishes?

 6. Other side.

 5. Let me see and smell your hands.

 4. Go wash them again.

 3. Now dry them.

 2. Hang up the towel.

 1. Try again.

Photo from

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Yes, Continued

Yes, my Visa was declined today.

Yes, there was a message on the phone from Visa suspecting fraudulent use.

Yes, the fraud was a false alarm.

Yes, STM made a super big purchase for business, in an attempt to get our air miles up there so we can get the hell out of here.

Yes, we looked on line recently for places to go/stay for our 20th anniversary in a few months, and anything that said, "Family friendly" got the big N-O.

Yes, STM actually said, "I don't want to spend my vacation with a bunch of typicals."

Yes, that made me laugh so hard I spit out my (second) beer.

Yes, while on the land line with Visa I called STM on my cell phone to verify his charge.

Yes, while I had one phone on each ear, the ice cream truck came by and Rojo needed money right that second.

Yes, I walked out to the front yard with both phones on my ears, and watched the ice cream truck transaction.

Yes, while in my front yard a friend and neighbor drove by and waved, and I almost waved back before I remembered I was holding up not one, but two telephones.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Yes, we're only into this "vacation" one week and I'm already loopy.

Yes, I've already dropped an F-bomb.

Yes, Rojo laughed.

Yes, it was not directed at him and the miracle is that it's the first one I've ever dropped (within his earshot).

Yes, my exact words were, "This is *&^%$#@ brutal."

Yes, I was referring to the traffic combined with his ice cream songs combined with the incessant questions, combined with my own need to pee. Right. That. Minute.

Yes, we paid back the $5.00 we borrowed from the snow cone man yesterday.

Yes, we bought four more today - three for Rojo and one for me (bubblegum).

Yes, thirteen more days until he starts his "job."

Yes, I already have a coffee date with a friend scheduled for the very first day.

* Photo from

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Personal Trainer

Rojo has me on some wild bike riding frenzy. Out of nowhere he wants to go everywhere via bike, which is great, right? Except I don't have an actual bike. Sure, we have bikes, we have two for 6'2" STM, we have a discarded purple one for the formally 4'10" Woohoo, and we have his really old and really small red one. Kathleen brought over a bigger bike for Rojo that they weren't using anymore, and I've been riding that one, except I'm always a mile away before I remember I was supposed to pump up the tires. And raise the seat. And learn how to shift the gears (should be easy, but for some reason it's over my head).

So, we on our misfit bikes have headed out each of the last three days and had an adventure. We've ridden to 7-11 and bought our glazed donuts, water bottle, and Starbucks Double Shot with Cream and then ridden to the park for a "picnic." We've ridden to the park, gone in, out, around and through the park and back again. And today we rode to a really far park where they sell the snow cones. Remember the snow cones from last summer? Yea, well, so does Rojo, so do I, and as luck would have it, Joey, the snow cone man, remembers us, too.

"We opened yesterday, I thought I'd see you first thing!" he said when we showed up today. He asked if I wanted to buy the Buy 10 Get One Free deal, but I told him I hadn't brought enough money. "That's okay," he said, "Just pay me tomorrow, I know you'll be here!" Then he proceeded to give me my 10 tokens and went ahead and gave us our free snow cone.

Rojo proceeded to eat three snow cones, just enough to "fuel" him for the return trip home. I was d-r-a-g-g-i-n-g, and complaining, and quite possibly shouting out things like, "This is brutal!" "I'm dying here!" and "My legs are jelly!" All of which just served to make him ride all the faster and basically leave me in the dust for one hot and sweaty mile after mile.

If only I had a personal trainer that got me to drink smoothies and eat lots of leafy green vegetables instead of highly processed, overly caffeinated things, well, then, I wouldn't have Rojo, would I?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Dear Hallmark:

Really? It's 2011 and my choices of Father's Day card themes are limited to: golf, BBQ, fishing and home repairs? That's it? Let me tell you something: I have had two fathers, any number of father figures, and one husband who is a father, and they simply do not fit into any of your tidy (and oh, so stereotypical) categories.

While it's true that in his hey day my father-in-law could fix anything, that's not what made him a great father. And while it's true that my husband likes to golf, he seldom does. Why? Because he's too busy fathering. And while it's true my father was a father, he did none of the above, nor did he wear a tie (another favorite theme). And while he may have been a giant pain-in-the-ass, he also taught me a lot for which I am grateful. He did not father in any traditional sense, but he fathered. He was card-worthy.

Where are the cards that thank the men in our life for going to 1,001 appointments to behavioral/developmental pediatricians? Changing diapers for thirteen years straight? Teaching a teenager to ride a bike? Taking someone to Home Depot every weekend for a decade, to count fork lifts?  Making garlic toast every morning at 6:00 AM for years? Sacrificing vacations, new cars, clothes, recreation, "fun" so that their children could have the best education possible?

I guess that puts them in the World's Best Dad category, but that rubs me the wrong way, too. Stepping up and parenting the kids you are given does not make you the "best." It makes you a parent.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Top 10 Expressions of the Day

Things are cuckoo around here, totally out-of-control with Rojo's graduation and the 1,001 details surrounding that event and subsequent events, plus Woohoo is getting ready to leave on a three-week trip out of the country, and, and, and. Rojo is really into expressions right now, as in every 10 minutes asking me, "Do you have an expression for me?" So, here's my list of what I say to him at any given time, or multiple times a day, as the case may be:

10. I'd forget my head if it weren't screwed on

 9.  I'm betwixt and between

 8. I'm burning the candle at both ends

 7. I don't know if I'm coming or going

 6. I'm running around like a chicken with my head cut off

 5. I'm one bubble short of plumb

 4.  That knife cuts both ways

 3.  I'm nuttier than a fruitcake

 2. I'm barely keeping my head above water

 1. One day at a time

Photo from

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Back in January I did a post called Team Orange. That post remains one of my most "hit" posts of all time, and not because it was eloquent. It is because the lives that this woman touched were many, and the post got forwarded, put on Facebook by various people, etc., and it sort of rippled - just like her vast love.

I'm sad to say that this incredible woman died very early Wednesday morning. I met her only a handful of times and I can hardly pull myself together. An e-mail went out asking that we place a flower in the orange ribbons that still line street after street in this neighborhood. Needless to say, there are flowers everywhere.

This week, as we all knew her time was near, you'd see people wearing orange, sporting orange headbands, bracelets, you-name it. Each time I saw it I smiled, teared up and felt moved to my core. Truly, this woman's heroic fight with cancer and ultimate surrender and loss to it, brought this community together like nothing I've ever seen. Until all this, I under-appreciated orange. Now I can't look at it without seeing it's beauty - it's perfect blend of two primary colors: red and yellow, it's very Middle Way-ness. I see it everywhere I look, and I find that so comforting, like she is everywhere, and I believe that to be true.

I don't know how you begin to convince three small children that her 42-year-life was anything but cut short, and that her death was not tragic. For them, it was and is. For her husband, parents, siblings, family and  huge circle of friends, the loss is unimaginable. So, too, have been the gifts, though. One of her closest friends and I ran into each other in the grocery store Tuesday, and talked about this. She died just like she lived: generously, kindly, compassionately, courageously. She was a teacher.

She was an an angel when she "lived" and she is most certainly one now - one whose name we know. Long may her lessons live.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Rojo's 8th grade class went on a retreat today. Most of these kids have been together since kindergarten. To say they know each other well is an understatement. In fact, they played a "How Well Do You Know Each Other?" game, and it was a 3-way tie between 3 of the 4 teams (my team lost, but let's not dwell). They are more siblings than anything, and if you ask me, you just can't put a price on that. I do believe they'd go to the ends of the earth for each other, and some of them already are, and some will be called to, and all will respond.

It's always a mixed blessing to be with Rojo and his whole class. I am simultaneously bombarded by the fact that he is anything but typical (can you say, "Sore thumb?") and the fact that he is 100% accepted, put up with beyond belief, and embraced.

Earlier in the day each kid drew a name of one of their classmates. They were then asked to write in their journals, how this classmate had been a gift to them, and to others. At the end of the day Rojo's Resource Room teacher, Liz, (who, thank GOD came at the last minute and who saved the day multiple times), led the group in what she called an agape meal: bread, grapes, grape juice and a toasting to each other's gifts. She explained that agape means love - but a certain kind of love, unconditional, the kind that God has for us and that we're called to have for one another.

Liz demonstrated how the whole thing would work, she would pick someone to start, they'd read what they'd written about the person whose name they'd chosen, then the person who'd just been read about would read, and so on, until each kid had read, and each kid had been bathed in agape. But before she picked a kid to begin, she said beautiful things about both J. and Rojo, "her" two students. She talked about the fun things she and J. had done together this year, and all the other wonderful things about J., of which they are innumerable. To Rojo she said, "Thank you for teaching me everything I needed to know about teaching special ed," Of course that got my tears flowing - especially since this is not her first rodeo.

Then later both of Rojo's truest and bluest friends, the two that have been there through thick and thin since kindergarten, the two that have held doors and zipped zippers, flushed toilets and buckled belts, come over to play and brought their friends, and the two that most recently baptized him, they both spoke. One had actually drawn his name (no accidents) and one shared lovely things about the person he'd drawn, then felt compelled to also comment on Rojo.


* Photo from

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Banana Popsicles

The box said banana. We picked that particular assortment of Popsicles because it had banana - Rojo's favorite flavor. Yet, when he packed a bunch into his red thermal lunch box Bungee corded to his bike with the Blue Ice, I lost all track of that. The "ice cream man" doot doot dooted, "Do Your Ears Hang Low?" up and down the sidewalk in front of our house, with me standing on the front porch waving wildly and shouting, "Ice cream! Ice cream! I want ice cream!"

He obliged, pulled over, and asked, "What kind?"

"I'll take a lemon, please," I answered, already tasting that perfect sweet and tart taste on my tongue.

He handed me the one that clearly was yellow inside and I tore off the wrapper, popped it into my mouth and said, "Ew! This is banana!"

Of course it was banana. No way in the world for it to possibly be lemon. None.

Yet I really wanted it to be lemon. Because it was yellow, because it was a Popsicle, because it was what  I'd somehow decided it was what I needed, wanted, and yes, deserved, I just felt totally cheated out of my lemon Popsicle.

The banana had done me wrong.

I hated that banana Popsicle and everything about it, until I finally pulled my head out and saw the metaphor for life: nothing wrong with a banana Popsicle. It's just not lemon. Nobody promised me lemon. Lemon is not better or worse, just different. It's lemon. Being mad at banana because it's not lemon is as silly as all the other things I'm mad about just because they aren't what I wanted or expected them to be. Time to embrace all the bananas in my life.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Losing the Map

Some of the things I'm sure are just brilliant that I write, go over like a lead balloon, while others that I don't plan out, or necessarily feel inspired to write at all, seem to really hit some magic nail on the head.

Here's what I've come to understand about my own writing process - when it's working, I don't even know where I'm going with something until I get there. The best parts of my memoir, favorite blog posts, even letters or e-mails I write, it's all the same thing: I just get started and somewhere along the way I make a turn towards "something." Sometimes there is a lot of editing to take out all the meandering, and other times, boom, there it is - surprising me more than anyone.

My new (ish) favorite thing to do is go to Starbucks, get all caffed up and just start with a blank "page." I wonder what I'm going to say? I think to myself. On a good day I change the title three times, because where I think I am is not where I am, and where I am going is not where I'm going, and where I end up is not where I thought I'd end up.

Perhaps life is not meant to be planned out in excruciating detail, but rather, allowed to unfold.

* Photo from

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Yesterday was one of those days where almost everyone I came into contact with said or did something that triggered me. Could have been one tiny little misplaced word like "best." Could have been something as simple as someone saying no to my (really great, brilliant, super helpful and perfect) suggestion. Could have been someone telling me I was confusing them, as opposed to them saying they were simply confused.

Turns out I was doing some triggering of my own. Things I said in jest dropped deeper than I'd intended. I guess you just never know what's going to trigger you, and when you're going to do the triggering.

It does beg the question, however, how careful must we be to watch out for that sort of thing? I am all about sensitivity, or so I think, until someone busts me on my own actions. Then again, I think I do some of my best work totally uncut. Pulling a Dr. Phil, if you will, calling it like I see it.

Even when someone says, "I need advice... " or "Tell me what you think..." or worse yet, "Tell me the truth..." it can, and often is, dicey to do so. Maybe that's why we have professionals - maybe the answer is to just shut up and listen and not offer anything back whatsoever - let those that are hired to do so, do so.

I don't know, what do you think? Tell me the truth.

Photo from

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ice Cream Truck

Those of you that have followed this blog for five years know, Rojo has a "thing" for the ice cream truck. And by "thing" I don't mean obsession. I don't mean fascination. I don't mean extreme interest verging on perseveration. No, I mean "thing" as in there-is-no-word-in-the-English-language for such long-term preoccupation. That's the kind of "thing," I'm talking about.

He plays ice cream truck songs on his keyboard.

He plays ice cream truck songs on our piano. Loudly. Both hands. Pedals, too. Starts at 6:00 AM and goes (on and off) to 8:00 PM on the weekends and "holidays."

He plays ice cream truck songs on YouTube. His favorite one (I couldn't find it when I looked, because I just knew you'd want to check it out), includes a woman's voice saying (weirdly), "Hellllllll-O!" He replays that one for hours. Hours. Then he goes around the house/yard/neighborhood/grocery store imitating it to perfection for days. Days. Let's go ahead and make that weeks.

He hums/taps/kicks/sings/shouts ice cream truck songs every unmedicated moment of every day between March and October.

Here it is June 1st and we've yet to see our first ice cream truck of the season. I think the 23 days of cold rain in May might have had something to do with it. I think the $4/gallon price of gas may have something to do with it. I think the $1 - $2 ice cream sales that are few and far between are part of the problem.

Never fear, Rojo holds out great hope that the ice cream truck is going to start coming soon, and we are ready. Our money is by the door. We are home each day during probable ice cream truck hours. We have our minds made up and orders selected in our heads. Ready, we are.

In a desperate attempt to take matters into his own hands I've helped him strap on an old thermal lunch bag on to his bike, and we put a freezer pack and a few random popsicles in there and "sell" them to anyone that will "buy" them - people at the park that we know or at least sort of know, neighbors, friends and relatives.

Had another one of my car without brakes dreams this week. Was telling Kathleen about it on our walk, "That's an out-of-control dream," she said.

"Right, but the thing is, I don't feel that way," I answered. Then she proceeded to point out all the big transitions right around the corner, and while I might not be conscious of feeling out of control, I certainly AM out of control, just like everyone else. I'm not in control over how Rojo does in his new high school, despite the measures taken (by me and by the much larger community) to ensure his success and well-being. I'm not in control over Woohoo's SAT scores, finals, college applications, acceptances or final decision.

I'm not in control over much, as it turns out, but I can be in full control over whether or not I choose to let the ice cream truck "thing" be a problem or not. I choose not.


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...