Sunday, May 23, 2010
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
As I'm walking out the door, Eden noticed my sneaky demeanor and asked me where I was going. When I told her I needed to dash to the store quickly, she immediately begged to come with me. I stared down at her chocolate-smeared t-shirt and sticky fingers and told her that I would be back before she got out of the tub. Ever-loyal to the six-year-old's code of conduct, she continued to beg with increasing passion.
Although I try to avoid her manipulative tactics, I figured I should jump at the chance to spend a few moments with my daughter, so off we went, sticky fingers and all...to Whole Foods.
I gave her my short shopping list and asked her to help me find the ten items I needed (which turned into twelve after a run-in with gourmet gum drops and ginger snap cookies). She took her time sounding out each word and running from aisle 1 to aisle 9 and back again to find the organic honey, baby wipes, granola, cheese and blueberries. I felt no need to rush, to grab the list from her and read it myself in the interest of time. I simply knelt down in the middle of the cheese department to help her with a word or two, then watched her eyes light up as she unlocked phonetic treasures.
As we checked out and filled our bags, the sound of bluegrass music wafted into our space. Again, Eden's eyes lit up. Just like mama, she can't resist the sweet sounds of a banjo and a fiddle. Enter: begging, part 2. Off we went, bags in hand, to the Whole Foods eating area to listen to a 4 piece bluegrass band. A group of kind-faced older men sat in a circle, lovingly holding their instruments and skillfully making them sing. Eden and I were the audience. As I sat and listened to the music, I saw her toes tapping, her hands clapping and her shoulders swaying ever so slightly. She was so happy just sitting there...and I almost missed this opportunity.
On the way home, I thought about how parents of young children need to take advantage of every chance we get to spend quality time with our kids, but quality time doesn't have to be a big production. This simple trip to Whole Foods became the highlight of my day. Had I sent her sticky fingers to the tub instead, I would have never found out that she wants to be a "figure-outer" when she grows up ("you know...someone who figures stuff out"). To think, I almost missed that.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
I ride because of the horse bug. Every horse lover knows about the bug. Somewhere between the time I learned about horses and my first ride, this invisible little insect silently landed on my heart, and just as quickly flew away. I didn’t feel anything at that moment, there was no stinging sensation, no itchy lesion, no urge to shoo a flying pest. But, somehow the fabric of my being transformed. Horses were now a part of me and there was nothing I could do to change that fact. I was forever changed. Some people say they’ve been bitten by this bug, but I prefer to think it kissed me. This experience formed my hopes, my dreams, my goals in life. It gave me the courage and desire to pursue an unbreakable bond with an animal ten times my size. I ride because I love the smell of manure and wood shavings. I ride because of the feeling of a horse’s warm breath on my hand as he nibbles a carrot. I ride because it is my sanity, my escape, my truth. I ride because I can’t not ride. Really, it’s not a choice, it’s simply who I am.
Friday, May 14, 2010
This morning, I just about fell on my face after stepping on the blue gingerbread man. When I asked my son to put the game away, he set it up on the table instead and asked me to play. I cannot turn down those big brown eyes so, even though I had two loads of laundry to fold and another three loads begging to be washed, I pulled up a mini chair.
As I watched him carefully shuffle the cards and perfectly align the yellow and green gingerbread men at the starting line, I found myself hoping that somehow, Queen Frostine would appear at the top of the stack. Not because I wanted to win. There was no guarantee I would go first. I was hoping for Queen Frostine because her prompt appearance would mean a speedy game.
At that point, the internal conversation began: "Why do I want this game to go fast? I have laundry waiting for me. I'm not about to leave for a fabulous vacation. I don't have an appointment. I have a fresh cup of coffee, I'm still in my robe and my adorable son is sitting across from me. Even better, he wants to be sitting across from me! Why can't I just enjoy this moment?"
And, with that, I relaxed and forgot about Queen Frostine. "You can go first, mommy, because I gave you two gray hairs yesterday," he says. I make a mental note that he heard me mutter under my breath that I can actually feel my hair turn gray when my kids scream, and then reached for a card.
Queen Frostine smiled back and at me. My son's eyes lit up. He was so excited that I pulled the best possible card and said, "Yeah mommy!" My heart sank a bit as I moved my yellow gingerbread man to the last leg of the Candy Land trail. Six rounds later and the game was over.
Technically, I won...but did I really? I tried to get him to play again, but other toys called and his interested dissipated. There I sat, in my mini chair, staring at Queen Frostine and feeling utterly pathetic about my mothering skills. Another moment with my son, gone. Damn Queen Frostine!
I am tempted to pull her card from the deck and destroy it so no other Candy Land games will be cut short by her grand entrance. I'm still in my robe this morning, but I've already learned a valuable lesson: Queen Frostine isn't doing me any favors.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Take, for example, the floods in the Nashville area. Not since the Civil War has their landscape seen such destruction. We haven't heard much about this flood, aside from the fact that Taylor Swift donated $500,000 to relief efforts. Between the failed car bombing in NYC and the major oil spill in the Gulf, Nashville has quietly faded into the background. Regardless of the attention (or lack thereof) the flood receives on a national level, there are some poignant comparisons to be made between Nashville and New Orleans during and after Katrina.
While both cities experienced truly horrific natural disasters, the aftermath is night and day. There is little denying that the government did a horrible job saving the people of New Orleans from the wrath of Katrina. It responded slowly and inefficiently. The people looked to the government to save them, to guide them, to feed and protect them, to give them answers. The government did not. Rather than playing the role of savior on a white horse, the government became the villain, leaving an entire population understandably bitter and disappointed.
In contrast, the people of Nashville have not been vocally begging the administration to help them or save them. They have not raised a collective angry voice pointing fingers at a non-existent response from the government. Actually, the government response to New Orleans and Nashville has been pretty similar: minimal at best. I don't begrudge President Obama for not making Nashville a priority. I don't expect him to and I'm actually glad he hasn't. Not because I don't respect the people of Nashville. Quite the opposite, I respect them immensely for stepping up to save themselves.
I am in no way belittling the impact of Katrina. I know the death toll was much higher and the personal stories heartbreaking. Still, in one case, the government was expected to swoop in and save the day. As expected, it failed. In the other case, private organizations have become the lifeline to Nashville citizens. Organizations such as Feed the Children, Hands on Nashville and the Red Cross (just to name a few) are funneling donations from people like you and me to their neighbors and friends.
Yes, several Tennessee counties are receiving government aid but the emotional climate is much different than that of Katrina. The Nashville flood is certainly not the political hot button that Katrina became (and still is today) and I can't help but believe that's because the people impacted do not have high expectations of the government. Fortunately, those are expectations the government can actually live up to.
The lesson for my kids is that when you look to the government to save you (whether it be from a natural disaster, a financial disaster or a situation you created yourself) you will be disappointed. The people around you, your neighbors, friends, even donors you've never met from another part of the country, are much more reliable.
Without the red tape and bureaucracy, private citizens can effectively and efficiently make a difference in the lives of those impacted by life's many trials. While people scream in the streets out of utter frustration, the government is still trying to get ducks in a row, t's crossed, i's dotted and action items assigned. Enough with the savior expectations. Nashville proves that when left to our own devices, we, the citizens of this great country are stronger, more compassionate and more powerful than we give ourselves credit for.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
In the character Jacob, Picoult provides a glimpse into the mind of a child with Asperger's Syndrome. I had heard of A.S. before reading the book, but I really didn't understand the complexity of the condition or the impact it can have on the "Aspie's" family and loved ones. As a reader, I related most to Emma, Jacob's mother. For her, the analogy of life as a roller coaster is a literal description of her life.
From a failed marriage to financial troubles and the challenges of raising two teenage boys alone, her ups and downs are enough to make the reader want to reach out and offer a hug or a word of encouragement. Jacob's Asperger's defines not only the lives of his immediate family members (his mother and brother) but also their relationships with friends, classmates, co-workers and their community.
When Jacob is accused of a heinous crime, Emma's life reaches a tipping point. Although she believes her son incapable of violence, she begins to question her entire world as the case unfolds. The veil between Jacob's world and the world of those around him is thin but tangible. It sometimes seems a real connection is possible but just out of reach. Through all of the proceedings, I wonder (on behalf of Emma) if Jacob really loves or if he simply reacts to the people around him. Of course, I think of my own son and wonder how far my love would take me if I were in a similar situation. Knowing that the answer lies in the unconditional characteristic of a mother's love, I sympathize even further with Emma.
Picoult truly demonstrates the importance of a writer doing thorough homework before tackling such an in-depth and touchy topic. She clearly delved deep into the world of Asperger's prior to writing this book and her diligence and commitment shows. I will admit, I am not always a fan of Picoult's work, but this book shines.
Monday, May 10, 2010
Saturday, May 8, 2010
The next book selection is Emily Griffin's Heart of the Matter. As a book junkie, I LOVE finding out about my favorite author's "favorite things" and Emily is not only sharing her list, but giving us a chance to win everything on it!
This isn't a skimpy list either. We're talking about a Blackberry, designer shoes (from Ann Roth, one of her designs is pictured here), a gift card from Crumbs Bake Shop, a gorgeous blanket from Keiki Co....and more! Check out her list and enter to win here. Psst...entries are unlimited so enter more than once to increase your chances. I really want someone I know to win this...it's such a great prize! Good luck...and happy reading. :-)
Thursday, May 6, 2010
At that point, I knew we weren't heading home. "Mama, we have to find the dog!" Eden says, on the verge of tears. Sigh. "Her name is Tally," I said. And off we went. We drove up and down the urban grid of our Wash Park neighborhood, calling for Tally. Fortunately, the boundaries of our neighborhood are pretty clear so we weren't meandering through the open countryside, which could have taken hours, if not days. "Is your name Tally?" Eden would ask every dog we saw, regardless if they were black and white, or on a leash.
We didn't find Tally. I'm not sure if anyone did. But, our afternoon jaunt got me thinking about the dedication and compassion of a six-year-old who was so distraught over the thought of a puppy wandering around Denver without her human family. It got me thinking about how many times we see people (not dogs) wandering, hurting and lost, while we continue on with our lives...too busy to stop, to care, to question.
That night, Eden had a hard time letting go of Tally, especially because we didn't know how the story ended. I tried to teach her that sometimes things don't always work out the way we want them to, but that God is always in control. I was almost proud of my ability to acknowledge and embrace a teaching moment, until she turned to me and said, "I didn't think we'd find her but it would be worse if we didn't look." Turns out, she knows about teaching moments too.