Monday, September 27, 2010

T Says...

It's a weekend of odd jobs, catching up from the time spent leveled on my back, in the hospital.  T's jobs are few and far between and yet what he does, he does with little complaint.  He puts the last, most abhorred task off until late Sunday evening: sock sorting.  The basket is overflowing and within minutes of starting his piles of paired socks begin to take shape.

Then the boredom begins to set in and he's suddenly dancing, twirling the socks around as props, creating songs, using them for microphones, and whipping them at me when I am not looking, watching me flinch and laughing his butt off.  I am exhausted and the sock to the left eye is a bit much, but I cannot help but laugh at his hip gyrating sock dance, the fun he's creating.

I leave the room and when I return one of the dogs is donning bright red football socks and she's propped up on her hind legs, they are dancing.  She looks at me and her eyes scream help and he laughs hysterically, so hard he bends at the waist and lets her go. Within seconds, he's hopping around, with something tying his legs together...a wayward pantyhose stocking, and he's twirling another set in his hand.

T takes the contraption off his legs, waves it in the air, says: "What is this thing mom? Where's the other leg?  And what do they call this, some kind of a panty hoe?"

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Quotable: Donald Miller

"Fear is a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living a boring life." 
"No, life cannot be understood flat on a page. It has to be lived; a person has to get out of his head, has to fall in love, has to memorize poems, has to jump off bridges into rivers, has to stand in an empty desert and whisper sonnets under his breath... We get one story, you and I, and one story alone."

Through Painted Deserts: Light, God, and Beauty on the Open Road

"I'll tell you how the sun rose 
A ribbon at a time... 

It's a living book, this life; it folds out in a million settings, cast with a billion beautiful characters, and it is almost over for you. It doesn't matter how old you are; it is coming to a close quickly, and soon the credits will roll and all your friends will fold out of your funeral and drive back to their homes in cold and still and silence. And they will make a fire and pour some wine and think about how you once were . . . and feel a kind of sickness at the idea you never again will be. 

So soon you will be in that part of the book where you are holding the bulk of the pages in your left hand, and only a thin wisp of the story in your right. You will know by the page count, not by the narrative, that the Author is wrapping things up. You begin to mourn its ending, and want to pace yourself slowly toward its closure, knowing the last lines will speak of something beautiful, of the end of something long and earned, and you hope the thing closes out like last breaths, like whispers about how much and who the characters have come to love, and how authentic the sentiments feel when they have earned a hundred pages of qualification. 

And so my prayer is that your story will have involved some leaving and some coming home, some summer and some winter, some roses blooming out like children in a play. My hope is your story will be about changing, about getting something beautiful born inside of you, about learning to love a woman or a man, about learning to love a child, about moving yourself around water, around mountains, around friends, about learning to love others more than we love ourselves, about learning oneness as a way of understanding God. We get one story, you and I, and one story alone. God has established the elements, the setting and the climax and the resolution. It would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn't it?" 

 Donald Miller (Through Painted Deserts: Light, God, and Beauty on the Open Road)
***photo by me. so there.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


We are 18 and for the first time in both our lives, hundreds of miles from home. College, possibility, fear and ignorance are in abundance and yet somehow we find one another here; in the cafeteria, fumbling and stumbling through awkward glances, hello, and yet within days we grow a connection rare, magnetic, perfectly innocent, and yet among the most powerful I recall having in 36 years.

Him: six plus feet of olived-toned, chiseled-cut strength; the kind that comes not just from pushing weights for sport but also from moving dirt, working the land.  His eyes alternate between sparkles and dancing and a steady, stalwart stare and for the first time in my life I realize what it means to have someone gaze so intently at me that they peer straight through, taking with my words.  He plays football and he plays it admirably well and yet his personality plays perfectly to the polar opposite of each my well-crafted stereotypes.  He is thoughtful and contemplative, intellectual and intense, yet at the same time has a perfect undercurrent of calm: he is as gentle and refreshing as salt water from ocean waves rolling freely over my feet, pulling the sand free from between curled toes.

We protect our hearts by claiming loves with others hundreds of miles in opposite directions, and it is likely these commitments allow our friendship to blossom more innocently, purely than it would otherwise.  Our bond is not unlike the determined lone Spring tulip, bursting, unbridled, pure beauty through a pile of dirty snow.

We spend as many hours walking around in shared silence as we do chatting one another's ears off, fishing, laying at opposite ends of my dorm bed, legs tangled, listening to mixed cassete tapes, debating bands' finer points, our respective dreams of travel, adventure, escape. His hands are massive, strong and calloused, like they hold secrets of a man much older, and yet they are soft enough to draw a perfect portrait or massage my feet.

A year later, when I leave there, I swear he is all I will miss.  We wrap one another up in a huge hug, say goodbye with one promise now irrevocably broken: stay in touch.


17 years later, we say hello, a second time. We are 35 and for reasons both our own, we live back near our respective homes, 350 some miles apart.  Determination, tattered hearts, death, space, age related realism, and yet shared flashes of an eternal hope are in abundance now and somehow we find one another perfectly imperfect yet again; in the street in front of his house, fumbling through a huge hug that feels like coming home, 20 seconds of heart thumping awkward small talk, and then immediately the sweet calm of the unchanged, familiar, and so Goddamned refreshing.

Her: thousands and thousands of miles of adventure, road trips, stories, books, concerts, athletic pursuits, loves claimed and lost, and an 11 year old boy; and yet living in the dark shadow cast by her greatest failing to date; an inability to retain a day's peace with a man she once laughed with, loved, for the sole benefit of their child.    

Him: a dream realized and then slipped away, a recalibrating and resetting of newfound dreams, a digging in and then out of the land and home he's always had. Adventures dotted with laborious work, a new home, and a business he built with his own determined hands, and then tragedy, tears, and a gaping hole of loss he can never hope to refill or cobble back together despite an unfailing commitment, desire to do so.

We spend hours watching football, sharing beers, plates full of meatballs, crackers and cheese and then we drive around chatting one another's ears off, frantically and hilariously filling in, the in-between.  We stare at one another and then burst out laughing when we realize the time passed is equivalent to our age when we last saw one another and then lament in somewhat surprised seriousness at the ease and familiarity of it still.  We share the highlight reel of triumphs, glimpses of the tragedies and then, the smack-in-your-face reality of knowing we both could have been better off, had we been around to catch one another's falls.

When I leave this time, a few hours later, we don't make promises; instead he smiles, brushes the hair from my forehead and kisses me lightly there and then he wraps me in that huge, strong, familiar embrace.  I allow myself to linger a very long time in that perfectly safe space between his pecks, breathing all of him in, grateful, thankful, relieved, exhausted, and yet giddy and completely calm, and I listen for the sound of his heart.

***words + photo by me.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

T Says....

I knew we were in trouble early Saturday when as I showered, I first smelled and then peered from behind the curtain to note T quietly perched upon the toilet.  The sight of him was not so alarming as his exclamation, "My poop is most definitely not in groups, momma!" 

"Awesome," I replied. "Thank you for sharing and stinking up my shower...again." 

And so we carried on: T dressing in his padded armor for his football scrimmage and then both of us driving 45 minutes there, me chattering mindlessly about how he needed to EAT! that buttered toast, EAT! something or he'd never play up to his mighty 11 year old self's potential, and T sitting there mostly in silence, peering oddly out the window.
He did not eat save for a few bites of yogurt and toast...and when I looked over and noted that instead, he'd guzzled down an entire JUG of water I nearly crashed the car telling him  "OMG're going to be so water logged you'll puke!"

Which might as well have been an omen, because sure as the wind blows, we pulled into the parking lot to the football stadium and he turned and faced me and immediately began puking, all over my (for the first time in my LIFE, to the tune of $200 detailed) car.  He puked in the vents.  He puked on the windows.  He puked in that handy compartment where you put the maps and important papers.  He puked on the seats.  He puked in the console.  He puked on the upholstery and the carpet and...well, you get the point.  Never one to discriminate, he also puked mightily on himself. 

When he was finished, he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, looked up at me and said, "Now what are we going to do?" 
And I said, "Well, you can play, or we can go home." 
He said, "I have to play. I feel much better now.  It's just that darned Nervous Nelly stomach of mine."
I noted, "Your uniform is covered in puke!"

Because I had just picked my now vomit infested car up from the detailer the day before, I had NOTHING in said car with which to clean up said puke.  So I took his tshirt off him, mopped up the puke from his pants and dumped my water on his jersey, and sent him on his way to warm-ups.  In the meantime, I parked the car and gagged incessantly.

He played the game. He stunk mightily.  He fared well, nonetheless.  And only one teammate accused him of "smelling like he'd rolled in crap." Not bad, he decided later, for how much he'd puked.

This morning as we stumbled about getting ready for school/work, already a half hour behind schedule, T began playing a brief concert on his keyboard, you know, prior to getting dressed, letting the dogs out, and the other fifteen things that needed done because we apparently desperately needed a little Bach to start our (late) morning out right. 

Little did he/we know, his dog reeeeally needed to pee.  So after I'd told T approximately 57 times to hurry up, the dogs needed let out, they have to pee...said dog squatted quite literally on my bare foot and began pissing.  Everywhere.  

She pissed on my foot, she pissed on my rug, she pissed on my bedroom floor and when I started screaming at her to stop pissing, she began running about the various rooms of our house and finally down the stairs...pissing in all of those locations too.
She was um, unstoppable.

T eventually led her outside (where she will more than likely still be in 47 years), and I began mopping, bleaching, and then steam cleaning up her mess.
What seemed like hours later, finally in the car, headed for school, I said to no one in particular, "I swear, I still smell like pee."

T says: "That's funny, all I smell is puke!"

Monday, September 13, 2010

Barb Boylan Schager

Barb Boylan Schager closed her eyes for the very last time here Thursday, a day before her 45th birthday. I like to picture her lying  wrapped in the loving arms of her husband and her two sons as she did so, head tilted back, smiling, fearless and looking upward.

I am told I am not far off.

There are truly no adequate words to describe the stalwart determination, grit and grace Barb displayed in the face of one of the world's most horrific and disgusting diseases: pancreatic cancer.  While most of us would have turned inward, she turned out, inspiring children, mothers, sisters, brothers...everyone in her path to fight like hell, to put your faith in God and under all circumstances, keep smiling.

She leaves behind two beautiful, blue eyed sons, who cannot possibly begin to fathom the ripple effect of love their mother left here.  It is her sons who I most often think of when I imagine her here without any living biological parents, and yet left with an angel/father nonetheless, chosen perfectly for them by their mother.

None of us will likely ever understand the purpose behind the degeneration and pain cancer leaves in its wake; the early goodbyes or the gaping holes, but I believe we all understand why Barb came here, a California diamond in the Iowa rough, choosing for her sons, the man and path they now follow, her family, friends and everyone in those ripples she created; better, wiser and eyes wide open grateful for each and every day.

Rest in sweet peace Barb...the community you created will not soon release your sweet boys and husband from our warmest embrace.

Friday, September 10, 2010

football + homework + a problem

It's football season around these parts.  My kid LOOOOOVES him some football.  Which is just great for a whole bunch of reasons:

1. His momma LOOOOOOVES her some football too.
2. I get to make and enforce the rules of the house with football as bait. What do I mean by that?  Well, let's take for example, homework:

Your homework isn't finished? No football.
Your timed reading isn't complete? No football.
Your spelling words aren't written five times each? No football.

And so forth.  It works exceptionally well because it would be close to a life altering tragedy for T to miss football.  So typically by the time I come storming through the door to pull his football laundry from the washer, re-stuff the pads for another practice and clothe him, he's done with his homework for the day and ready to head to practice.  Which still puts dinner at approximately 8 p.m. but that's another story for another day.

BUT. There is always a but, isn't there? 
Sometimes, when the kid has questions about his homework, he'll save them for AFTER football.  Which puts us at about four minutes until bedtime with T whipping out his bag and declaring...."WAIT, I have a problem!"  

And I promptly declare: "To which ONLY I have the answer...muahahaha."  
And then he rolls his eyes.  
He then fetches said "problem" and we do our best to tackle it.  
So far, so good.  

Until last night when said "problem" was too much for even momma to handle.  Now allow me to admit, I was never a math whiz.  I actually was kicked out of my Algebra II class (temporarily) for, the horror of it all, asking too many questions.  So of course, it was a math problem that got me.  

I read the problem, my palms got sweaty, I reread the problem and promptly and calmly asked, "Where's the book?" 
T responds, there is no book.
Okay then, "Where's my phone?"

And then there was a series of banter that went something like this:

T: Who on earth are you going to call and why?
Me: Chew. He has a photographic math memory. Trust me. If anyone can help.  Chewy can help.
T: You're kidding me, right?
Me: Nope.
T: Mom, this is fifth grade math.
Me: Shut it.

And then Chew wasn't home.  But since he is such a fab friend, he heeded my call for an emergency call back and was back on the line within seconds.  And then, after explaining to him our predicament, he didn't even skip a beat.  He also didn't make fun of me at all, which is rare, considering the circumstances. So we got straight to work. I read "the problem."

And then there was a series of banter that went something like this:
Chew: Read that to me again.
Chew: Read that to me one more time.
Chew: Can you re-read that first part to me one more time?
Chew: What was the first sentence again?
*pause* *silence* *pause* *silence*
Chew: Gimme just a second. I need to call you back.

And of course, when he called me back fourteen seconds later, he'd figured out the whole thing.  He also explained it to me, and then explained it to me in a way that I could also explain it to T.  And then he hung up, once again, without making fun of me.

Shortly thereafter, crisis averted, T and I were both in bed.  As we went through our typical goodnight banter: I love you the most! I love you to infinity and beyond.  No, I love YOU the most, and so on, I declared: I love you the most and I win, because I am the oldest and the smartest!  

To which he responded: Oh, you might be the oldest Mom, but Chew is definitely the smartest!