Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Portrait of a Mother

We had been trying to get together for weeks to have coffee.

But you know how life goes.  The busyness of it all seems to get in the way.

So, after a coveted long run for me and crazy errand running for her, we finally connected. 

Me holding a cup of java and she holding a steaming cup of chamomile, we looked each other in the eyes.

Not that it matters much, but we look quite similar.  I was born when she was 23-years old and so, to me and I suppose to the world, she's always been a "young mother."  She also sounds like me...or maybe I should say that my voice mirrors hers, except she's more sugary than I am...if that's possible.

She and my father divorced when I was four years old and my brother was two-weeks old and so, for most of my growing up, she was a single mother.  Dropping out of college to marry my dad meant that when she was doing it on her own, she held down factory jobs doing assembly line work, usually working the "second shift," from, we didn't see a lot of her.

I remember that her hands were usually cracked and she was constantly tired.  It was tough to juggle putting food on the table and keeping reliable babysitters for me and my brother, but she did it.  Not perfectly by any stretch, but she did it.

Sitting across from her now, me at the age of 37 and she at the age of 60, I was enamored.

My mother is an incredible woman. 

And as I looked, really looked at her it became more clear why.  Throughout all of the suffering, the failed loves, the disappointments, and the doubts....she is a survivor and not just a shadow walking the earth waiting for something better.

When you look into her eyes, she greets you with joy.  Her eyes shine and her heart says, "I'm here for you."  And she is beautiful and loving not just to me, but to all who have the opportunity to cross her path.

And so, when she pulled out her will and testiment papers and said, "I'm just doing this so that someday, you and your brother and sisters won't have to be burdened," I started to tear up inside.  And I wanted to say, "Now, that I'm old enough to finally appreciate you....please live for a very long time, so that we can have many, many more of these coffee chats.  I love seeing you, finally, maybe for the first time."

But I didn't.  Instead, I assured her that she'd be here for many moons to come and that I wanted her wedding ring.  We both laughed.  Smiled.  Paused.  And knew somewhere deep in our hearts that the relationship between a mother and a daughter is like none just sometimes takes years to embrace it.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Fly the Coop

I was making his bed.

My son, Sam is 8-years old and by all accounts old enough to be making his own bed...but I do it, every morning.

Mostly, because I'm a control freak and like the way the bed looks when I do it and also because the little bit of time we have before getting out the door for school doesn't seem to merit it.

But the other day, I was up on his bunk bed (he inhabits the top) and he was laying on the floor lamenting getting out of his pj's and into clothes for the day.

"You know when you go to college, you'll have to make your own bed.  You want to keep a clean space for your roommate.  And who knows?  Maybe your best friend will end up going off to college with you."

"I'm not going away to college," he says matter-of-factly.

"Going away is a blast.  Both papa and I did and had so much fun.  You get to meet new people, see new things, and have really cool experiences."

"Nope. I'm staying right here."

While biting my tongue, I let it go.  All of it.  My desire to scream at the top of my lungs that going away to college is so important.  That traveling abroad, studying another culture, language, and religion changes you in a way that is almost indescribable.  Getting outside of your comfort zone and having to clean up your own messes literally and figuratively is transformational.

But in that moment, my 8-year old just wanted the creature comforts of home and I get that.  But sooner, rather than later, I pray that he sees the power and benefit of leaving the nest.  Not simply to inhabit one that is a short car ride away, but one that is many moons away that requires time, effort  and money to get to.

After sharing this dialogue with my husband, he retorted with..."You know, he might just want different things out of life. And that's okay."

To which I thought, want different things out of life?  How can you know what you want out of life until you go and explore what the world has to offer?  How can you know who you are in your own skin until you're stretched farther and thinner than you thought possible?

Nope.  I think I'll draw a line in the sand with my three kiddos.  They'll be required to go away and do something for at least a year.  And then, if they miss Omaha and the comforts of our home, well, then, we'll talk. 

Maybe I'm being a hard ass or maybe I'll be singing a different tune when they're in high school and want nothing to do with me...but I feel that I'd be remiss if I didn't encourage them to fly the coop.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Chance Shit Encounter at Target

Admittedly, I was tired.

And spent and probably stretched a little thin.

And well, having it out with a random person in the check out line at Target is maybe not the most productive way to spend a morning,

But damn it.  When did people think that it was okay to get in your business?

"She's really cute.  She looks just like you."

"Aw, thank you.  She's our third and definitely the feistiest one of the bunch." Cue in Claire throwing shit from the cart onto the conveyor belt, including a dozen eggs.

"You stay home with them?"  She says dressed to the nines holding a box of tampons and a pack of gum.

"I do. Do you see any syrup or chocolate milk on me?  I usually can't escape the house without wearing some part of their meal."  I say laughing as the cashier greets me.

"No, you look like you just came back from the gym.  That must be nice to do that during the day."

Feeling a little put off, "Nope.  I head out at 5am for a run and get back before the cows come home. Just rarely get a chance to change."

" friend stays at home with hers.  I always tell her that it must be a sweet deal to not have to get out of your sweat pants and have permission to eat the kids' macaroni and cheese."  She retorts chuckling.'s fucking Disneyland.  Every. Minute.  God damn roller coaster ride of joy....I think and then blurt out, "That's funny.  I was just gonna compliment you on your shoes.  I was thinking of getting a pair similar to them, but then we sliced our income in half."

I have no idea why certain comments send me into a tail spin.  Whether you work outside of the home, inside, both, or not at all....the whole life deal with kids is a crazy ass roller coaster ride. 

When you're wearing a suit, you just want to wear yoga pants. And when you're wearing sweats, you yearn to dress up.  When you see your kids at the end of the day, you wish you could watch movies in your pjs and hang out all the time.  When you spend hour after hour with them, you just want a break.

The times I feel most put off are when I'm tired.  When I'm wiped.  And I should just know better.  Plus, if she's holding a box of tampons and expecting a visit...she probably should have known better too.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Any Road'll Take You There

Recently, I read a quote by lead guitarist of the Beatles, George Harrison and it just clicked.

"If you don't know where you're going, any road'll take you there."

This is a mantra that we could all stand to heed.

Why?  Because if we're honest, we recognize that most days, we're just trying to do the best with what we've been given and where we find ourselves.

The challenge comes when we feel the itch to shift the trajectory of the future and we want something more, something different or something far less complicated than the station we're living in.

All of these realizations are a good thing.  Honing, refining, choosing actively to engage in life is what it's about.  The problem seems to be when we don't know where to leap next or how to make the shift....and we're left feeling stagnant, exhausted, withdrawn, depleted.

And so as George Harrison so aptly says, wherever you find yourself now is the right road and wherever you move next will get you to where you need to go.  The only clause should be...


You open your eyes.  Speak the truth.  Be honest with your desires.  Hold true to your principles.  And include the ones you love in your choices.

Life is for the living.  Nothing is permanent.  Everything is fixable.  There really are few mistakes. 

Just trust that in this moment, your feet are planted firmly on this part of the path, until your heart and your truth tells you that it's time to turn.

You'll know when.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

'House of Cards' Addict

Are you a Netflix subscriber?

A Kevin Spacey lover?

A political drama junkie?

A voyeur of human behavior?

An appreciator of the side monologue?

If you've answered in the affirmative to the above aforementioned questions, your ass needs to grab a beer or a glass of wine, a good friend, your remote and 40 minutes of time....time, well spent.

"House of Cards" is an American political drama series adapted from a previous BBC miniseries of the same name.  Kevin Spacey serves as Frank Underwood, a democratic congressman from South Carolina and the House Majority Whip.  After being passed up as the next Secretary of State in the new administration, he is determined to exact out his revenge on all of the political players in his sphere of influence.

Spacey is married to Robin Wright who plays the lovely and brilliant Claire Underwood, an executive director for a not for profit organization focused on clean water rights.  And Kate Mara plays an incredibly ambitious and seductive reporter, Zoe Barnes who brokers a deal with Spacey to get inside information to write cutting edge stories for print.

Netflix won the bid to distribute the series and signed on to produce two seasons or 26 episodes.  On February 1, 2013, they released the first season and in the first two weeks, the series has been the most watched on Netflix to date.

And why is that?  Because the acting is brilliant.  David Fincher, a fucking rockstar genius of a director grabbed the number one picks for each of the characters and made them come to life.

AND...because all of the first season is available at once in multiple episode form.

The formatting is what makes the series perfect.  People can watch it when they want to without interruptions and feel like they're getting a substantial experience.

They're now in the process of filming season two which makes me giddy as I type this.  I've been spoon feeding myself with an episode a night.  Much like chocolate, wine, a good's so worth it.

Do yourself a favor and take a peak...

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Book Writing in My Dreams

He had been watching her for months.

But how much can you really know...when all you randomly see is the back of her ponytail bob as she runs by.

That's all she ever seems to do.  That and push kids in a stroller and trash down the hill to the curb and New York Times papers to the recycle bin.

And when she's not wearing sunglasses, her eyes are blue...extraordinarily so.  And she's beaming...not necessarily from her smile, but more so from her soul.  A soul that beams.  A rare deal.

The truth is that we'll never know each other, because a neighbor, or rather a guy that lives blocks away, that happens to frequent hers from time to time, can't be friends with a married woman who doesn't know he exists.

It's too weird and too suspicious...even if I'm widowed and just celebrated my 74th birthday. Just doesn't happen in today's day and age.  I'd probably be arrested or something.  But I wish it could be.  I think we could be friends.

This is the start to the book that I was writing in the dream I was dreaming last night.  Does that make any sense?  I've been struck with this desire to write a short story or the beginning chapters of a novel, but the sheer daunting task of it all overwhelms me and then, I end up paralyzed and with nothing to show for it.

That's the power of dreams.  The subconscious takes over and starts wittling away at the thoughts that no matter how hard we try to compartmentalize them, won't seem to go away.  And then writer's block is overcome and well, you just have to remember what the Sandman brought you to chew on.

Since the thoughts of inferiority don't seem to subside, I guess I'll have to just start writing and let go of the premise that no one cares or that it will never get published.  It doesn't matter, right.  It's just the process that counts.

Here's to more dreaming...I need to find out what happens next.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Ode to Sam on Your Golden 8th Birthday

February 8th and you're turning eight...

How can that be?  You my first born, my only son, my golden one.

I remember it vividly...all of it.

Teaching you red, blue, yellow,, two, three..."Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?"....Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star...You are My Sunshine.

Excavator, concrete mixer, fuel tanker.

Parasaurolophus, Dimetrodon, Brachiosaurus.

Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Megatron.

"James and the Giant Peach," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "The Twits."

Magic Tree House extravaganza....Shel Silverstein "Don't Bump the Glump" and "The Giving Tree."

And then, Harry Potter..."The Half Blood Prince."

You are in the middle of your second grade of elementary school and getting ready to make your First Holy Communion.  You can read like a mad man, you're doing addition and subtraction like it's your job, and you are the Spelling Sparkle Champion almost every week.  You've added chess club to your resume and have learned some pretty amazing strategy in a game that will serve you well your whole life.  You're a master swimmer and getting ready to test out your soccer skills on the field this spring.

And well, as you can tell, I couldn't be a more proud mama.

They say that your first child is a series of trials and tribulations.  The first born is often a Guinneau pig where parents experiment and try to discern the best course of action.  And this I know to be true.  I've made many mistakes along the way.  I've expected so much of you.  I've wanted the world for you.  And held you up to a standard that is higher than most.

But through our fumblings, I know this to be true.  You have taught me that loyalty, honesty, and holding firmly to your principles (even when it doesn't make sense to most in the world) makes for a person full of integrity, purpose, and value.

You have taught me the power of unconditional love, forgiveness, and the belief that tomorrow is always a new opportunity to try again.

On this day, your golden birthday, I pray that you know beyond a shadow of a doubt how much you are loved, you are cherished, you are treasured and always wanted.

Greet the world in your eighth year, fearless, wide-eyed, hopeful, and optimistic.  The world is so much better because you have been gifted to all of us.

Happy, Happy Birthday, Sweet Boy!

I love you always, Mama

Friday, February 1, 2013

Hard to Love

"High Maintenance"

"A Short-Fuse"


"Focused to a Fault"

Anyone of the above words aptly describe me on any given day.  I've always been a bit set in my ways.  And when I decide that there's something I want, well, I want it now...come Hell or high water and there's not much room for error in between.

And so, it was with disdain but also a bit of clarity that I stumbled upon the following song and immediately added it to my running playlist.

Take a listen, if you're not familiar.

It's a tune called, "Hard to Love," by the country star, Lee Brice.  And it absolutely resonated with me for multiple reasons.

The first is that I've always known that I lucked out.  For those of you who don't know my husband, just look up 'Saint' in the dictionary and you'll find his name listed.  I cannot imagine anyone who would associate him with the words above this video.  You laugh...but seriously, the man is amazingly selfless.  When it comes to journeying through this life together, he's the partner that you want by your side. 

Funny as father...supportive of faith and in general, a truly stand up guy...he is the one that shows me that while I am hard to love, it's worth it.

The second reason that this song moved me is because I recognize that love...when it's truly unconditional at its very core.  It's not based on score keeping or who does a better job at fill in the task.  It's about choosing to be there for the other person especially when they're most undeserving.  It's making the choice to love even when they're taking you for granted every step of the way.

Finally, it opened up my eyes to the blessing of being loved not in spite of my short comings but rather because the entire package of "Kellyness" even the hard to love components make me who I am and why my husband chose me forever.

And so it reminds me that I'm grateful.  I'm blessed. I stand in awe and I seek to emulate that model of loving another over and over again.

Because God knows, I don't make it easy.