Saturday, July 26, 2014


It's so quiet, I only hear crickets.
In 18 years, the only time we ever left our two children both at the same time were four days in 2000 when Bob and I traveled to a conference in San Jose, California. 

Until today.

We were not the type of parents to take trips together without the kids. I didn't even like to do dinner and a movie without the kids, unless they were both together. I couldn't stand the idea of a kid at home alone. It ruined the potential fun to me. Before we went to San Jose, we wrote a living will with instructions on how to raise our children should we die on the trip. We have preferred to travel separately, ensuring that at least one of us would be available for the kids.

To be clear, we didn't leave our children but they left us. Presently, they are traveling to Red Lake Reservation in Northern Minnesota for a church do-gooder week. "Left" is too melodramatic -- they are together with friends and trusted adults, embarking on an incredible cross-cultural opportunity that will be mediated in a most excellent way by their leaders.

We are home alone in the quiet. To be honest, I feel like its the first time I've exhaled since 1996 when I stood in the shower gulping in sobs of grief, mourning the loss of freedom after Amanda was born. At the time, I was contemplating if in fact my new baby was an independent human being or an vile appendage of my own body. (Do not underestimate the power of postpartum depression.) My blood pressure feels normal.

Today, it's quiet.

Crickets chirp.

Distant jets roar.

Neighbor dogs bark.

But mostly, it's silent.

However the universe speaks. A baby arrives. At 7 a.m. this morning we received a telephone call to alert us our godson would be at our house shortly, because his mother was having contractions. We knew this was coming up, but today is two weeks early. Today, our first day sans children in 18 years, we played Thomas the Train, read "Where the Wild Things Are," served mac-n-cheese in Jake the Pirate dinnerware, went swimming in the shallow end, and played catch with baseball gloves and tennis balls.

Then we all went to the maternity ward and marveled at a brand new baby swaddled in a striped hospital blanket. "That child was inside your body just a few hours ago," I said to the mother, who looked far too beautiful and alert for just bearing a child. (My births were difficult, or maybe I was just difficult.) "I know!" she replied. It's such a miracle. You already know that, but still.

A short story by the fabulous Tobias Wolf tells about an irritated parent who drives his kid to military school, kind of hoping to get rid of him. The parent drops off the son, drives away, turns around to look back and the entire campus has vanished. I haven't read the story but I had the privilege of seeing Tobias Wolf in person talk about the story. It gave me chills. Of course it's a metaphor for parenting. One moment you're children are driving you crazy, the next moment they've disappeared. Poof. Magic. Dust. As if they never existed. I should probably dig that story up and read it.

Tonight, the ghosts of my children and I sit by the pool. The gnat catcher next to me is a hack devised by Amanda -- a glass of white wine and dish soap. I hear a younger Aidan echoing in the water, "Mom, watch me!" demanding eye contact all the time as he plays by himself. A dress of Amanda's still hangs with clothespins, blue with white polka dots. And for the first time in months, I blog. Is this not what I've always wanted to do?

The water is still. We will help with the baby tomorrow.

Thank you for coming over to my blog.

With love from yours truly,

Natural Born Bleeding Heart

Friday, May 30, 2014

Lunch hour

Need to pick up son’s wood-shop project before one oclock, but I’m at the office, submitting an online grant application. It’s due.

Submission fails. Question six 6 too long.

Fix. Submit again.

Submission fails. Question eight  too long.

Repeat four more times. Submission successful.

Rush to high school to pick up son’s woodshop project.

Woodshop project: side table. Looks good.

Son brings woodshop project to parking lot and loads into vehicle.

I depart.

Stop for sandwich to make it back to office for one o’clock webinar.

Webinar topic: database reports and dashboard panel.

Sandwich shop closed for remodeling.

Go next door and order Chinese take-out.

Worry about missing webinar, thus causing a costly fee to agency.

Veggie fried rice in hand, rush back to parked vehicle.

Daughter calls. She’s stuck in a parking garage with her three-year-old client.

40 cents short in her debit card to pay the fee to open the gate. No attendant. What to do?

I worry for my webinar, but who cares, what about the children?!!

Call Bob, who’s at a conference. Idea comes to mind.

Call daughter. She’s driving around parking garage calming the three-year-old by saying they can’t get out because they are “special.” She plays the Frozen soundtrack.

I forget about the webinar, the wood-shop project, and the fried rice. Instruct the daughter to go to pay machine and look for phone number. Standing under a tree by my vehicle, call that number. 

A live person answers. Halleluiah!

“My daughter and a small child are stuck in the garage. They are 40 cents short. Can you help?”

Yes, he’ll go there immediately to help. Shout out to Keck Parking. You guys rock.

It’s 90 degrees outside. Did I mention I don’t have my own car? I’m driving Bob’s rust bucket truck. It’s a big glug.

Head back to the office. Admire the wood-shop project riding shotgun. Imagine it next to my rocking chair. 

Wait, there’s a sprawling pen-mark on the front of the wood-shop project. It says “Stephen” in three inch letters. Stephen is not my son.

Bumble into my office. Five minutes late for the webinar. I’m logged in. My agency is not charged.

They say you should use the lunch hour to network.

I use it to parent teenagers. Life is beautiful.

Friday, May 23, 2014

On the occasion of our daughter's high school graduation


Daughter graduates.
Her wave is unstoppable.
I am riding it.

Daughter graduates.
Seventeen and leaving home.
I'll not be destroyed.

Daughter graduates.
She powers forward. I ride.
A baby born, gone.

(a built haiku, a work in progress)

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Don't stop believing

Amanda's graduation pic, Roosevelt High School,
Des Moines, Iowa, Class of 2014,
courtesy of Megan Clausen Photography
A 17-year-old daughter is so beautiful to behold. Today at the office, I got an emergency telephone call (aka not a text) that went something like this:

Her: Mom, the neighbor is spray-painting their grass the color of green!

Me: They're re treating their lawn with chemicals.

Her: But you know what that means, right?! (To my writer friends, my lovely girl really does talk in exclamation points.)

Me: Their yard is going to look great?

Her: No, mom, it's Glee!

Me: (She's referring to the very first episode of Glee where the character of Finn [RIP] as a child watches his mother's latest loser boyfriend chemically treat the lawn while blasting a Journey song, Lovin, Touchin', Squeezin, which would stay with Finn until he gets into high school to help inspire the newly formed Glee club with another Journey Song.)

Me: Don't Stop Believing, honey.

Her: Don't Stop Believing, mommy.

End of call. Back to work.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Grow Something

I planted the colors green, yellow, red and orange.
The kids call my favorite eats "mom's tropical food."
Welcome to my vegetable garden!

As you may know, we live on one full acre. To Bob it's "a farm," a compensation from living 46 years in the inner city*. To me it's "another job," an overwhelming sensation from having very little liquid time. With all this land, you'd think we'd have planted a garden a long time ago but I didn't know where to start.

However, I found a solution.

It's "live globally, act apartmently." I ask myself what would I do if I lived in a little space. Suddenly things become very clear. I need to plant a container garden because that's what you would do if you didn't have a yard. (Note: in the background of this picture is the St. John's Faith Garden, an impressive expanse, which has been a nice proxy gardening experience. Yet, I still wanted my own kitchen garden.)

This is how we did it.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

A Different Kind of Love Triangle

My husband was mad at our daughter for the dent in her car. (He said it was about responsibility.)
I was mad at my husband because he was mad at our daughter. (I said it had nothing to do with responsibility.)
He was mad at me because I was mad at him. (He said I didn’t understand.)
I said he was being unreasonable.
He said I was being mama bear.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Pastor's Wife

Grateful to Living Lutheran for the opportunity to post this short reflection on being a pastor's wife:

In seminary, circa 2006, they offered a workshop for spouses of ordination-bound students on the topic of being a pastor’s spouse. I myself was the wife of presumed future pastor but did not attend the seminar because what was there to learn? I felt liberated from the traditional label “the pastor’s wife.” Plus I was a working mother and wouldn’t have time to be pushed into a corner of expectations. I barely had time to brush my teeth.