Sunday, August 30, 2009


Yesterday our family went to a AAAW (Adult Asian Adoptees of Washington) picnic. Our teenage boys got to hang out with the other teenagers they know from KIDS camp. My husband got to see what he always refers to as "the guys"; a group of over thirty-year-old men that hangs out at the montly gatherings at the bar and talks cars and jobs and guy stuff. The little dog got to meet some nice dog friends and some of her favorite creatures; small children. And I got to sit with another white wife of an adoptee. Wasn't it just one week ago I got to email with my first KADWW(Korean Adoptee white wife)?


We found ourselves at a picnic table overlooking the beautiful sound with a group of "first wave" adoptees. These were people in their 50s who were adopted all of them from Korea early on in the transracial adoption wave. My husband, at 42, is usually the oldest person at these adoptee gatherings. So, for me it was really great to hear their stories. I've mentioned before that it seems that the adoptee community is so hungry for time together, that often the spouses are not invited. I try to think of it like someone bringing their husband to a "Girl's Night Out"; the conversation at the table is just different when there is a guy at the table. It's the same thing, I am guessing, for the adult adoptees; they have to be a little careful, a little guarded when we're there.

So, being invited to this picnic was wonderful for me, the white one. And sitting for a couple of hours with another white wife was wonderful. This couple has had a different experience than we have, they've lived all over the world, including six year in Korea, and they don't seem to have had some of the other identity stuff impact their marriage like it impacted ours. But it was still wonderful. Her husband is hapa, so her children, while grown now, are even fairer than mine, which is saying a lot since I'm half Norwegian which aparently trumps any melanin, sorry kids. But it was still powerful for me to sit in a space with a woman who shares a connection like this. I'm so thankful.

Then, I found this blog with a post called "Emergency Code Whitey" oh my gosh. I spit coffee all over, laughing out loud. This is how I feel, write it sistah!

I'm walking around my house, pumping my fist in the air yelling "SCORE"! You just never know, ya know? You just never know.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Raw Homeschooling

When my kids were in third grade, first grade and preschool we had our first year of real homeschooling. In the years before that we'd always said that we were a "homeschooling family who used public school as an enrichment option". It was a cop out, but it worked for us. Our kids did just fine in school. We had some wonderful teachers, wonderful gifted programming, some wonderful staff and families. But it just got to a point where our oldest was rushing through his work so he could finish a mystery that he read between assignments. He read about three a week. I volunteered in the classroom, but what I did was work with other peoples' kids in the hall.

That was crazy. I was eager to have them all home, they were willing to come home and most of our best friends were already homeschooling. What were we waiting for?

We scheduled a "Not Back to School" trip; a tour of the Olympic Penninsula. That set the tone for the year. Other than some math game books we did no formal learning. But we read constantly, and we traveled. We spent time in the wilderness and we listened to Public Radio (good Liberals and Unitarians that we are). We spent time with our friends.

When you "raw" homeschool--no co-op, no homeschool school, no shared teaching, you really need to have friends. I would have run screaming into the snow if I hadn't known that once, twice or on a really good week three times a week; I'd get to see friends.

One homeschool family we spent a ton of time with is my bff. We went to school together, we lived together in college, we went to the same party and said "we're having a baby!". She was at two of three births of my kids. My youngest has a middle name in honor of her. We loved to spend time together. But we lived pretty far apart. In the snow and the heat and with little ones, that was sometimes hard.

I was involved with La Leche League as a young mom, and there I found a different kind of connection than I usually found at church where many moms worked full time, or with the neighborhood moms where there was sometimes a swat on the behind or a (horrors) regular popsicle. One very long winter another mom and I formed a play group that met, I think, on Wednesdays.

All winter and into the spring it pretty much went from her house to my house to her house to my house to her house. Our oldest kids were six months apart--about three at that time I guess, our youngest kids were about one. We each had only two kids. She was a quiet person, reserved. And she was also deeply involved in her church. But it was a very different church. They were Baptists and we were Unitarian Universalists. You can hardly get any farther apart theologically. Well, in theory you can hardly get any farther apart. As with so many things; the common groud was much, much wider than any little slip of difference.

We spent hours and hours together. Moms talked, kids played. We became friends. Real friends. And I was so grateful to have found this family. They believed almost everything that we did. Our one sticking point was probably Jesus. Well, that and football teams since she was from Wisconsin with their crazy cheesehead Green Bay Packers. But I had enough of a personal relationship with the spirit of Jesus and they had enough of an accepting view of all God's creatures--even us, that we became good family friends. I had another baby. We moved much closer to them, they had another baby. Our kids grew, the dads finished rooms and fixed cars. We celebrated holidays together, we gardened together, decorated together. And we homeschooled together.

Yesterday, I read this from a lovely homeschool family at Grassroots Homeschool. I could just SEE the time that our friend's oldest was at our house making cookies, completely convinced that I was crazy for not putting enough butter and liquid in the frosting recipe. Of course, it turned out perfectly and I think I still have street cred from that one event to this day.

I don't have a ton of memories about teaching the kids math, although clearly Mr Math tutor at the community college at age 16 proves we did something right that I simply don't remember. I don't remember any reading lessons. But I remember many, many days of hanging out with friends; kids involved in science or history. Being together. Learning together.

I miss those days of "raw" homeschooling. I miss weeks of tearing through everything we could find about the Oregon Trail, about Ancient Egypt, about whatever took their interest. I miss quiet days, and long, long read-alouds. I miss playing. I miss our friends.

Now, the kids from all those families are starting college or finishing high school--or actually, they all did both in the same year with early start college programs. They're dating and driving and becoming fine young men and women. We're standing on the porch, waving as they go. Happy and sad. Grateful for good friends, good days and how lucky we are to be right here.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

California Dreamin'

The top down, tunes cranked, waves crashing on the coast as you drive north....yeah, this is my husband right now.

He didn't have enough to do so he thought, "Hey, I think I'll go buy a new car! And while I'm at it, why not buy one in, oh say.....California?"

Well, maybe it's not quite that straightforward. There was the recent trauma of the car breakdown, Ooo, still makes my palms sweat. Not fun. We have two very old and rickety Civics which of course didn't qualify for the cash for clunkers deal, and my thinking is that both of them being the same make and model from the same year they're going to conk out on the same day and then we'll have to buy TWO cars. Or let our teenagers pay for a car of their own which is the whole reason that my husband and I are not currently rich and famous; owning cars in highschool and college. So if we buy one new(er) car now and fix up one of the old ones and sell the other, then all our bases will be covered.

Of course that's not how it will actually work out, but that is my plan and for now I'm stickin' with it.

So, it was time to buy a car. And there is one other reason that it was time to buy a car which is hilarious and will be impossible for all liberated and independent women to believe is true, but for that one you'll have to check back on September 28th. Promise.

We have this crazy fly-free thing because my husband works for an airline, so when we're looking for a car, we can look any place in the country and we do. When we lived in Minnesota we once bought a car in Oklahoma. This time my husband was even looking at cars in Florida and Texas. It's a wild thing. At least this car was just down I-5 a little way, well 19 hours of way, but that's only two whole days of driving. No problem.

It's not a mild mannered family car this one. He's got the music up loud and everyone is kinda getting out of his way, or at least that's what I'm thinking is happening. He's having the time of his life, new car, good tunes, OK there's no way to put the roof down, but I'll bet the windows are open, and really I-5 isn't actually ON the coast, but still; I'll bet in a couple of days we'll have one happy daddy here on the homestead.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Impossible: Turning 13

My family has returned from their grand adventure in Japan. They played the "stand-by" game, came home, ate some dinner and voila, it was as if they had never been gone.

Don't most people at least have a little jet lag? Nope. Not this group. Do the laundry, unpack the presents you brought home, catch up on facebook and there ya go, all settled back in.

I walked into the kitchen yesterday to find a huge pile of dishes, and food and spilled recycling. Oh, thank God! My family is home! We're back to normal operating procedures! Life is so good. I happily tidied up, and only yelled at them to take care of their own messes a little bit.

Yesterday our youngest became a teenager, turning 13 which is impossible because he was only born six months ago, after all. But somehow he's managed it. He tried to play angsty teenager, but cracked up every time he tried to sulk. OBNOXIOUS teenager he's got down pretty well, but angsty; not this one. He's too darn cute.

I grew up with no siblings in the house; my brothers being much, much older than I am, so I've always been concerned about how my children fight; pulling out every nasty punch and cutting remark against their own brothers. But yesterday, even after a little too much togetherness for a week in Asia and traveling, I saw an amazing thing. The older teenagers were kind, even sweet to their little brother. There were video games chosen by the youngest, specific favorite episodes of "Friends" and even a date cut short for a birthday dinner. Wow. They love each other. They really do. Amazing. They drove home together from our dinner out, picking up the ice cream cake on the way home. They are becoming men.

Hold on, I may have to lie down for a minute here. Men. Oh my gosh.

But the good news, aside from a momentary thought that I could squeeze in one quick trip to see friends in Minnesota, quickly abandoned because, hello? FAMILY NEEDS AS SCHOOL STARTS ARE HUGE, not to mention the fact that my job takes exactly 40 billion hours a week in late August and September; I think I'll keep on living with my family, with my husband, with all of our ugly past and our hurts and our different races and our profoundly different learning styles and working styles and way of being in the world. No running for the cellar, no twister is coming. Or if there is a tornado, well then; bring it on. We've survived worse.

Cliche, I know. But hey, Life is Good. Life is really good. Too true, too true.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Upper Deck

My family is coming home! They flew into Atlanta from Tokyo; that's where there was space to go. They got to fly on a 747 on the upper deck. This is fabulous for two reasons: my husband worked 747s for 13 years; many engines are securely attached to their wings because of HIS work on that plane, yes, the EXACT plane they flew on. (this is why I am not afraid to fly, I know the kind of people who keep them safe) The other reason? In the hierarchy of shi-shi flying there is first class, and then there is World Business Class and then; upper deck on the "whale". My children, upper deck. Oh yeah.

I have been ready for them to come home since 8:14 this morning, the time that the Seattle flight landed. No call. Then the Portland flight at 8:21. No call. Then the Detroit flight at 10:08. No call. Luckily my friend called to distract me from the waiting. I hate waiting. Hate it. Then at 11:21, bingo! A call from Atlanta! Then they had the longest wait at customs ever, ever, then off to wait for flights back to Seattle. I got one call with the plan: if there was one seat, Michael would come home because he's old enough to fly alone. Hell, he's almost old enough to vote and be drafted. In a few weeks we'll have two sons who can fly alone. But the gate agents were saying it didn't look good and the guys were looking at other options; a later flight? Detroit? Minneapolis? Salt Lake City?

Then, while I was at the grocery store buying meat so the omnivores would have something to eat when they get home, I got the call. It was fast, I mean fast: "boarding passes as the door is closing, we're all on! 7:30, we'll call when we're in!"

I paid for the steak, and deli ham and big brick of cheese and came home.

The little dog and I don't quite know what to think. I'm so happy that they are coming home, I can't wait to see my loved ones, all of them. The little dog is clueless but will be a tail-wagging-thrilled little girl when they walk in the door. I'm so grateful that my husband took the kids on this trip, it's one of those trasformative experiences in a teen's life that make them who they are. At the same time I feel like maybe I should just pick up and run from this life I have here and go home to Minnesota to my people and lefse and the state fair and tornadoes and safety.

Uh, yeah.

Maybe I need to wait a day or two to make any decisions!? Probably a good plan. Good plan. Tornadoes and safety? Well, at least I can laugh about the hard parts, at least I can see that maybe there are some very complicated things going on here.

And I am grateful for all the wonderful people in my real life and my cyber life who have held my hand during this week. I am one wildly lucky woman. And I know it. Y'all rock. And really, I'm sure all will be just fine once we're all in the same airspace again. At least I sure hope so.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A long, long week.

My family is in Tokyo playing flight roulette. The flight to Atlanta is full, turns out Delta upgrades elite passengers--yes it's a big syndicate. The flight to Portland that looked good isn't. The Detroit flight that was the absolute sure thing totally tanked. And the flight to Seattle has never looked good.

The joys of the non rev game; flying stanby.

I'm sure they'll be home eventually. Yes, the adventure may include sleeping in some airport someplace, on some continent some where. Part of the plan is always the potential for Hawaii, but I know that only the youngest brought swim trunks.

We'll just see. The last email said "guess I won't be able to check in with you until we're in the states" which can mean 8:30am tomorrow mornining in Seattle, or Portland or LA or San Fransisco. Or it could mean Atlanta in the afternoon or Detroit who knows when.

I'll just keep my phone with me. It's only 15 minutes to the airport. We'll figure it out.

I have had a really long week and I am ready to go back to a regular routine, with regular chaos and the regular people that usually live here with me.

But I wonder if this is exactly what I needed; a week to sit with life, sit with my realities. Sit with who and what and how things are. Having my family in Asia was hard, but it was hard like driving by the intersection where you had a bad crash a few years back. It makes your heart beat fast, there is anxiety. It's hard. But it's old and once you've gone past it, it's gone. Maybe I can really leave some of the TRA(Transracial Adoptee) spouse trauma behind, now.

I thought I'd have gotten a million things done; the garden sorted out, the shopping for birthdays all done, life all tidy and organized. But no, there were some bigger fish to fry. Sturgeon, big salmon and some caribbean swordfish. Big fish.

And I think we had some nice panko and that we fried them up but good. Well done, it turned out to be pretty well done.

So then I guess the truth is that things work out just the way they should. They really do.

And all will be well. Just like Dame Julian says. All will be well. All will be well, all manner of things, will be well.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Being the wife of a trans-racially adopted man

OK, pray with me people, Breathe in peace, breathe out love. Peace--Love. Peace--Love.




It's been really hard having my whole immediate family in Asia. It scares me. I worry that they will all decide that having a white wife and a white mother does not support their identity as Asian and Hapa men.

Yes, this is garbage thinking. Excuse me while I slam it into the trash can.

But it's not totally unfounded. Lots of us, the spouses of trans-racially adopted (TRA) folks, get some of the blow back of the identity trauma that hits our beloved partners. We hear awful things that may even be directed at us that are really just the consequence that comes from being raised in a family that is a different race.

And at least when my beloved husband was learning about who he was as a powerful Asian man the systems in place to support the coming to self were horrible in supporting an existing family. Meetings in bars, long weekends for "mini gatherings" at far away hotels with late nights and lots and lots of drinking. I know that many marriages didn't survive that gauntlet. Mine did, but just barely and just because my husband is simply amazing. I'm deeply grateful.

But what about all those other spouses. Those people who married a person who then went through a radical transformation as they came to a new and much more real truth about who they really were? Where are they, those spouses? Who are they? Are their stories like mine? Am I crazy or are there people out there who would nod and smile a sad smile and understand because they, too, had been through this?

If you are a terribly astute "chalice spark" reader you may have noticed that there is a site revision in process, new template, new gadgets, and a few new "good read" links along the side of the current post. One of those new links is to "Harlow's Monkey" This is a blog that I stumbled across a few months ago. I was very impressed with the warm and wicked-sharp writing. I liked that she was not willing to wear any mask that anyone tried to put on her, but instead fiercly stood by her beliefs and views, even though they didn't easliy fall into pre-set "pro" or "con" and "angry" or "happy" camps.

Yesterday I realized that I know who this person is, from my brief contact with the KAD (Korean Adoptee) community in Minnesota. Yes, in six years a person can earn a degree and enroll in a PhD program. Yes, time does not stand still. That connection was an interesting thing to figure out, but more intersting was the round about way things happen and the email to email (almost face to face) contact I have had today with another person who does that nod of the head, who has experienced almost exaclty what I have. Another wife of a trans-racially adopted man. A KAD.

I am not the only one. And even though the shell shock is a half a decade old, it feels very, very fresh having those I love best in Asia right now. And someone to say "I know, it's hard, you're not alone, you're not crazy" well, it's meant the world to me.

Never doubt the power of another person, a flesh and blood human being, saying "yes, I hear you; yes, I understand; yes, it was like that for me, too" it is bigger than just about anything else that can happen to a person.

Peace and love

Amen and blessings, big blessings

Top Ten True things about a Week at Home Alone

10. Being busy is not only a function of children and husbands.

9. A warm little dog on a cold night is pretty cozy.

8. It takes three days to fill up the dishwasher, three days! Even with all home cooked meals!

7. Sharing two tomatoes from the garden with yourself makes a yummy tomato and feta salad.

6. The washing machine has a small load setting. Who knew?

5. Taking the dog for a walk every day takes an hour and a half.

4. A small bottle of wine can last for days! But not if you're watching a good movie.

3. Being alone does not mean being lonely.

2. You can only work for a certain number of hours in one day. Really.

and the number one true thing about a week at home alone?

1. It's QUIET. Really, quiet.... q u i e t. Shhh.....

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Hard Part

I just celebrated 22 years of wedded bliss with my dear husband. We were together for six years before that. Yes, we were children, yes we've spent almost our entire lives intertwined, yes it's a long time.

And some of that time has been everything but bliss.

We've hurt each other in places that no one else on the planet could ever touch. Only someone you adore and trust and cherish can hurt you in ways that we did. Both of us, no doubt. For a while there we had a superhighway back and forth of pain. High speed, efficient destruction of faith.

There were many reasons we fell apart, but what we now lovingly call the "A-Bomb" was my husband's discovery that he was Asian. Now of course, he's always been Asian, I knew it, he knew it. Anyone but the blind knew it. He's Korean, adopteed as a toddler to the plains of Minnesota, but he'd been running like hell from it for his whole life.

Finally, at about 35, it caught him. Or really, he turned around, opened his arms, lifted his chin and walked into it. Most people are not as fast or crafty as my dear partner and it catches them earlier, when they don't have a white wife and children and a mortgage and a minivan.

He tried very hard to end our marriage, but we'd been best friends forever. And we needed each other to get through this. Sometimes I wonder if it would have hurt less to rely on other people to get through it, but we just coudn't. Thank God we couldn't, because what we've discovered is that again, we choose each other. We treasure each other with the real, beat-up, old foggie selves we've become.

The very worst moment of the whole experience, well, actually the very worst moment of my life happened when he came back from Korea after his first visit. He'd seen the orphanage he'd lived in. He'd faced his fears and his identity. And then he came home, done with all that had been our life together. There had been trips to Asia before, and there have been trips since, but now every time he goes to Asia, the panic rises in me. Maybe it will happen again. Maybe he'll come home and tell me it's all been a horrible mistake and the precious details of my life will be thrown into the air, again. And maybe this time they'll be so shattered nothing can piece them back together.

Today, that dear man will take our sons from Nagoya to Tokyo. And I will live in his house and do the dishes, and shop for birthday presents for our youngest son, and work, and write. And yes, I will worry. I'll try to trust that things happen the way they need to, and believe that we've come through the hard part. Or at least that hard part.

And a little "David Wilcox Therapy" never hurt, either.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Serving those between the ages of about 14 and 18

I love the youth, I love youth groups and youth service projects and youth services. I love14-year-olds and 18-year-olds and every stage the young people go through, well mostly.I was a swim coach for many years and we'd sometimes wish we could tell the girls to go do another sport for 8th grade and come on back when they were in 9th grade.

But I love church work with youth. In fact, I have two children in this age group right now. I'm all about the youth.

It is tricky to figure out just how to serve youth in a church. Some teens love to go to church, they want to sing in the choir, a good sermon will make their day, hymns bliss them out. Some teens cannot drag themselves out of bed one more morning a week, and would never choose to go to a Sunday Service unless some DRE they respected talked them into it once in a while.

Those youth might just love youth group meetings with long check-ins and piles of junk food. Some of each set might like youth Rallies or Cons or camps or lock-ins. Some might hate it.

And of course we all want our teens to grow up and still be the religion that we raised them to be! So, we want to do this youth ministry just right so they have a connection to their faith.
Sometimes I think we're looking for a "one size fits all" approach to youth ministry. That's impossible. It's not something we'd do in ministry for adults, why should we think it can work for youth?

No, I think we need the events that appeal to some, and the congregational based inclusive programming that appeal to others, the attention to noticing what the youth in our own churches need and the readiness to try something we've never tried before.

What I need right now, what I really need right now is about five more 14-18-year-olds who don't have big sports, arts, jobs or friend commitments who all just cannot wait to become vital leaders in their church. So then when half the youth can't show up for a youth group meeting or event, well, we'd still have enough to make a real group. Because we only expect half the adult members, half the children, even some ministers are only expected to preach twice a month.

But, somehow I don't think I'm going to get five more youth to join our church in the next two weeks. And two of our core of five are my own children. There are a lot of really great UU churches in my city, with a lot of really great youth programming run by really great people who I adore. My oldest son drives.

I am in an impossible spot.

But I am a mother first.

This is not going to be easy.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Days of Old

My three boys and my husband are on their way to Japan.

They'll be gone for a week.

I will miss them.

What, can't you tell?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Come Into This Place Where Love and Hope Will Abide

When I left for church this morning I was thinking I'd only missed one week, one Sunday. But then everyone was asking me if I'd been away, if I'd had a vacation, done anything fun.

Hunh? I was gone for a long weekend, I'm elbow deep in teachers and curricula and articles and updated tri folds and prospectuses and a million other things. Time off?

But of course, I did have some time away, and I did miss TWO whole Sundays. And while it certainly doesn't feel like what happened was a vacation, I did have a break from my congregation.

It sure felt good to be back with my regular Sunday morning family, with happy young faces, and friendly not so young ones and all the good folks it takes to run a Sunday at a nice little church.

In fact it felt really good. I think it's easy to fall out of a routine. I know that going in today I was feeling bad about missing the semi finals and finals at Peter's soccer tournament (which they won and he scored on a PK for the win thank-you-very-much, two weeks of canoeing doesn't mess with your shot too badly). I was feeling anxious about not really having a well prepared Story For All Ages. I was draggy from staying up til midnight waiting for the eldest to come home, I hadn't had enough coffee, I am fighting a cold, still. Crabby, I was really crabby.

And then the people started coming. The greeters, my dear Assocaiate DRE, our lovely music director, the people who do the "ministry of the chairs" and set up dozens of big heavy folding chairs. Zachary was there, fresh from his trip to Disney, and almost tall enough now to pass for a second grader even though he's not even in Kindergarten yet. Our RE Council dears came to help. All the people were there. And it made my heart glad.

I know our lives are so busy, sometimes it is just easier to skip church. Families are pulled so hard in so many directions. But there is something about church that you just can't get easily from any other place. It's community, and it's faith and it's being needed and wanted and filled right up to the top.

I snuck back in to the sanctuary after the kids were settled to hear some of the sermon, that is how good my summer RE staff is; I don't even have to hover near by. And it was good. I wish I could have stayed for the hymn and the amens at the end. Church does me some good. I think church does us all some good.

Bring on the fall, with all the love and hope and home that we can pour into it, bring it on. But wait, I really do need those two weeks to line up all my ducks. Then, then--bring it on.

(thanks to Joyce Poley for the title of this little blog today)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Yes, really.

It's been nearly a week since my son returned from his Coming of Age wilderness adventure. He had an amazing trip.

On the first night he thought he might freeze completely solid, it had rained and they were very wet, sleeping bags and tent were damp and he hadn't figured out yet how to wear his clothes to manage the cold.

But he figured it out, and they got dry the next day. He was never as cold as the first night. He did fall in quicksand up to his neck. Yes, really. With a canoe on his shoulders. A big heavy wooden canoe. Yes, really. But he's watched enough "Survivor Man" to know what to do. Yes, really!

They had enough food, and the biggest animal trouble they had was from the chipmunks and the mosqitoes.

And he tells me that having a mom who had done a long trip was cool. Maybe he's streching the truth. But I love him for that. He found my "long trip paddle" on the wall of honor. I didn't even realize until he got back that it was the 25th anniversary of that trip. I hardly even care anymore that they spelled my name wrong. Yes, we really did paddle to York Factory on Hudson Bay. They don't even let trips go there anymore, the polar bears are too agressive hunting the humans. Yes, really.

The seven boys and the guide had a good trip. It is beautiful in the Boundary Waters Caone Area Wilderness.

They lived simply, waking with the sun, sleeping with the dark. Eating when they were hungry and pushing themselves harder than they could ever dream they could handle. But they did.

Peter says he had a lot of time to think, and that the things that the men in his life, well the men and me, wrote in their letters sat with him while he thought. He had some pretty huge revelations on the trip. They're his to hold, so I won't share, but he shared them with me, his ancient mother. Yes, really

Now that we're back in Seattle and back to the regular life of friends, family, soccer tournaments and daily cycles it's all settling in. He's different, there is no doubt. He's calm, restrained, and his shoulders have grown about four inches wider. It feels like having a young man in the house. And for a child who never, since infancy, had enjoyed motherly affection, he's very tolerant. I walk past him with a plate of pancakes for breakfast becasue he still has this enormous appetite, I can't help but stop and wrap my arm around his shoulders, squeeze a little and say "It's so good to have you home."

"You seem really happy." and he's not even trying to slink away from me.

"I am happy, I really missed you." I brush his hair out of his eyes, and off he goes, headed into his day, into his young man world, into his life. Yes, really.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

With lines untied....

Yesteday morning I got up before the sun to bring the oldest to the airport for an early flight. He needed to be home by his afternoon lifeguarding shift.

When I got back to my parents' house it was still early, so I went for a walk. The day before, I'd gone down to the creek with a friend to walk in the woods, and it was lovely. I thought about heading down there again, but then I looked down the block, why not? I could walk right in the neighborhood, right from the house.

This is the house that my parent's bought in 1967, a few months before I was born. It's where I lived for my first 18 years. It's the house I came home to after I was born, the house I left from to be married, the house that holds so much.

I walked the route I took as a child to and from elementary school every day. We neighbor kids walked a half mile there and back, snow, sun, rain. My mom worked, there was no ride to be had. Over those seven years, Kindergarten through sixth grade, I walked this route and day dreamed held long internal dialogues--it was the meditation of my childhood.

So I set out in the pink light, the air already full of what would become a sultry summer day. As I walked past houses, I could see the people who had lived there, see the front room, see the tv room, the family room, the unfinished basement. Images flashed before my eyes.

Here was where the girl who gave me the big doll lived; they had a game shelf downstairs. Here was the house with the poodle where I'd go and sit with my friend while her parents were at Swedish Dancing and we'd watch The Love Boat and Fantasy Island and eat too much candy. Here was the house that had the house fire when I was five, I remember seeing the smoke pouring out of that back door. Here's the house that they built after they took out my little woods, and where I spent weeks and weeks playing the same monopoly game with my friend--we had to invent a check writing system to keep playing.

I walked past, surprised that people were watering flowers in the yard. This isn't a house where people live, it's a house where the past happened.

The elementary school I went to is long gone, but it's grounds are the same. The hill we were playing on when the tornado sirens went off, the warming house we would huddle in between ice skating stints on cold, cold nights. The sidewalks, the same ones we walked.

I'm in a funny spot; my middle son just back from his "leaving childhood behind" Coming of Age trip, my oldest turing 18, youngest turning 13. It's a turning point. A time to stop and notice things a little.

This is the song that went through my head as I walked. My father is still alive, thankfully, but the rest fits. Where is this place trying to take me?

Slipping Through My Fist
by David Wilcox

It is downhill all the way to the ocean,
so of course the river always wants to flow.
The river's been here longer,
it's older and stronger and knows where to go,

and I was wondering where the river's
trying to take me
overnight, if I never did resist,
what strange breezes make a sailor want to
let it come to this,
with lines untied, slipping through my fist.

This is where I played as a baby.
This is where I ran as a child.
This is where my dad took the last breath he had,
and smiled.

I guess I'm wondering
where this place is trying to take me
overnight, if I never did resist, and
what strange breezes make a sailor want to
let it come to this,
with lines untied, slipping through my fist.

(Used with permission)

Really, I thought this was supposed to be HIS Coming of Age Journey, not mine. Guess you just never know, you just never know.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

He's Back!

Peter is back from his Coming of Age trip. He's got ten fingers, ten toes and longer hair than I've ever seen on him. (can you say ponytail?)

It's been a twist and swirl of emotions and visiting, and it's almost over. But hey, then....I love chocolate and vanilla together.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Home, Home, Home

It's homecoming time. Peter comes home from his Coming of Age trip this evening. And I'm in my hometown waiting to pick him up.

It feels like puzzle pieces in place to see friends who remember my children as babies or earlier--remember my pregnant belly, and to see my extended family, but somehow being here this time is a little hard.

I see the "stick" that I planted as a six foot start looking like an old shade tree. The vines I planted as little "good luck growing" starts covering a lattice on our old deck. The swings at the old house are still set in little stair-steps--the way we hung them for our little stair-step boys.

Maybe some of the shield of regular life has been scraped off by all the growing my kids are doing. Becoming a teen, becoming an adult, leaving behind childhood; whatever it is, it's got me nostalgic and emotional.

Poor Peter, I'm sure when he gets off that bus today I'm going to burst out sobbing.

My oldest son, my mom and I went to church at Unity Unitarian in St. Paul this morning. This is the church that started Laurel Hallman on her journey. This is a really influential church in the policy governance work many UU churches are doing. But, oh my gosh, this is a lovely church. It's beautiful. And the service was also beautifully crafted. I loved sitting and singing and just listening to the sermon, the readings, hearing the great jazz. If I lived anywhere near, I would surely think about joining this community.

And now I'm just driving around, doing errands, waiting for more visitors later. I'm heading down the hill I remember tearing down on my little blue trike as a three-year-old. Going past the driveway where I held the school patrol flag as a 10-year-old--not letting in those nasty rule-breaking drivers. All the old, flooding in, no matter what I throw back at it.

We had lefse for an afternoon snack. We'll have tuna ring salad tonight. My kids tell me my Minnesota accent in completely back. That's OK. I'm 42 now, I can be who I really am. I have forgotten how to bag my groceries; we don't do that on the West Coast. I have forgotten that there are no beer and wine sales in the grocery stores here; vestiges of old blue laws. But, I can say "oh ya, you betcha" and enjoy my tuna ring salad. It's a part of me.

Like my son. A part of me, coming home today. I just might go mad waiting! Three more hours.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Ahmed, the Tow Truck Driver

So there I was, tooling along in my husband's stylin' ride. He's got the super stiff, tinted window 98 Civic as opposed to the religious stickered, stick-shift, high riding 98 Civic. They're both green. Actually, my son drives my former car and has done unspeakable teen age boy things to it; like taking off the trailer hitch and painting the hub caps black. Now, I drive an Odyssey, a mom-mobile, most of the time anyway.

This week our youngest is taking drama classes. Not that he isn't already the best actor around. But his classes are way down in Seattle, pretty much under the Space Needle. It's pretty far. So, this morning I walked outside to find the low gas burning Civic in the driveway, my Odyssey having been van-napped by my husband. He was thinking good thoughts. Save gas, save money; drive the cheaper car.

Except it's a 98 Civic. It's old. And it's total crap.

Yes, yes, yes. He's the major moto-head. He's just replaced the timing chain and the transmission and he knows how to do everything. Um...

Except make it go when it won't.

The long story short, I was heading onto a big Seattle type highway, one of those that the trucks use when the freeways are full. Eventually even holding the accelerator down to the floor let me go 2 miles per hour. Literally. After lots of honking, yelling, and some interesting gestures finally the little dog and I were safely on a little strip of shoulder.

I called my husband, I called my son, I called a cab, and finally I called the insurance company with the road side assistance and TOWING plan. The poor woman on the phone in Florida finally kind of figured out where I was (hello, 900 and's not that hard!) and sent a tow truck.

It was a nice big tow truck, it took TWO steps to climb into the cab. I had to lift the little dog up.

But after the nice man did the things you have to do to load the car onto the big truck bed, he climbed back into the cab. Ahmed. He was so kind. He set his clipboard on the floor and invited Noodles to sit next to him. He agreed to drop me at the parking lot where MY minivan was waiting so I could get back downtown before my youngest was done with his drama class. He told me about his little Shitzhu who ran away. He showed me a super sneaky short cut between that wicked fast highway and the road that goes to the mall.

And he was very kind.

I was just a little shaky after sitting on the side of the road for an hour and after the sort of harrowing drive before that. It was nice to have a kind person who asked how I was and just what had happened.

I love when you find a little moment of grace in a really difficult thing. People are amazing. They really are.

Thanks, Ahmed.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Parenting Tip No. 40 Ba-jillion

Don't let your children grow up.

When they start to speak, frown sternly and shake your head. First steps? Knock them over. This is serious business because if you let it continue, well then eventually they will grow-up. And this is simply unacceptable.

Driving? How can your baby operate an automobile that goes 55 miles per hour down I-5. Don't even talk to me about it going faster than that, ever.

Dating? Your child will come to adore someone other than you! Put a stop to it at age 2.

Jobs? Someone else will see how competent and accomplished your child is and will ask them to work even more and more and will make them a supervisor. It must be nipped at the bud.

Leaving? If you allow such nonsense like maturing and growing to continue, your child will be able to leave from your home for weeks at a time, perhaps even traveling in the wilderness, cooking over a fire, paddling and portaging a canoe. Sleeping in a thin shell of nylon with bears right next door.

It simply is too much for a loving parent. Too much for this loving parent. Do you think if I went to Northern Minnesota and just started calling out his name, I'd find my son? Probably not. And he might frown on my interruption of his "Coming of Age" trip.

But I've decided I don't want him to "Come of Age" any longer. I want him to slide back into a little punkin' with an elf smile and an ability to balance while walking across the back of the couch.

And the other children, like the one about to turn 18 and the one about to turn 13?Well...I need some sort of time travel chamber for them, too. Back you go, babies all.

OK, not really. I'm deeply happy that they are becoming such fine young men. I love our new emerging relationships, mother and teen. Mother and young adult. It is a profoundly good thing.

But if you want my real advice, find a little pocket deep in your heart and hold on to the little ones there, forever.

One week 'til my 'youth' returns, childhood behind him, life ahead. I MISS him! I can't wait.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Life Comes 'round Again

I had a dream last night that I was flossing my teeth at a dinner party. This after re-applying my makeup at the table.

Maybe I'm feeling just a wee bit out of my comfy zone and off in some place I don't belong.

I've been attending the Pacific Northwest Writers Association conference. It's been a great experience; hearing lots of stories about how people "made it", about how to write, pitch your book, fix your book, end your book, begin your book, muscle up the middle of your book. Pretty much the whole front cover to back cover and everything else about the business.

Yesterday I met with an agent from New York. I'd done my research just like they told us to, knew who she was, who she represented, who she's worked for. What I didn't know is that she's a pretty new mom. I pitched her the book I wrote this year for NaNoWriMo--the one about raising good kids. I'd sent it off to Skinner House Books, the UU house, and they send me a very nice form letter 'yadayadayada, not what we're looking for'. At this conference every time I practice-pitched the book I didn't hear "oh good pitch or bad pitch" I heard " kids are growing up too, here, see this picture of my 15-year-old? she wants to go to the Air Force Academy" or "here's my three-year-old, I miss her so much being away" and other good stories. That's just what the agent did when I gold her about my book. We're the same age, but at opposite ends of raising kids. She was going to see her little one that night.

Funny small world, isn't it?

When I tried to go to school this spring, and had a miserable time trying to juggle three teens, a job and a partner who barely lives at home he's traveling so much, I think I made a series of decisions that I didn't even realize I'd made. I have always known that eventually I'd be a minister. Since age 11, I think. I started college as a philosophy major, feeling like that would be a good path to ministry. But I knew I wouldn't be a good minister at 22 (I had no idea there were paths other than parish ministry!), so we did other things, the babies came along. In my 20s I'd just think "well maybe we should try for a baby...." and I'd be gestating.

OK, well there's second career, life comes around again.

But maybe not for me. School with kids and work made me become a kind of mother I did not recognize. I was not a good person. I was unavailable, unkind and just not true to the kind of mother I know I am in my heart. I couldn't do it. So, I decided to let that go. The thing is, I didn't even realize it that this was what I'd done.

Now I do, and now I see that next hill coming along. I love to write, and I am taking that path now, well, I guess we'll just see where it goes.

I have an agent interested in my work, so much information to sift through, and a new calling to wrap my life around. I am a very lucky woman. Very lucky.