Angel Christmas

"Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so, some have unwittingly entertained angels" Hebrew13:2

Black Friday has come and gone, and my credit card has seen more daylight lately than some equatorial tribes.  This year has been interesting and I try not to panic when I notice the subtle changes in my workplace.  They cut back on hours, the holiday rush is not so savage, but my hopes remain high that we can recover the real meaning of Christmas amidst the negativity.

For some of us, it has been easier than others.  I have had to struggle to clothe, feed and make a loving home for my children and I. Their dad is somewhere working  under the table.  That’s alright, we have adjusted to this.  I think I have it easier than some. I’m working at a job that is fulfilling my families needs.  I am grateful.    The main industry in the state has changed drastically in the last twenty years. In fact, I’m not really sure what it is anymore.  That guy bagging your groceries may be missing three fingers because he is an out of work logger.   We survive harsh winters and work as hard as we can in order to enjoy the immense beauty of this place and hopefully get a few days to explore our own backyard as much as the tourists.  ( Whom we welcome with open arms and wave and smile when they leave.) Thank you, come again.

My black Friday started late.  I no longer wish to shop in a frenzy get to the store and find out that I should have pitched a tent in front of Best Buy two days ago.  I do use this time to stock up on clothes, boots, socks and all the essentials we need in this winter wonderland.  I do the best I can and try to remember that there are children out there that don’t have socks or a special toy and we get an angel every year.  The real meaning of Christmas is hanging on those trees and for every child that is blessed with a secret Santa it sends a message that they matter, that someone cares.  That compassion is what warms up the heart when the gloominess sets in, and the beauty of it is that is spreads like a fire.

Many years ago, my oldest child and her newborn sister were on that tree.  I will never forget the kindness that was shown to us that Christmas – a large amount of new toys and clothes were delivered to my doorstep.  My children never knew how close Santa came to missing our house.  Since then, it’s a family tradition to do the same for another child, be their angel and give them more than what they asked for. On these tags, we read girl age 7 needs coat and socks and likes Barbies.  I’ll swipe that card again to get her the latest Barbie and a couple of outfits too, something frivolous that lets that child know that she/he matters that someone does care.  A lot.  That’s what keeps me warm this holiday season.  I expect to see a number of bare angel trees out there this year as we pull together to keep Christmas alive in the hearts of all children, even the big ones.

Are You Ready to Be A Parent?

There should be a test for everyone that thinks about having children.  It is a simple quiz but based on reality, so those parents that think they will hike 10 miles into the wilderness to restock their cloth diaper pail for their week-long trip into the back country are prepared for a three hour hike to the outhouse at the main trailhead.

HIke in January

Mad Hiker

  • Do you like to sleep?  Do you like to share your bed with a two -foot tall child that spreads out like a pinwheel? Is four inches of bed space enough for you?
  • When walking are you used to dodging, tripping or falling over as your child will stop, swerve and crash into you for the next twenty years?
  • Do you like paper? Lots of beautiful precious drawings will be heading your way and God help you if you get busted throwing one out.
  • Do you like to be critiqued on your cooking?  “I don’t like this,” is a song even Rachel Ray would hear every night. Unless it is in a box with a toy inside, they won’t eat it.
  • Do you like to use the bathroom in private? For the first few years, that might not happen.  The worse part is that you might get used to having an audience and will use the restroom as your family meeting place. Lovely, huh?
  • How about public tantrums? Are you willing to throw one yourself, just to show your child how ridiculous it is?  Are you willing to leave a shopping cart full of much needed groceries in order to take your screaming child home, and hear the applause of the other shoppers as you leave?
  • Are you ready for statements like,” You look like you are going to have a baby” directed towards yourself or complete strangers that (you guessed it) are not pregnant.
  • Can you find a bathroom anywhere and immediately?
  • Do you like to talk on the phone?  That is the universal signal to all children that they need to talk to you right now. Or better yet, it is the best time to see if they really can fly off the bunk bed.
  • Are you mentally prepared to find only 2 pairs of matching socks out of 50?
  • If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are totally ready for the ups and downs of being a parent, because at the end of it all, the good outweighs the bad.  Feel free to add any more great and grating scenarios. Remember, kids like it when their parents laugh and laugh often.

Another “Aha ” Moment

A few weeks ago I was driving to work , listening to my favorite radio station interview a local dance teacher about Nutcracker rehearsals and tryouts for Snowflakes.  I have seen the Nutcracker once, and  fell  asleep during part of it- I blame my holiday diet of straight sugar starting Halloween and going to the first of January.   I do remember it was spectacular how graceful the dancers were and the girls enjoyed it .  Jesse was nine and McKenna was three and I was wanting a family holiday experience.  Topping the list though, is my long-held secret dream to be a ballerina.

As I whipped into the parking lot at work, I stayed to listen to the dance lady talk about the auditions .  She said,” bring your child down and they can try out, no dance background needed.”  I knew in my heart that God wanted me to sign McKenna up.  I was convinced that the universe had made me late this particular day so that  my child could be a Snowflake.  This was going to be a dream come true for both of us!  How fortunate am I?

Well. I called the ballet school and I asked about the lessons and the lady was very sweet.  One of the questions I didn’t ask ,was how much money?    Laugh with me,  I have seen all the Step Up movies and Dirty Dancing at least 100 times.  Nothing can stop a dream.

“How would you like to do ballet class and then be in a play, like your sister Jesse?” I asked my youngest daughter sweetly.  She shrugged her shoulders, nonchalantly.  That being said, I immediately drove  to Walmart and bought her pink tights and a black leotard. “This is going to be so awesome!” I said with a big smile.

On the Saturday of tryouts,  we went to the ballet school.  It was a tiny studio and you could see all the older dancers, piroueetting in their pointe shoes.  “Oh!” I gasped and held the door for Jesse (still on crutches) and McKenna .  “See! See!”  I said all excited.  Jesse rolled her eyes.  McKenna looked at the other girls and at the older dancers, and she sat down.   The other parents and I filled out paperwork and fussed around.  My daughter didn’t have any ballet slippers, but another mom gave us a pair to try.  Mac listened to the dance teacher and did all the moves a little timidly but all the Snowflakes made the cut.  No one was in tears and it made me feel great that my daughter had an opportunity to dance with part of the Moscow Ballet and live out my dream at the same time. Thank you youngest child. I see discounted therapy in your future.

We are about six weeks into this and I am very nervous.  I think Mckenna may be anxious also.  They sent us the music for the Snowflake part and I am having trouble downloading it onto a CD.  It looks to me like most of the other girls have taken ballet lessons. (What a surprise!)  She has practice for a half-hour every Saturday and I have missed every home Grizzly football game this year (Les is not delighted) and the other moms’ run marathons, literally,( not just barely finish a 5K  and  celebrate at 5 guys).  I feel somewhat awkward.  The big show is  same time the Griz Bobcat game starts,  (Go figure?)  and McKenna told me this morning she wants to quit ballet.

It is Friday night and I watch my little snowflake sleep and I am thankful for this entire experience.  It has been eye-opening how quickly I projected something I didn’t even know about myself onto my child.   We have practice tomorrow and whatever happens after that,  we will roll with it.  At least, we have tickets to see the Nutcracker and hopefully my little gal will have a great time with as little trauma as possible.   I have learned a valuable lesson about myself in all of this, ( I am a flake)  but, I also know all the steps to the routine. Remember, nothing can stop a dream.

Never a Dull Moment

So Jesse started 8th grade with a broken foot, crutches and a boot, not a cast.  People think you are faking with a 20 pound boot, apparently.  I calmly and quietly freaked out over the knowledge that Jesse did A Lot around the house  for me and now I was working a 24 hour shift at the beck and call of a thirteen year- old in addition to the seven -year old and the lack of communication from Keeley, “I lost my phone again, a month ago, and oh, I’m in Oklahoma.”

There are so many things that we take for granted, like “Take out the trash, Go get your sister, Please grab that last bag of groceries..” the list goes on and on of the little things our kids do for us as they get older.  Jesse is solid for being responsible and mature( most of the time) and I am in awe of the way she handled having her leg broken, starting the eighth grade, and turning thirteen in the space of a couple of weeks.

I would have been a sobbing, pathetic mess and I was at times.   I surprised myself with  nursing skills.  A long resume of ” Would you like cream with your coffee?” helped me to be a decent caregiver and we iced and elevated and we concentrated on the things that we had going right. The list is unending, but simple.  A home, our quirky little family, a job, a car.. you get my drift.  I quit complaining as often because I watched  Jesse crutch into middle school with a 40 pound backpack for the past  eight weeks. She was like Rudy going into the tunnel at Notre Dame.

Les was equally amazing and supportive.  He always says “That’s why there’s two of us.” I am so thankful.  He  joined us at the doctor’s office every time to cheer for the basketball girl who got sidelined by a skateboard.  He makes me laugh when I want to scream.

Jesse has been off the crutches and the boot for a couple of weeks now, but still is under strict instructions not to run or pivot.  She limps but has healed enough to do three hours of trick or treating the other night with her girlfriends and race through a haunted house.  Whoops.

Now she asks me to go get her backpack and I have to stop myself from automatically going down the hallway and bringing it to her.  She is used to my willingness to be her servant and has questioned my loyalty on more than one occasion, but most of all, she has earned my admiration for getting through the tough times by looking forward.

Things are almost back to normal.  She is back to prowling the mall, not taking out the trash and fetching  her sister by standing right next to me and bellowing her name.   I find myself wanting to tuck her in at night (NOT! she says) and going in for more hugs despite the teenage disdain.  That’s ok.  Keeley had a long-boarding accident on a chunk of sidewalk- no broken bones, but has located her cellphone and moved back to this side of the Mississippi.

At thirteen, I remember caravaning((see below) down Chaffee Ave. with a city bus right behind us.  No helmets, no pads, no fear, some blood.  By the time McKenna turns teen, I will have a full head of snow-white hair and soft pastels will illuminate my padded room.  Bring Halloween candy, the kids count theirs.

Caravaning- an eighties practice of balancing 2 people at the top of a steep hill with their butts on a skateboard and their heels on the other persons’ skateboard and locking hands, leaning to the side and kissing any exposed skin or common sense goodbye.

Last Leg of Summer

Right at the end of a beautiful summer in Montana, my daughter broke her leg.  She hovered in the air for about 2 seconds I gather , and fell off a friend’s skateboard while I was at work.  I got the call from my neighbor that afternoon, which had me concerned because we have that dialogue now, after many trial runs.

Phone Rules while I am at work:

1. Call to ask if you can go anywhere outside the neighborhood.

2. Don’t call to tell me you are bored.

3.  Please do not have me pick you up acting like Scarlett O ‘Hara

on her last carrot in the potato field and then be jumping on the couch 15 minutes later.

4. Call if you are bleeding .

5. Don’t call because you can’t find the remote.

So I finished up my tables and went home to see her laid out on the couch and I knew right away something was very wrong with her leg.

We got in the car hopping clumsily and with a lot of pain.  It was hot and I had to pick  her sister up at daycare.

“Mom, ” Please don’t take forever at Jane’s ,” her brown eyes pleaded with me over her tear-streaked face.

“I won’t,” I said with great fervor. Then I went into Jane’s house and had a ten-minute conversation with her about which hospital to go to.

It was August 25th, my brother Jeff’s birthday.  When Jeff was eight or nine, he ran into a clothesline pole at the end of a grassy hill.  It was the only thing standing in the middle of the yard and he broke his femur.  Due to the randomness of this event and Jeff’s reliance on high drama at this age, we didn’t take him to the hospital immediately.  Actually, I believe I got a bad perm that same day. Jeff spent the whole summer in a body cast. Now, he repairs power lines in extreme storms – climbing 70 feet in the air in hurricane winds. Go figure.

I patted myself on the back for having the sense to change out of the all black waitress uniform I wear during the day. No, I am not complaining, I have a great job where I look over  the  river all day long.  The nearest thing to a life or death decision is what type of salad dressing to serve and I have benefits. I am thankful especially as I watch these bills drift in. Oh am I ever grateful.

Jesse was fitted with an air-cast walking boot because she had a spiral fracture near her growth plate.  They fitted her with crutches and I admit my first thought as I watched her lurch down the hallway was, “We ‘ll be back.” I chased that out of my mind and concentrated on the new reality that things were going to be very different this school year.

Where is Main Street and How can I get There?

I have been watching the occupation of Wall Street and I am heartened at the unity of all these different people coming together.  I am hopeful that this will bring a global change.  Balance, equality, communication.  Living by values.

In my world, Homer Simpson is to be envied.   He owns his own home.  I’m a waitress, mom, forever renter and a writer.  I carve my writing life with a kitchen timer. I feel blessed to have what I have and I try to give.  It’s a tithe, my time, my money , my attention to matters outside of myself.  They are organizing or unorganizing as they say, occupations all over the United States.  Who are they? I don’t know.  They are not victims.  They are empowered by the first ammendmant and they are giving voice to general dissatisfaction of giant corporate interest.  I am proud that I live in a country where people can do this  I am also ashamed that a country can have such an imbalance  of resources. They are victims.

Change is electrifying, a shift of energy between powers and this shift is creating energy, forming alliances and working for the good of all, I hope and pray. Change is also terrifying for some of us, fear of the unknown, fear of trusting ourselves and our safety net of the present.  Change requires sacrifice, cooperation and faith.

Faith is huge in my life.  I hold fast to faith that this change will be better for all. That is why they are there.  That is why I continue to pray and pay attention to the 99%.  It is important to pass on a world where we act to make a positive change in a peaceful way. It is essential that our children believe and value everyone’s life and their actions and impacts.