Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Yes, I know that Christmas is over... give me a moment & I will explain the tree, or at least the ornaments on the tree, which really have very little to do with Christmas & everything to do with the year that led up to it. So if you are cringing at the thought of reading a post about the holiday now that it is over, you are safe. If it seems odd that I am incredibly apologetic right out of the gate, let's blame it on my best friend who has spent years corralling my Christmas spirit into the weeks between Thanksgiving & actual Christmas. It cannot be discussed or even alluded to indirectly before or after the aforementioned time frame or you will pay for it with in the very least, a noticeable eye roll & in the worst-case-scenario a torrent of profanity. So please consider this first paragraph to be my "this is not a Christmas post" disclaimer.

We have a household tradition that involves buying an ornament to remind us of important events that happened over the last year. For instance, the year we adopted the boys we purchased a flying pig ornament for obvious reasons. Some years the ornament is very straightforward- in 2009 it was a house... because we bought a house. In the bottom left corner of the photo you can see the "our first Christmas together" heart. 

Some years the ornaments don't really mean anything to anyone but us. The "I didn't feel the need to apologize or wring my hands when someone called me an artist this year" paint-filled palette is just above the heart. We picked out that ornament the year I actually started to remember that I really did (& still do) want to be an artist when I grow up. I still smile when I put it on the tree each year as I think of all the art from the last year & what is hopefully to come in the next year.

On the right side of the photo you see the "My name is Ron Burgundy & I am not homeless, I am your cat & you just don't realize it yet" cat ornament. He really is a clear example of the law of attraction- from his perspective, not ours. He was so convinced that he was supposed to be our cat that he would run in the door when we opened it to bring in groceries & then stroll around as if we wouldn't notice that we suddenly had 2 cats instead of one. Can't you just imagine him sitting around outside somewhere thinking "they are my family... that is my house... they are my family... that is my house..." This plan clearly worked for him (see here, here & here) because he's had his own Christmas ornament, food bowl & electric blanket ever since.

This year we purchased the sassy hot pink owl in the middle. We picked out an owl because we feel a little wiser than we did this time last year. (before any of you plan to point out to me how NOT wise I am when I post the next "Confessions of a New Parent" you can save it. I freely admit that my lack of parenting skills will be providing you with a sense of "at least I'm a better parent than she is" for years to come.) Regardless of my parenting challenges, we learned a lot this year & unfortunately learned a good bit of it the hard way.

We learned the importance of surrounding yourself with kind people. This is a bit of a given with regard to friendship but this year we realized just how important it is to work with & for kind people. I'm fortunate to have been in a really good professional environment at both of the "grown up" jobs I have had, but everyone isn't so lucky. Sometimes people tell you what you want to hear & then show you down the road who they really are... & when this happens in a professional environment it is especially difficult because most of us are not in a position to just walk away. No potential amount of money is worth spending a third of your life with someone you can't trust or someone who isn't kind or honest. Speaking of honesty...

I learned the importance of taking care of myself & how many people really have no understanding of depression. It still doesn't seem real to me that Robin Williams is gone, but the thing I found almost as shocking as his death was the question I kept hearing from people. "What did he have to be sad about?" Before I continue, it is important for you to understand that I am not any sort of expert on the topic of depression, I am just talking about my experiences & conversations I have shared with friends. Depression is not the same thing as sadness, although the words have been used interchangeably often enough that it seems to make sense to many people to use them that way. 

You don't have to have a "reason" to be depressed- you don't have to have a specific event in your life that you can point to & say "that is why I am depressed" although that certainly can happen. Maybe this is why it can be difficult for some to understand that many of us are just predisposed to depression. I know this because I fall into that "predisposed" category. This is normally more information than I am comfortable sharing, but if it helps one person it was more than worth it. 

To be very clear, I have NEVER experienced depression to a depth of someone who is even considering causing them self harm. I have never even experienced depression to the point that I couldn't get out of bed, but I do know what it is like to not remember the last time I laughed, or really even smiled genuinely. I know what it feels like to be unable to look forward to anything without worrying that something terrible will happen to prevent it. I know what it is like to have no appetite & no energy & to feel like everything takes 10 times the effort to just get by. I know what it feels like to experience all of these things & not have a "thing" to be "sad" about. 

It has only happened to me twice in my life that it lasted long enough for me to feel like I needed to be medicated for a while- other times when it has happened for really brief periods I just refer to it as "the black cloud" to close friends. (I used to just call it "the cloud" but no more. Thanks a lot, Apple. When I am already feeling down, having to say that extra syllable is just what I need.) The few times it has happened there wasn't really a specific event that caused it, although I'm certain the last time it was exacerbated by the first "lesson" I mentioned in this post. The whole point of me sharing this is to hopefully make it easier for you to find someone to talk to if you feel depressed or maybe for you to have a little more compassion if someone comes to you to talk. 

The third "big" thing I learned this year is that I am a little braver than I thought. Sometime around my 40th birthday in October I decided to sign up for a 3 day art sale that would occur a few weeks before Christmas. It may not seem like much to you, but it was a very big deal to me & I am proud of myself for doing it. The sale went really well & it actually felt good to try something new.

2014 was definitely a year of learning some things the hard way, although I have to admit (grudgingly) that it was worth the pain or discomfort or stretching of my comfort zone to learn all of these lessons. It is just a lot easier to see now that it is over. Hopefully, as a result of all of this, I will be a kinder, more caring & braver person... & maybe even a little wiser.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

For my mom

            Isn’t it funny how we celebrate birthdays in terms of the person who was born, instead of the person who actually got them here? I just showed up all those years ago- my mom is the one who actually did all of the work. This one is for you, mom.

As a child, all I really wanted was to be in her close proximity. Being the youngest child to a stay-at-home mom afforded me some pretty special memories. Even now I can close my eyes & see us dancing around the living room listening to Stevie Wonder sing “Isn’t She Lovely”… Mom was dancing away with a dish towel thrown over her shoulder while I laughed, keeping my eyes on her. I always had my eyes on her.

The first day of kindergarten was the first time I ever remember seeing her cry. She is as unemotional as I am emotional, which caused quite a problem that day. Having spent the first 5 years of my life at home with mom or with a member of our extended family, I literally had never been left with someone I had not known my entire short life. This fact & the tears in my mother’s eyes as she left convinced me that she was not coming back. Certainly she mentioned at some point she would be back shortly or maybe she thought I would relate my school experience to that of my older sister, but it did not happen. I will never forget sitting in that classroom with the salty tears stinging the back of my eyelids thinking, “I can’t believe she left me here, I don’t know these people.” That afternoon my feet barely touched the ground as I threw myself at her. It was the very best feeling in the world- I was safe once again, right where I belonged.

I could write a book on how brave she was as she became our only parent, about how she took care of Pop as his illness progressed while raising 2 little girls & trying to keep our life as normal as possible. I could point out how she never referred to herself as a single parent, or how I found her calmly splitting firewood at some point when she was in her early 40’s. It needed to be done & there was no one else to do it that day so she took care of it herself. She never complained. It was only as an adult that I realized how hard she worked.

I could write about how my sister & I were both athletes & she never once missed an athletic or school function. Basketball, track, cheerleading, cross country… she was always there. There was a state cross country meet that was held during early winter, in the mountains of Arkansas- I literally could not feel my hands or my face & I was actually running. Imagine how cold it must have been standing at that finish line… Mom could tell you because she was there- wrapped in a blanket & cheering me on.

 I could write about how Mom somehow managed to convince both Laura & I that we would, in fact, be going to college & we would do so by earning scholarships. Having been a secretary since the autumn after Pop died she was happy to assist with typing papers, but she instilled in us very early that an education was very important & it was our responsibility to make it happen. My sister & I both have Master’s degrees, thanks in large part to our Mother’s determination.

            I could write about all of those things, but it would likely embarrass her so I won’t.

So Mom, thank you for doing all the hard work all those years ago, for calling me this morning at 6 a.m. to sing me happy birthday & for the 40 years in between.

I love you more.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Stubborn Gratitude

This summer has been challenging, but I'm still sitting stubbornly on a pile of gratitude.

I hurt my back shortly after the boys finished the school year. There was a trip to the emergency room & follow-up appointments with my doctor. Standing... a lot of standing. Any chance I got... at home, at work, anywhere. I stood in the E.R. for 2 hours because the act of sitting in one place was so painful. This has been a bit of a theme in my life lately, this notion that sitting still can be painful. Sometimes it is literal & sometimes it is figurative, but either way, it hurts.

The back injury reminded me of a much more serious back injury Pop sustained in his 30's... an injury that caused him to walk with a cane for the rest of his short life. The image of him without the need for that cane hovers just on the edge of my memory, although I do remember him carving the stick he found in the woods. It is beautiful and we still have it, all these years later. He crossed my mind each time I became frustrated because of the struggle I faced trying to do things that should have been easy. 

I am grateful for the compassion I found for him & his pain in the midst of my own.

I am grateful that my pain was not permanent. (There were 10 short minutes of yoga earlier this week. It wasn't much, but it was 10 minutes better than nothing.)

A few weeks later, while trying to step off the side of a boat onto a dock to tie it up, I slipped & found myself caught between the dock & a moving boat, my ribs being the first thing to make contact with the edge of the wood deck on the way down. Everyone on the boat said it was as if I just disappeared. It's strange how time can move so quickly & seem to stand still all at once. In the split second that it took me to know that I had to get out of the way of the boat, I found myself having fully formed memories of my cousin Chris, who lost what I am certain would have been a beautiful life in a boating accident when we were teenagers. I thought of the fact that Deb & the boys were on the boat & how fearful my mother is of deep water & I thought of all the time we spent on this very lake with Pop when I was a kid. All of these thoughts seemed to happen in the few seconds it took me to find myself on my back on the dock, squinting up at the sun & trying to look brave for my boys.

I am grateful for so many things with regard to the fall, mostly grateful for all of the things that didn't happen. And sometimes that is the best sort of gratitude.

A few weeks after that, we found ourselves in the Emergency Room with Jasper, who was dehydrated from a stomach virus. He is fine now, but it was the first time we have had to see one of the boys that sick & he was just pitiful. Both Finn & Silas had the stomach virus over the next few weeks, but they both recovered much more quickly than the little guy. Jasper wasn't himself for about a week & lost a little weight, although he doesn't really have anything to spare.

I am grateful that they have us to care for them- always, but especially when they are sick. It is still so shockingly obvious that their history of being left to fend for themselves is still a more prevalent memory than the number of times they have been cared for when ill... but based on the number of times I set the alarm to take temperatures in the middle of the night this summer, hopefully the good will outweigh the bad sooner rather than later.

So this summer has been challenging, in more ways than even those listed here- but I am  refusing to be anything but grateful... maybe even for my stubborn streak. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

So here's the thing...

              So here’s the thing- I got you a book for your high school graduation. I know… this is probably the only summer for the next few years that you won’t find yourself having books shoved at you by folks demanding that you read them, but you really should read this one. It’s short, I promise. I actually read it with three loud children circling me like hungry sharks & if I can do it, you can do it. It might take 15 minutes but it’s a great little book.
              We don’t know each other well, but over the last 12 years of working for your dad, I have witnessed something really cool that you should know about. I often find myself in meetings or luncheons or events with one or both of your parents & invariably several people come up to them (they apparently know everyone) & the first thing they ALWAYS say is “How is Scout?” Think about this for a second, Scout. They don’t ask about work or the general “How’s the family?” or even “How’s your son?” They ask about YOU. By name. Because even if they do not know you personally, or like me, they know you, but not well… your parents talk about you enough that they remember you. And each time someone mentions you I look to your parents & see their faces light up. Every. Single. Time. Pretty cool, huh?
              Now that I have told you this fun little fact, I wonder if you might consider doing me a favor- two, actually. One needs to happen prior to you leaving for college. The other needs to happen for the rest of your life. Oddly, the former may prove to be more of a challenge than the latter.
First, I need you to teach your dad how to text. You are the last hope for this to ever happen. If you don’t, I will spend my days having your father stroll in my office & dictate messages to you when he misses you & your mother will spend her evenings with him peering over her shoulder reading conversations the two of you are having. So take care of that, will you?
Second, call your mother. Often. Not just while you are in college- You have to do this one forever. Because no matter when you call her, or how often you call her, she is likely to say, “Scout! I was just thinking about you!” And because she is your mother, no matter how often you call, that statement will be true.

Best wishes, kiddo. I look forward to hearing about your adventures. Congratulations!!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Dear Learning Curve

Dear Learning Curve,

I'll get straight to the point. Can you please be kind to me this time? You can be so cruel & steep when you choose- remember algebra? And learning to drive? So can I please just have an easy go of it this time? You we nicer than I expected when I decided to start painting dogs & cats- you only made me stretch enough to really appreciate making it over the hump & I greatly appreciated it.

The first round of stamp carving.
 The thing is, I haven't been this excited about the possibility of something professionally or creatively in a long time, if ever. If you choose to be difficult, I'm not going to give up. I may use a great deal of inappropriate language & might even cry, depending on what day of the month you choose to show out, but I'm not giving up.

When doing the preliminary sketches I have to remind myself to keep it simple enough I can carve it once it is transferred on the rubber. 
I was willing to give you algebra, because honestly- numbers & letters shouldn't mix. It's not natural. And I also agree that I have no business driving a stick shift. Seriously, unless you are driving a race car why would you want to do all that extra work anyway, when the car can do it all for you? It's like saying, "No- I don't want to use the TV remote, I'd prefer to hoist myself out of this chair & walk over there. Extra steps are awesome- I never use a calculator either."

Test prints of black ink on white paper give me the chance to see where I need to cut to edit the stamps. 
So for real, can I just coast on this one? Right over the tiny hump? Just to let you know in case I get stuck part of the way up, I'm not rolling back down. I drive an automatic.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Making a Logo

I chose a typewriter for the Jane's Girl Creations logo because I remember playing on my mom's electric typewriter as a kid.
Although I could picture the finished logo perfectly in my mind, getting the one in the real world to cooperate was a trial by fire
This was my first time using fusible interfacing but it was actually pretty easy to adhere to the fabric. It is not, however, easy to embroider once adhered to the fabric.
I'm deep in the learning curve on all sorts of new artistic ideas & looking forward to sharing some new creations in the shop soon.

Friday, May 16, 2014

I'm Jane's Girl.

For Mother's Day, I gave my mom a tiny little gift bag with a sticker on it bearing this logo & casually mentioned it was from my new shop- then I waited on it to sink in. Jane is my mom, and although she has known for a few months that I was planning to open a new Etsy shop, we had yet to discuss the name. My Aunt Melba, mom's identical twin, who is a bit of a fireball, immediately started crowing about how long she had known this was going to happen. She actually helped me design the logo... what can I say? I had to get my creative streak from somewhere & it wasn't Jane.

At some point mom realized that there was actually something in there & I had not just gifted her an empty bag with her name emblazoned across the front. I made her a bracelet with both of my nephew's names and football numbers on it... because in that moment  the only thing that could make her happier than me naming a business after her would be something related to any of her grandchildren. As it should be.

Here's the story behind the name. Happy Mother's Day!!!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Time Machine: When We Left this Place

Being in New Orleans, Louisiana for the first time in a few years reminded me of this post I wrote after my last visit. The following was originally posted in August of 2011 & feels as true today as it did then.

We left this place when I was 6. As the youngest family member, others who were there have to be reminded of this when reminiscing. Things that are very vivid in their memories aren’t present at all in mine.

As is often the case, I’m certain the opposite is also true. The memories of six-year olds often include as much fantasy as reality as everything is viewed through the rearview mirror. Objects are closer than they appear.

I remember riding with my mother to take my older sister to school in Lafayette, Louisiana. Mom might remember the street names or the traffic. I remember a restaurant we drove by each day because it had huge frosted glass globes dangling from the ceiling in a 1970’s effort at being modern. I thought they looked like beach balls & entertained myself with ideas about them coming loose from their tethers & the restaurant patrons getting to play with beach balls glowing with light.

I remember the shiny hardwood floors of the white wood frame building that held my bustling kindergarten school- the same building that many years before had been my father’s high school. Did he also wonder at the shine on those floors? How you could so easily become mesmerized by your reflection?

I remember the accents. Even last week, as I walked along the streets in New Orleans where I was attending a conference, when I heard the thick saucy song of a Cajun accent, I remembered the faceless voices of my early childhood.

I remember finding a good hiding place between the tall roots of cypress trees during hide & seek with my cousins, on hot summer days with the air thick & heavy with the weight of Louisiana humidity.

I remember picnic tables covered in newspaper & piled high with shrimp, metal frame lawn chairs & the laughter of people I loved & who loved me back.

These are the things I remember. Most of the rest, I forget…which makes it that much more confusing for me- the peace that descends on me when I cross the state line, deepening the further south I go. Somewhere near I-10 I have only the most distant & vague understanding of the concept of anxiety.

My mother tells me (a little too knowingly, if you ask me) that it is because my father was healthy when we lived here. Maybe she is right, as mothers so often are- whether we want them to be or not.

I was only 6 when we left this place, when I started forgetting.

Last week I realized something… I may have left Louisiana 30 years ago, but it never left me.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Coming Soon...

One of the many challenges of motherhood has been finding time to be creative. Let's be real... I have a full-time professional job & adopted 3 kids. Gone are the evenings spent painting leisurely in the studio.
But I have to make things- it's a big part of who I am. (an "art lady" who now "builds bracelets" according to the boys.) The embroidery began on the first day school was out for a snow day.
It's a great creative outlet & a lot can be accomplished in between spelling words, dance parties & refereeing ninja battles. I'll still paint when there are larger blocks of uninterrupted time, but I'm finding many other ways to be creative on the fly.
There will be a new Etsy shop in the next few weeks, one with lots of new creations- starting with one-of-a-kind hand-embroidered bracelets... some made from inside a fort. All made by a mom unwilling to give up her creative life.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Silver Lining Opportunity

"It hurts to look at the clouds, but it also helps, like most things that cause pain." - The Silver Linings Playbook

I have found myself sitting in front of the computer repeatedly over the last couple of weeks. 

"Say something. Say anything." I would tell myself.

"Explain yourself." I would think.

"Don't explain yourself, just smile & pretend like nothing happened." I would hear in my head, in a voice that sounded suspiciously like my mother's, now that I look back on it.

"Talk about the vacation- that was great. Yes, talk about the vacation with your family." 

"Write a post about 'circling the wagons'. Write about how when someone you love has been treated poorly you don't want to focus on anything else in the world other than helping them find a way it can never happen again."

"Write about the heart-to-heart discussions you have had, things you have learned about what you are willing to take and not willing to take. How you would treat people if you ever find yourself on the other side of a similar situation."

"Write about the great ideas that came out of the whole mess, once you had picked it all to pieces. About the silver linings. About how lucky you are in so many other ways. About how you wouldn't trade your life with anyone else in the world."

So there. I wrote about it all. All of it & none of it. So now maybe I can get on with it & write about something else.

Friday, February 21, 2014

She was right. (Again)

Fact: Creative people have to create, or they get cranky. For reasons too boring to list, I found myself in a position to remember this the hard way over the winter. My medium of choice for the last several years has been paint but I just wasn't feeling it, for whatever reason.

After a few weeks with no creative outlet, you find yourself absentmindedly twisting paperclips into teeny little animals while on the phone at work. You start drawing pictures in the cheese on your plate after you finish off the pasta. Ornately folding scraps of paper. You get the idea. Then, you just get cranky.

A good friend & fellow artist kept making gentle suggestions. Maybe I would like to crochet? Take up photography? She always came back to embroidery. "You will love it." she would say confidently. Certainly she could see the crazy in my eyes, or maybe I unconsciously fashioned a tiny circus tent out of a gum wrapper in front of her, but she was relentless about the embroidery.

She was right. On a whim, I stopped by a fabric store on the way home one day when we had a chance of snow & ice in the forecast. While everyone else in central Arkansas was buying milk, bread & eggs I was on my hands & knees, face-first in a remnant bin at Hancock Fabrics. The moment I admitted to her that I was giving it a try, she started texting me links to embroidery videos on Youtube. I told you she was relentless.


So I have a new hobby. And I felt the need to publicly admit that Jennifer was right. (again.) Embroidered bracelets are piling up around my house at a rapid pace. Oh well. At least all of the paperclips are safe now, right?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

My Word for 2014

As the end of 2013 closed in on me, I realized that I had yet to find my word for the new year. 2013 was 'Simplify.' Because the boys were placed in our home in November & we went from zero kids to 3 just a few weeks before Christmas, by the end of 2012 I was craving simplicity. The word served me well- once I committed to it, any occasion that offered me choice was met with the thought "which would simplify things?"

Always holding this consideration gave me a little breathing room & less opportunity to burn out in my first year as a mom.  It allowed me to keep my expectations in check when I knew that my measuring stick was simplicity, rather than what some book told me to do or what my friends or family would do. It also saved me from what would have likely been hours of emotional self-flagellation over not doing the most complex & difficult option. Because 'Simplify.' served me so well in 2013, it was baffling to be unable to find a word as 2014 approached. It needed to be something that would be as useful as my 2013 word. Apparently I couldn't find it, I needed to let it find me.

It found me standing in the street in front of my house, at almost 5pm on New Year's Eve, holding a screwdriver in one hand & a giant water bill & the accompanying letter explaining the likelihood of a leak in the other. I pried off the heavy cover & peered over into the grate where my water meter & my neighbor's meter were shacked up. His hummed lazily along while ours spun wildly. I checked my watch & realized there really wasn't anything that could be done. And the next day was New Year's Day, so the meter would have another day to spin.  As I closed my eyes & sighed, my word found me. Acceptance. There was nothing I could do. No amount of worrying would change what would happen. For whatever reason, it was in this moment, that it finally settled in my head that there really never has been a reason to worry over things I couldn't change. A bit unsettling for someone who basically made a sport out of it for 39 years.

Who knows why it took so long for this to sink in. Honestly, on the surface, it is such a simple statement. It makes sense to accept things you can't change, but it has never been something I could internalize. Not until I was literally on my hands & knees in my front yard. On more than one occasion I have felt my thoughts "spinning" when I would be worrying over something I couldn't change. Oh the irony of seeing it happen outside of myself. 

As I settled on this word for 2014, or I should probably say "as it settled on me", there was a moment of clarity. This word never sat well with me in the past because it seemed to be some form of surrender, which didn't seem like a good idea. As if recognizing that something was a certain way meant that I had to actually like it. Give up on anything being different. The most important thing I have learned in the last few weeks is that I also have to "accept" my responsibility to recognize what can & can't be changed. Work on what can. Accept & let go of the rest.

All of this reminded me of a friend who had the serenity prayer posted in her apartment when we were in college. It didn't mean anything to me at the time, but it certainly came back to me as I stood in the street on New Year's Eve making peace with the power of acceptance. The space it created inside of me to just accept it & move on. It felt good.

How much energy should one waste on something that can't be changed in the moment? How much more energy does acceptance give you to use on things you actually can change? More than you would think. I have spent the first few weeks of 2014 accepting the hell out of some things. I'm getting pretty good at it. I don't know what it was about that meter spinning that made my head stop, but I'm grateful for it... although I may need to be reminded of that the day the water bill arrives.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Confessions of a new parent: The one about the school visit

the scene of the crime

One of the things that continues to surprise me about motherhood is my continued optimism- that at some point I will be prepared for what is about to happen. Honestly at this point what I am referring to as optimism, you are probably calling stupidity. What can I say? I’m an optimist.

Recently I found myself sitting alone in the front office of the elementary school at 7:25 a.m., having arrived early enough to drop off medication to the nurse before going to work. While sitting in the unexpected yet blissful quiet of the empty front office, I purposefully turned my chair a little so I could not see all of the children running by the big window separating the office from the noise.

I pondered this seemingly magic, virtually soundproof glass & wondered how one might obtain some for the walls, ceiling, floor & doors of a home until the quiet was sucked out of the room by the door opening, flinging the bit of peace down the hall where it would likely be wasted on the music room or some other quiet-eating classroom. The silence was replaced by a rather sullen child who dramatically wilted into the chair to my right. She closed her eyes momentarily. I waited- not knowing what to do with someone else’s child, having still not located the instructional manual for my own.

Slouching precariously in the chair, she opened her eyes & leaned up enough to peer over the counter & realize that this entire performance had been wasted on only me. She looked me up & down, sizing me up.

“You a substitute?”

“No.” I thought about mentioning that she really probably shouldn’t talk to strangers, even at school, but I decided not to waste my breath. It was already abundantly clear that she had an agenda & I had no intention of becoming some sort of collateral damage for offering a completely reasonable observation.

She decided not to waste any more of her show on me & resorted to small talk. For the record, I am bad at small talk with adults with fully formed brains. To say that I am bad at it with children is more of an understatement than I can adequately express.

“Did you know Cooper sounds like Cougar? Cooper. Cougar. Cooper. Cougar. Cooper. Cougar. Cooper. Cougar. See?”

What is the appropriate response to such a question? It was a rhetorical question, right? As I struggled with this thought, the other door to the office swung open. I hoped for an adult. What I got was another child. One who flopped violently into the chair on my left. She could clearly see from the barely subdued panic on my face that I was not a substitute so she acted like I was a potted plant, leaning around me to engage the other child.

“What are you here for?” She sounded like she was in prison & just wandered up to someone new in the yard. The irony of this was not lost on me as I considered my limited options for escape from this sick child sandwich.

“Stomachache. Sneezing make me toot, which my mother said would make me feel better, but it doesn’t.” She said all of this very matter-of-factly as if any sort of one-upping “I’m sicker than you” conversation would be over before it started.

Honestly,nothing good can come of sneeze-induced tooting. After a year of parenting I may not know much, but this- this I know. After abandoning my remaining shreds of optimism, I gripped the arms of my chair & prayed for a grown up to arrive before any physical evidence of their illnesses.

“Did you know that Cooper sounds like Cougar?  Cooper. Cougar. Cooper. Cougar.”

Her mother must be an amazing driver. I imagined her pulling up to school each morning in an SUV & rounding the bus lanes on two wheels with the passenger door ajar, catapulting the child into the building. I bet she never even taps the brakes.

“Cooper. Cougar. Cooper. Cougar.” Now they were both doing it.

Some sort of angelic-yet-militarily-efficient woman walked by the big window,  came to the door & poked her head in- first zeroing in like a laser on the Cooper Cougar ringleader.

“Why are you in here?”

“My stomach-“

“Does your mom know about it?”

“Yes, but-“

“Did you eat breakfast?”

“No, but-“

“That’s the problem. Come with me.”

It only took about 10 seconds, thanks to the rapid-fire succession in which she landed her queries. Impressive.

My thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of the nurse, who led me into her office. Never had I been so happy to find myself in a small windowless cinder block room. Even through the closed door, I could hear the remaining child speaking to the office worker who had just arrived. Although it was muffled, I could still make out her words.

“Hey, did you know Cooper sounds like Cougar? Cooper. Cougar. Cooper. Cougar. Cooper. Cougar. Cooper. Cougar. See?”

Friday, January 3, 2014

The New Year

New Year's Day is my favorite holiday, which may seem a little odd considering all of the other options. There is something magical about getting to make a new start in the midst of the familiarity of your life. While there is a certain amount of sameness because it is happening even if nothing else in your life changes, there is also a sense of wonder & anticipation. It is an opportunity to reflect on & release the bad bits of the previous year while remembering the good things & filing them away as good memories made during 2013.

Each year I flip through my new calendar, looking at random dates & wondering what they have in store this year. Hello there April 12th. What are you bringing? I’m also reminded of the dates that are now significant to me for the first time. Prior to 2013, May 30th was just another day. For the rest of my life it will be the day we stood together before a judge with our children to officially legally become a family. It was the very best day, which ended with a house full of people who love us & have shared this journey with us from the very beginning. In 2012 it was just a day when summer was nearing. In 2013 it was a day that brought me joy that I have never previously known.

There is also a moment of trepidation as I look at the calendar & recognize the possibility that one of the 365 days open before me could be a day of loss & profound sadness. I take a moment to remind myself to not only tell but also show the people I love how thankful I am to have them in my life.

2013 was a wonderful year for me & my family. I sincerely hope it was for yours too.

Happy New Year!