Thursday, April 21, 2016

sometimes it snows in April...


Tonight while making dinner, I stood in the kitchen listening to Prince’s Under the Cherry Moon album.  It’s one of those albums I bought on a whim in some used record store when I was about 15. I played the shit out of it, and there are so many good tracks on it, but when Sometimes it Snows in April came on tonight, I began to cry. The girls came in and wanted to know what was going on. I explained to them that one day they’ll look back and that they will remember different events in their lives because of the music they were listening to at the time. I told them that Prince had provided so much of the soundtrack to my life, and that the news of his death today has made me so very sad.
When I was 10 years old, my Aunt Karen bought me the Around the World in a Day cassette tape. I think it was the first one that was all MINE. I wore it out. There was something about the lyrics of Raspberry Beret that made me 1, want to run away with Prince, and 2, want to know what was going on in that head of his. That feeling never really ended. The first time I heard Darling Nikki, I knew it was filthy and awesome because it made me feel filthy and awesome, which was a pretty conflicting feeling for a not quite teenaged white girl. Prince had a way of doing that. I had my first slow dance with a boy to Arms of Orion from the Batman soundtrack. I was a freshman and it was homecoming, and he kissed my neck as we danced.  It’s one of those memories of being young and na├»ve and sweet that makes me envy my girls for getting to have those first feelings some day.
Prince was the music playing when I went out dancing with my girlfriends in my early twenties.
One night I danced to Pussy Control.
On a stage.
In a cage.
In a gay bar. 
Wearing not so many clothes.
Just exactly the way I believe Prince would have wanted it.   
Prince was the music playing when 1998 turned 1999 and I looked at the jackass I was dating and thought, “this can’t be all there is.” Prince was the music playing for lots of…well. My dad might be reading this. So…you know. Sorry, dad. I believe Prince would have wanted that, too. Prince was the music playing when I had to explain to my sweet pal Emily what Pink Cashmere was. We talked and laughed about this conversation just tonight.
Just a few months ago, I was at a bar in downtown KC and they had a turn-table playing Purple Rain. I sat with a friend and listened to that album from beginning to end. I knew each and every word. So did everyone else at the bar, and it was so much fun to sing, laugh, and share memories of that music with complete strangers – who weren’t strangers by the end of the night. I believe Prince would have loved that, too.
I’m sure I’m being overly dramatic when I feel the need to write about this, but the idea of one of my heroes not being around and not making music anymore honestly kills me a little bit. Prince was more than just a musician. He was a character. An icon. A persona. Tonight my friend John who lives in Minneapolis texted me a picture of the crowd gathered on the streets there. He said, “This is the greatest impromptu festival ever. Complete community. Complete love. Everyone is happy and singing – it’s beautiful…it gives hope.” First, I love that someone I’ve known since I was 13 thought enough to text me about this. Clearly, he knows me a little bit. But I also think, once again, this is what Prince would have wanted.
After I told the girls why I was sad tonight, Zoe looked at me and said, “hey, mom? remember when I was a little kid and I loved ACDC a lot and then you told me that Bon Scott wasn’t alive and I couldn’t ever see him? I know how you feel.” Oh, sweet Zoe. Someday you really will know exactly how this feels, and I hope I’m around to share those memories with you.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Nine.

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Each year on the girls’ birthdays I write a little something for them. It began long ago out of the need for them to know how happy I was to be their mom. My own mom used to tell Lisen and me on our birthdays that “she was so glad it wasn’t X amount of years ago”. I’ve said it before that while I think she thought it was a funny statement, it was actually not funny at all. But that’s my mom for you, and it’s my intention to be a million times different for my children. When I woke Zoe up this morning, I whispered in her ear, “I’m so happy you were born.” And it’s true…every word of it. Even on the hard days.

I read back to what I wrote for Zoe last year, and it almost made me cry. We have been through a lot this year in this family. There has been so much change for Zoe and her sister: some of it good change, and some of it tricky and difficult. And none of it is just my story to tell. But. I will say that I got upset reading my post from last year because I feel like Zoe is a different kiddo today than she was on March 30th of 2015. Zoe’s anxiety has diminished almost a hundred percent. She has learned to name her feelings in a way that most adults can’t even do very well. Zoe is still feisty, sassy and a whole lot like her mama. She says things before she thinks about them very much, and sometimes those things make me laugh. Sometimes they’re pretty hurtful. But through it all, Zoe is Zoe. She owns her emotions, good and bad, and she makes no apologies for being herself. I hope more than anything that she can harness that and hold onto it into adulthood. It would serve her well.


I have had to do some giving up of control over the girls these last several months. I realized how much I was stepping into their lives and trying to help when those were times they could and should be helping themselves. It’s been hard for me, and I have learned so much about myself and about my girls in the process. What helps, more than anything, is that I have a wonderful support system. Zoe has a wonderful support system. The sweet counselor at her school has become a beacon for Zoe, and for me sometimes as well. In a recent email from her, she says about Zoe, “It is amazing to hear her talk and reflect back over how she was vs. how she is.  She is able to say, "I just tell myself that I am strong and I am ok."  

I read that sentence the first time and cried. I cried because Zoe’s strength is recognizing her strength. Again, something most adults, her mother included, have trouble doing. She is going to be an amazing 9 year old, and I cannot wait to see the kind of person she becomes. You don’t get to pick your kiddos. You get to shape them a little bit as you go, but what I’ve learned is that, in the end, you have very little control over their personalities. I’m so glad I got a Zoe. And I am so glad that 9 years ago today happened. I wouldn’t have it any other way.


Sunday, January 10, 2016

changes.

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Some days it’s just about getting out of bed and thinking that this day is going to be better than the day before. It has to be. Some days are hard. This last week was full of new people, new routines, and so many new things that opened my eyes. This last week was hard. These last few months have been hard. Some of the hard stuff was my doing. Some was not. Some I will talk about in time. Some I will not. And most of it, in the end, is not my story solely to tell.
Last week I met a mother from Ethiopia. At 30, she has seven children. She walks from her home nearly 3 miles away from my new school with her youngest child in a sling, strapped to her person. Some days are just too cold for her to bring her child to school. Some days are just too hard. Last week I watched the ladies I work with provide warm coats and food to the children who would need them the most in the coming days. This was a victory.
Last week I watched a teacher bathe a child who hadn’t had a bath in weeks. Last week I learned of a 17-year-old mother who was so proud of the trip she took to the library with her toddler over Christmas break. This was a victory. Some days the things we think are hard are not really all that hard. Last week I waited with a child for her school bus to come take her from my school to another so that she could get the services she needs. She is nearly blind. She has glasses, but someone forgot them. She has leg braces, but someone forgot those, too. But. This day she was at school and she was happy. This was a victory.
Last week I went from teaching children in this city’s highest economic bracket, to being in a school that serves the most at risk families in our community. Last week was hard. Not so much for me, even though it was easy to mistakenly think it was just that. I got to come back to my warm home. To my children who love me. I got to buy groceries and cook a nice meal for my girls tonight.  This weekend, however, as nice as it was, wouldn’t let me forget what I had to go back to tomorrow. Something has changed. In five days, something has changed in me and I know now that I am right where I need to be.
Tomorrow will be hard. I will wake up earlier than I’m used to waking. I will juggle kids’ schedules and try to make sure everyone is happy even when things are changing all around us. Tomorrow life will be hard. And then, I will get some perspective, and realize that things are going to be ok. Even if it takes a while. And that is a victory.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

why I write.

Today around the table we read Terry Tempest Williams' manifesto, "I write..." It's a lovely piece, made more lovely when 15 different voices read it aloud, one sentence at a time. We then asked people to describe themselves as a writer. Here's mine.


I write to quiet the voices in my head. I also write what those voices tell me. I write to make sense of my world.  I write so that things stop making so much sense. I write because I can’t ever recall not needing to write. I write because I love the sound of my fingers on the keyboard, almost like an angry dance. I write because I need a way for my girls to know what was going on in my head when they were young. I write because no one did that for me and I really could have used it. I write because it helps me process, predict, perceive. I write because it seems like a better use of time than television or movies. I write because it’s like music to me. I write in the hopes that I’ll create at least one amazing sentence. I write because I love words. I write because I’m having an ongoing love affair with language. I write because I like combining words. Word salad. I write because it calms me. I write because it centers me. I write because it is much like mental yoga. I write because I’m angry. I write because I’m lost. I write because I don’t know how to say these things out loud to you. I write because I need to be heard. I write because I’m afraid to be heard. I write because therapy is expensive. I write because good bourbon is expensive, too. I write because I want to connect with my past. I write because I want to disconnect with my past. I write to look ahead. I write because the pen and paper were my first friends. I write because I like to maintain good friendships. I write because it is who I am. I write because sometimes I don’t know what else to do.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

the worst metaphor you'll ever hear. today.

Yesterday, we asked the participants at the Summer Institute to do some writing about themselves as readers. I've just decided to challenge myself to publish more writing here. So, here you go...here's my reading story. About peanut butter.


Ted’s lunch today caused me to consider peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. People have serious opinions on the pb&j, far beyond liking or disliking them. For example, my girls prefer my distribution of peanut butter – extra thick,  and spread all the way to the crust. But they also prefer my husband’s distribution of jelly – sloppy and globby, much more liberal than my taste allows me to recreate for them. I saw Ted’s pb&j and thought about how, much like sandwiches, we all have such differing opinions in our reading. I know, bear with me here. I’ve been a reader for as long as I can remember. Reading was an integral part of every single day growing up, whether we read together on laps, or alone in bedrooms under covers, stealing extra reading time with a flashlight in hand. Much like a good a good layer of peanut butter, reading for me has been something to get stuck in, to take all the way to the edges, and to devour slowly. I suppose, like jelly, reading can also be messy at times. When those purple globs escape the bread and land on your shirt, they can stain. A good book stays with you like the stains of grape jelly. Is there any other kind?
Like my opinion on peanut butter distribution, I find that I have strong opinions on what I read. Probably I’m also judging what you read, too, just so you know. I’m a fan of female writers. I’m not sure why this is, but until my recent discovery of Jonathan Tropper, my fiction reading has mostly been limited to female authors – with the exception of Wally Lamb and Stephen King. I prefer fiction to non. I dislike historical fiction, but could be swayed on this with the right book. I refuse self help books. I refuse certain trendy books. Take your 50 shades far away from me. I love a good, angsty young adult novel. Bring me back to being 16 and in love for the first time and I’m sold, hands down.
When I think about myself as a reader, I think about how some of my most favorite times have been spent reading: on the beach, in the early mornings before anyone else is awake, when I was pregnant with both girls, and struck with the worst insomnia I’ve ever experienced, and on those nights when anxiety leaves me sleepless. A good book can always take me to someplace different and help to clear my head.
When I consider myself as a reader, I now also consider how to share my love of reading with my girls, and with my students. I have to get out of my comfort zone a little when they come to me with books they want to read. I refrain from making too many comments, if I comment at all, for fear that I would crush their interest. That’s hard for me, as you might guess. I want my kids to enjoy reading as much as I do, and so far that hasn’t happened quite like I imagined it would. Maybe it’s just being a kid today. Maybe there’s too many other distractions. I’m not sure, but if all I can do is continue modeling my love of books for them, then that is what I will do.
Humor me with this metaphor for one more moment, if you will. I don’t often allow myself a good, gooey pb&j. Too many calories, too much sugar.  But it’s my favorite sandwich, the most comforting of foods, I think. Much like a good pb&j has provided that comfort to me during times of need, getting lost in a good book can do the same.

Monday, June 8, 2015

40 isn't old...if you're a tree

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Today I asked Lucy to write an introduction to share with the class I’m co-facilitating this summer. Each year we ask the participants to introduce themselves. Each year I struggle with this first assignment, but this year it was particularly hard for me to even start.  It’s not like I’m not an open book.  I mean, sure, I have things that I keep to myself, but for the most part I’m an oversharer. Yep, that’s a word. Often I will run into people who will say, “your kids are so funny!” or, “I saw you went to X restaurant, how was it?”  I don’t often have a filter, and I’m happy to share my opinions on just about everything. Your Crocs are disgusting, by the way.
I think this introduction is overshadowed by my 40th birthday on Thursday. I have started considering myself in terms of that birthday. Who am I at 40? What have I done so far?  People who are older than me laugh and tell me it’s not a big deal at all. I would like to say that 40 isn’t a big deal…and in a lot of ways it isn’t. I do think I get smarter every year. I am so glad to not be in my 20s, but 40 just seems so big.  I remember my dad turning 40. I was just about Lucy’s age, and someone gave him a tshirt that read, “40 isn’t old…if you’re a tree.” I’ve been thinking about that shirt a lot lately. I think I’ve done pretty well for 40.  Sometimes I look around and think about how glad I am to be me. I’ve learned to really like myself over the years. But that took me most of my 40 years, and I’m still working on it every single day.
I get introspective around my birthdays, and this year is no exception. At 36, I wrote about not caring so much anymore about my weight. I wrote about traveling more and starting my masters degree. At 40, I’ve learned that I can carry that extra weight without worrying so much, but that I can also be strong and healthy, and that 4 herniated discs doesn’t mean I can’t also be fit…it just looks different that it did at 20.  In the last 4 years, I’ve traveled all over the country, and a lot of that traveling has been solo. In fact, the thing that’s probably changed more than anything over the last 4 years is that I appreciate those moments of alone time more than I ever thought I would. I also care less about what other people think of me. So much less.
What’s next? Maybe that’s the biggest thing about 40. I have always been working toward something bigger, and this year, despite the big birthday, I’m not sure what that next thing is. Maybe this is the year I’ll start writing more for publication and not just for myself. It’s weird to put that on paper, but I read stuff all the time that I think I should have written and I know I can do more. Maybe this is the year I take up yoga and get my spine in order. Perhaps this is the year I get a part time job at that shop I love so much simply because I can. Maybe I look into what it takes to be a sommelier. What? I like wine more than just drinking it…really. I feel like this is going to be an interesting year for me. I don’t know what it will be, but when I go to write my introduction next year, I know somehow it will be different.
Here’s Lucy’s, in case you want to know how my kid would introduce her mama:
“Kate is a 40 year old teacher. She teaches preschool at village church. Kate got her masters Degree in 2013. She is very smart and funny. Kate says no quite a bit, in fact its been a long time since she has said yes. Her least favorite word is moist. I see her writing a lot and she Sighs a lot while she writes even if she is writing something happy. Anyway, your going to really like her.” 
 I hope she's right.

Monday, May 18, 2015

ten...



Ten years ago today I was just Kate. I wasn’t “heyyyy Mommmmmmy” or “MAMA!” or “mom. mom. mom. mom. mom. hey, mom.”  Ten years ago I didn’t lose sleep over things like first days of school, bullies, loose teeth, or slumber parties. Ten years ago I didn’t know how much of my life would no longer be mine. Ten years ago I had no clue how much my heart could hold.
Lucy came into this world in the manner you would expect more from her sister. She was sideways and she was stubborn, and in the end, her trip into this world wasn’t anything like I’d imagined…not that birth is ever what you imagine it to be. Lucy has never been sideways or stubborn, though, not even on her worst day. Lucy is one of those kids who is able to find the good in even the worst situations.  Sometimes I look at her and wonder how her loud, brash, foul-mouthed mother ever created something so sweet.  It’s in those moments that I know I have Lucy here to teach me things like patience, kindness, seeing the best in people. Those aren’t my strong traits – I know. That’s shocking. 
 Even for all of that, Lucy is the least emotional of my girls. While she certainly feels things deeply, she doesn’t like to see people cry or get upset. The outward showing of these emotions makes her uncomfortable. I think it’s in these moments that I know why she is mine…because I am perhaps the MOST emotional person.  I might shrug things off and on the outside act like I don’t care, but I feel things more deeply than I probably should and I feel like it’s my job to show her that feeling deeply is a good thing. When Dalton died, Lucy was a mess. Not so much because of the loss of her dog, though of course that affected her. Mostly, though, she was distraught over watching her parents grieve his loss. I had to tell her multiple times over those weeks that it’s normal for adults to cry and that sometimes crying can even be a good thing.  
 
Ten is already a challenge for me and she’s not even there yet.  Suddenly Lucy is more like a grown up than a child, and I’m having a hard time with that transition. I have to look at the big picture, though, and know that the two of us will continue to learn from each other.  I will look to her for kindness and for patience, and I hope I can teach her a few things about how imperfection isn't the end of the world. This is the dance of moms and daughters, apparently. Ten years in and I’m still learning every single day about how to parent a daughter. There are things that I wasn’t taught by the woman who birthed me, and things that I need to change about what she did teach me. This choreography will be new and different, and maybe a little uncoordinated at times, and that’s fine, too. See? I’m a little more patient already.