Glory

Originally posted on Red's Wrap:

Roy and Virginia at Lake Michigan 1936

They were married a good long time. Longer than most of us will be married. My mother would say, “Nobody knows what’s in a marriage but the people in it,” so I hesitate to describe their relationship but, to me, it seemed that there plenty of rough times, long periods of fine. Theirs was a ‘no doubt’ relationship, inconceivable they would ever split up, no matter how badly the ship was listing. You knew that if you ever surprised them in the kitchen. They were always really into each other.

But my father was a tough, bottom-line guy. He was ridiculously self-sufficient, a direct result of coming of age in the Depression and being the son of a carpenter. As a kid, he made his own skis, he built a house, fixed our cars, climbed on the roof to straighten our antennae, rewired and re-plumbed things. Once, as a single…

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The Scary People are Coming to Dinner

Jan Wilberg:

We don’t have scary people coming to dinner soon, but if we did, this is how it would be all over again.

Originally posted on Red's Wrap:

The part about extending invitations to dinner is luscious.”Oh, you really must come, see our new kitchen.” Head toss, wave. The best feeling ever is when the event itself is a long ways off, a beautiful feast on the horizon, everyone well-coiffed, pleasant, and stainless. Idyllic.

Then comes the steady drip of days counted off. “You know, it’s only a few weeks until the scary people are coming to dinner. We really need to plan our menu.”

This is tough when the scary people are amazing chefs with a pickle and separate dish for every occasion. My husband considers what to cook because, after all, it is his cooking skills that the scary people will appreciate and rightly so. He will not touch a recipe unless it involves at least three spices we don’t have and an indexed set of instructions. You know, first you de-vein the shrimp and then…

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My First Three Days as an Au Pair

Jan Wilberg:

The gorgeous twin boys are now two years old and are visiting! It made me remember my first three days as an au pair.

Originally posted on Red's Wrap:

woman holding baby

After a three-day apprenticeship, my twin infant grandsons were left in my care. I would say ‘our care’ but my husband was asleep on the couch for the duration so it seems unnecessarily inclusive and gratuitous to allow much credit to flow his way. He was mostly inert; but still at the ready should all hell break loose. For definition purposes: two babies crying in a loud, insistent way constitutes all hell breaking loose. Just so you know.

My beautiful daughter, clad in a long, brilliant blue, summer dress and gold sandals, held the car keys in her hand, looked at me and gave me the final instructions.

“Just keep them alive.”

I like a low bar.

To give me a leg up, she had swaddled each just-fed boy in little Velcro contraptions that, when you are charged with untangling them in the pile of clean clothes and folding them…

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Kindness for Its Own Sake

Today, I’m posting a link to a piece I wrote about thinking that there’s magic in single acts, that doing one thing will change everything. And how I realized that putting my expectations on someone else is wrong-headed.

Kindness should happen for its own sake and not as a means to an end. That was the lesson for me that I tried to write about in this piece called “Wearing My Kindness Like a Coat” published today on Mamalode.

Q and A with a Sleepless Person

Q: Why didn’t you sleep last night?

A: I don’t have a reason. It just occurred.

Q: What was bothering you?

A: Why does something have to be bothering me? Maybe I woke up just so I could think hard about who Mitt Romney’s running mate was in 2012.

Q: Why not just Google it and then you could’ve gone back to sleep?

A: Because I would have had to look at my phone in the dark, because the light from the phone would have hurt my eyes, because I didn’t want my husband waking up and thinking I was on Facebook at 3:00 in the morning, because I wasn’t 100% sure that Mitt Romney actually ran for President in 2012 or if it was his father George and it seemed like I should settle that in my brain before going further with any investigation, because it was a test of my extraordinary political knowledge which I was failing so it was keeping my awake. A circular situation.

Q: Not a lot of people lie awake nights worrying about who was Mitt Romney’s running mate. There had to be something else bothering you. What was it?

A: Having twins.

Q: Having twins? Seriously? At your age? Oh my, no wonder you couldn’t sleep!

A: Oh for Chrissakes. Not having twins. Having twins visit. Two-year old twins. My grandsons. Boys. That’s not supposed to make a difference, you know, gender neutrality and all, but it does. Cover your ears. Boys will make a sock into a stick they can hit valuable things with, like people and your best wine glasses. And they catapult themselves everywhere. Everything’s an explosion with them. And they only like things that rattle or click or buzz. I fixed that though. I washed all the toys with batteries. Submerged them. No noise for Nana.

Q: You’re sounding a little wicked right now.

A: It’s fatigue talking.

Q: So that’s it? Mitt Romney and twins?

A: No, I also thought a lot about whether Orange is the New Black is done for. I  miss Vee. Now, the show seems too jokey. I also thought about my husband’s torn Achilles tendon and wondered if he would ever go on a long hike with me again. That made me pretty sad so I went on to thinking about backing cars into parking spots. When that kind of thinking happens, you know you’re about to fall asleep again. Nonsense thoughts or non-Romney thoughts, the harbingers of sleep.

Q: You know you wrote this whole post about being awake in the middle of the night. Who do you think even cares if you were awake and couldn’t sleep?

A: Beats me, Sugar. I was just sitting here minding my own business until you showed up with your list of questions. As if I was the only soul awake last night, like there weren’t little iPhone lights gleaming all over North America, like people weren’t Googling chicken recipes to use the leftover coconut milk in the refrigerator or hunting down their now-ancient prom date on Ancestry.com. There’s a whole community of us, dear heart. We just lay low and wait for morning.

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Q: Anything else you want to add? Any last words for your audience?

A: Those are my last words. Or maybe, these are them.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Groupthink.”

Do the Bold Thing

I’m no stranger to bold things. Two marriages that kind of happened out of the blue. Children we had to go get from a foreign country. Jobs taken and quit. Brinksmanship of varying types.

Once, after having been driven to complete madness by a married lover, I drove to his house, knocked on the door and told his wife who I was. She invited me in and we had an interesting chat around the kitchen table, the three of us, almost like we’d been neighbors for years. I don’t remember if there was coffee. She seemed unperturbed, though, like possibly I wasn’t the first happy surprise on the doorstep. Leaving, trying to avoid his silver Corvette,I backed in a light pole on the side of their driveway, causing a U-shaped dent in my yellow Toyota’s bumper.

I drove back to my little upper flat, quivering from the likely consequences of my bold move. Was it really true, I asked myself, that any action was better than no action? I wasn’t sure but I knew that my bold move had thrown off the rocks on my heart and soul. I would probably end up alone, I knew that, but I’d be free and light in my agony.

Deciding to adopt was a bold thing. And it was something my husband and I did three separate times. Each time requiring a level of mindlessness that would never be repeated in our lives. We should do this, we said to each other. Why, we asked. Because we can, we answered. The analysis got no deeper. After the first adoption, the lure of the bold thing was too powerful to be waylaid by questions or analysis. I could smell an orphan from thousands of miles away and it was the just the scent alone that I needed to find them.

Explaining this to people now, twenty years since our last adoption, comes off as the recounting of folk lore. I can see it on people’s faces. They think I’m skimming over crucial details, not fully disclosing how thoroughly we investigated each of these children. Because, after all, who would do that? Just take children from another country knowing almost nothing about them? Well, actually thousands of people do this every year. The phrase ‘wing and a prayer’ was invented for these amazing parents, all veterans of the bold thing, I am proud to be in their club, wear that shirt, show my so-secret tattoo.

Now I am hungry for a bold thing. I am on the hunt for it all day. I wait for it to appear by the side of my bed in the middle of the night, be written on the lined pages of the little notebook I keep by my lamp.

But there is no cliff or mountain in sight. What is that extraordinary life-changing thing that I will do simply because I can?

I am 67. I am healthy and pretty smart, though fairly deaf. That last fact limits many bold things that involve understanding what other people are saying. In some ways, working to be a soldier in the army of coping with a disability has become my bold thing, or the stand-in for a bold thing, but it is tiring and unrewarding. Since no one really knows what it’s like in my head, there is little cheering for my perseverance. There is no orphan in my arms, no dent in my fender. My bold thing is flat and endless, no fireworks, no crescendo. Dreary and internal.

So I stay hungry for a bold thing.

I am not willing to believe that my bold things are all done and hung in my closet with my graduation hood and my mother’s wedding dress. I am not ready to inventory my memories of former bravery or foolhardiness. I don’t want to be done being brash, I yearn to be so fully convinced of something that I will fly, will hurtle myself into the next bold thing.

There is something dazzling somewhere. It just needs to make itself known to me and I will be ready.

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In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Take It From Me.” The question was to the effect: what is advice you give other people but have trouble following yourself.

Cook Something

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Cook something. Anything.

Whoever is home first. Cook something.

Make it so when the other people come home, the house smells like food. It’s more important, in my book, that people smell food cooking than what the food actually tastes like.

When I had a houseful of kids, I wanted them to smell dinner cooking while they were upstairs. I wanted them to anticipate something fabulous on the table. Nine times out of ten what ended up on their plates was way less than fabulous. I banked on anticipation smothering disappointment.

Cooking dinner is a way of saying “I care enough about you to give you hope.”