Kicking the Bucket

Apparently I was nominated for this ALS ice-bucket challenge that’s running rampant on Facebook. I wouldn’t know, if my husband hadn’t told me…the challenge was posted on the page of someone I know but am not Facebook friends with.

I saw this person tonight, and he asked when I plan to post my own video.

While most people can be deterred with a joke or a vague excuse, this person didn’t lose track. And honestly, I don’t know this person well enough to know if he was just killing time (we were both waiting for children to finish an activity) or if he truly thought I should do this.

So I’ve run through the gamut of “I should probably do this even thought I don’t want to because it’s good to do things you don’t want to do but man I don’t want to and I definitely don’t want to do it just because I’m following the crowd and anyway, I don’t agree with the organization and its methods so I’m not interested in supporting it anyway but I guess I could do like other people and name a different organization that I do want to stand behind and besides who wants to be the late adopter and if I was going to do it I should have done it in the first few days, not now that everyone has done it but I suppose I should probably do it…” Yeah, I think I’ve covered it all.

But I realized that this is what it comes down to: The only reason I’m even vaguely considering it is because someone personally pressured me to. And while I think highly of what I know of this person, I don’t think that I care enough about his opinion of me to dump ice water on my head. I’ve spent too many years trying to simultaneously be noticed for being different and please everyone, while still managing to not be noticed, and I have to keep reminding myself that I’m over this.

If I choose to take the ice bucket challenge, it will be because I care about the issues, because I want to prompt others to make a difference for something…not because I’m trying to up the esteem of someone I see once a week.

It seems like a small thing, but for me, that’s pretty big.


Chaos turned twelve this month. I look at him and I see, underneath his still-little-boy face, the teen and the man he is on his way to becoming. And sometimes, I catch a glimpse of the character of that developing young man.

Last week he was among six boys in the back of my van. We were headed home for a treehouse campout birthday party, and everyone was excited. One of the boys had brought along a Lego magazine, and he offered to let Chaos read it. Chaos considered it, then said he’d rather read it when his own copy came in the email…and spend time with his friends now. The friend upped the pressure a little, but Chaos held firm. Finally, the friend sort of pushed the mag into Chaos’ lap, and my boy gently handed it back, saying, “I don’t want to read it right now, thanks. I’ll just spend time with you guys for now.”

Now, I get that he wasn’t being offered drugs or being pressured to go out a graffiti the nearest water tower. But the fact still remains that he was being pressured to do something, by someone whose opinion means something to him, and he was able to calmly stand up for himself, without making it into a confrontation.

Maybe it’s that he’s spend the past ten years standing up to a very strong personality–his sister, Mayhem. Maybe it’s that he’s confident enough in himself and his beliefs not to be swayed by an enticing picture in a magazine. All I know is this: I felt incredibly proud of my boy in that moment.

One Step Behind

So we’re back now, back from a crazy-long (almost 4 weeks!) trip that spanned 9 states, a conference, Smiddy’s parents’ 50th anniversary celebration, and too many good memories to list here. We’re back, but I’m reeling a little.

When did the “new post” layout change? I’m only asking because it seems like everything changed while we were gone, and the WordPress layout is one of those changes? Honestly, since our 21-hour drive home (turns out you CAN drive from western Nebraska to western Oregon in less than 24 hours), I’ve felt a step (or 12) behind.

I logged into FaceBook shortly before our trip’s end, and the first status I saw was from a friend here in Oregon. We’ve been growing a friendship, and I was excited to get back from this trip, take K to lunch, and start going through “Authentic Beauty” with her daughter. Instead, tomorrow night I’m going to her going-away party–the family is moving to Washington next weekend.

And I’m a little stunned. Before we left on our trip, K and I talked about getting the families together for brisket, about trading piano lessons for guitar lessons, and about kids and life. And now, well…

I keep thinking, it’s not like we were lifelong friends. We’ve known each other for 18 months. But we connected…we shared some deep stuff, and we laughed at the same things. And now the potential for that meaningful friendship is gone. It’s not that we’ll cease to be friends, but it will be different. And I think I’m mourning that potential for something bigger.

Yes, I have other friends here, but I don’t think I’ve connected with anyone the same way yet. It feels like I’m starting over. Again.

You know, I think it’s easier when I’m the one moving away.

Fearfulness and Dirty Turtles

They’re not really related, but they’re what’s on my mind.  (Is it really okay to use two contractions in a row?  Seems lazy…but not lazy enough to merit changing anything.)  I’m in a cabin on a lake in Minnesota–and thinking about how that bit of information probably isn’t specific enough for anyone to track me down, if they were so inclined, especially since my particular lake doesn’t show on most of the maps I’ve checked.  Anyway, I’m on vacation, with lots of fishin-on-a-boat-with-nothing-to-do-but-think time, and so I’ve got something to say.

Here’s the first:
Motherhood is a fearful calling.  Motherhood is a fear-filled calling, for that matter, and I’m not sure which description is more accurate.  It’s certainly something that we get to be mothers…that we are entrusted with these little people, set free with them even if we’ve never managed to keep a plant alive, allowed to shape and mold them in the way we see fit.  I’m always a little in awe of the whole deal.

But for me, there’s this continuous fear involved, too.  I ride in the boat with one hand clenched around the strap of a shortie’s life jacket–not because I think she will fall or because she is afraid or even because I worry that a sudden squall will tip our boat over and drown us–but because I don’t trust the water.  It’s a tricky thing, that water.  I’m not afraid of it, really, but when it comes to the shorties, I certainly don’t trust it.  There’s a myriad of other things I don’t trust:  swings with really long chains, excursions into really tall trees, hikes along narrow mountain ledges, roller coasters…it goes on and on.

And yet.

And yet, I find myself continuously letting go, giving permission, taking pictures of these adventures.  Because to hold on is to allow myself to be conquered by the fear, to let it grow and control me. I fight that every day.  I smile and click off another picture, try to seem at ease even when I’m sure the shortie is going to fall overboard, never to be seen again.  I loosen my grip on the life jacket strap (even if I realize seconds later that my fist is already clenched around it again), and I think about these people in trusted to me, and I vow to let them go, to let them grow and discover and even fear for themselves.

Oh, and about those dirty turtles?
My dad had this saying when it was taking us a long time to get all loaded into the car.  He’d say, “And we’re off like a herd of turtles.”  I came to understand that it was a tongue-in-cheek comment about our speed.  Other times he’d say, “We’re off like a dirty shirt.”  I’m still not entirely sure what he meant by that, but I use both sayings here and there.  Lately, I noticed that it has evolved to, “And we’re off, like a herd of dirty shirts.”


Frenzy is going to be a flower girl in her cousin’s wedding this fall, and she’s very excited. We talk about cousin DJ (yes, he’s a boy, even though the girl on the unending episodes of Full House is also named DJ) and his fiance Bette quite a lot. Because DJ didn’t start to date Bette until right before we moved to Oregon, Frenzy isn’t real familiar with her. Thankfully, we got a good visit in this spring, and will see her in a couple of weeks.

So the other night, part of our little chat went like this:

Frenzy: I like Bette now, Mom. At first I thought she was pretty weird.

Thora: Yeah? Why?

Frenzy: Well, because she laughs a lot [she does–she’s quite different from quiet DJ] and I didn’t understand why.

Thora: That makes sense. But now you don’t think she’s weird?

Now, here’s where the misunderstanding came in. Because what Frenzy said next was: No, but she knows a lot.

But for some reason, what I heard was: No but she has a nose job.

Talk about a double-take! Now Frenzy knows what a nose job is, I know Frenzy’s opinion on Bette’s nose (it’s just fine, she says), and we both agree that Bette knows a lot.

I do love parenting.

Real Life Does Not Imitate Movies, Apparently

The kids watched High School Musical 2 today, as part of their “Yay, we’re done with school for the year!” celebration. If you’ve seen that particular strain of movies, you know that high schoolers randomly break into song–even if they’re playing baseball.

So tonight we went to a real baseball game.  With real high schoolers.

Afterwards, both girls, at separate times, told me the game would have been much more fun if the players had danced and sang sometime during the game.  And, “the game was a lot longer in real life than it was in the movie.”

I wonder at what point they will realize how much real life isn’t like movies.


My Grampa comes to visit, and he tunes our piano.  I stand to the side, watching, fascinated.  He unwinds the thick red felt ribbon and carefully tucks it between the revealed strings, explaining that it will stop those strings from vibrating.  I hang on his every word, his every action, even though he tunes our piano every time he visits.  He strikes the tuning fork against his leg and listens to it ring, then plunks his gnarled finger (“I’m losing my fight against my enemy, Arthur,” he’ll say) down upon a key.

From his pouch of tools he deftly plucks just the right instrument and reaches into the depths of the piano, twisting and turning something I cannot see, and the tone of the note twists and turns with the movement of his hand.  He plunks again, twists again, plunks and strikes and twists until he is satisfied, then moves on to another key.

He explains to me about wavelengths and vibrations and hammers and dampers and life.  He strikes and plunks and twists and moves that thick red felt ribbon to a new position.  It is better than any television show I might watch.  Finally, he rolls his felt ribbon into a bright red coil and tucks it away with his tools, then closes up the piano, hiding the mystery of the music within.  He adjusts the bench, and then sits.

The first song is always, “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen”.  I could sit there forever and let the music of his heart swirl around me.  The big band and jazz tunes flow from the piano, find their way to my toes, my fingers, weave themselves into my heart. Too soon, he is done.

Later, we will go to the church together and he will tune the piano there.

Years later, I will play from the books my Gramma has sent me, the books my Grampa played from, the music of his heart, and I will remember.

It’s Been a Long Time…

…since I’ve laughed so hard.

We’re visiting friends from Kansas, just overnight, and somehow we wound up playing Mexican Train dominoes.  Not that it applies to anything, but you needed setting.  I was winning and Smiddy was sure I could have been helping him out a little.  Martha tried to convince the group I had sharpies and white out under the table, and that was how things were going so well for me.  Finally, after I messed Smiddy’s next play up yet again, I told him, “I took an online personality test once…it said I was pragmatic.”

Harry looked up, startled, then relaxed.  “I thought you said you took an online personality test and it said you were pregnant.”

Oh, did we laugh.

Later, we contemplated the ramifications of online pregnancy tests…

Vic didn’t know who to be more upset with:  Charles, Michael and Steven, or herself.  She left the girls off the list of possibilities because they’d been as much in the dark as she had.

To let off a little steam, she invited herself to the private table her best friend Claire held for them in her restaurant.

“Look at this!”  She shoved the envelope containing her spa gift card at Claire, making sure it came between Claire’s plate and her mouth.  It was a sure way to get Claire’s attention, after all.

“Yeah, so?  It’s a gift card.  What about it?”

“First of all, it was going to be your birthday present in a couple of weeks.  Now I have to start all over on the search for the amazing gift for you!  Secondly, Michael and Steven gave the exact same thing to the girls, and now they think we’re all going to go together…a girls’ day out or something!”

Claire actually stopped chewing for a moment. “You do have a bit of a problem, don’t you?” She swallowed and took a swig of wine.  “What are you going to do for my birthday now?”

Vic sputtered, trying to make the jump from her train of thought to Claire’s, then saw the glint in her friend’s eye.  “Yes, Claire, of course that’s the biggest problem here.  If I can’t pass my spa stay off on you, how will I ever decide what to get you?  I did cheese of the month club last year, and wine of the month club the year before that, and tulips aren’t edible, so bulb of the month club is out. Should I search for a chocolate of the month club?”

They laughed together, as only friends who have shared years of memories–celebrations, jokes, and even conflict–can.  And as it had been for years, Vic sobered first.  She fidgeted with her napkin, folding it into perfect quadrants, then into a triangle, while Claire shoved another bite of roasted vegetable lasagna into her mouth.  Finally, Claire looked straight into Vic’s eyes.

“Is this really about the spa, Vic?”

“Of course it is!  You know I could never sit still while gook dries on my face…and nails…and hair.”

“And that’s why you’re upset?  Your family loves you enough to send you away for a day of relaxing, and you might get bored?”

Vic didn’t even bother to answer her friend.


Why is it that when I’m sweeping all this dried mud up off the floor or scraping crusted toothpaste off the sink, there are whole paragraphs wandering through my mind (each of them Pulitzer worthy, of course),  but on this Sunday afternoon I sit in front of the keys with nothing but the mundane on my mind?  When life consists only of the mundane, there I am poetic, but when I have time to record my musings for posterity, then I am…bleak.

The sky outside is bleak, releasing huge splattering raindrops from time to time. And life these past few days has been bleak.  I keep finding myself pondering patterns.  How we set them, and carry them out without even realizing it, how we try to change those patterns, but they sneak back when we’re not paying attention.

Sometimes you feel powerless to change.

There’s hope, though.  I lost 8 pounds since January, and I’ve only gained 4 back.  And tomorrow’s another day, another day to set new patterns, to change my course.

Motivation has been on my mind a lot, too.  I question why I do what I do.  Did I take that soup to friends last week because I wanted to help them, or because I want them to like me?  Ah, some of it is sneaking back…this idea that I don’t trust people to like me on their own…I almost feel like I have to manipulate them (by doing things for them, etc) to like me.  And it makes me wonder…is it them I don’t trust, or me? Maybe I don’t trust myself to be likeable.

There are days where I stand, confident, in a newfound feeling that I don’t care what you think of me, whether I fit into the mold you think I should fill or not.  Those are the good days.

Today isn’t one of them.