Living out Loud

My sweet girl and I were feeling a little blue today, and for no apparent reason (HORMONES). We went to Central Market to get a smoothie for her, and serious coffee for me. As we are sitting there enjoying each other’s company I overhear the very young baristas say something about Whitney Houston.

infant barista #1: Yeah…. Whitney Houston

infant barista #2: Who is that?

infant barista #1: Are you kidding? You know.. that really OLD pop singer.

I can’t even see the juveniles, but I feel compelled to set them straight from my table around the corner:


They holler back:

48 years old!

I glance at the elderly couple sitting near us and say, “Well damn, guess I have one foot in the grave!” Elderly lady replies, “Yeah, and I’m standing right in it with both feet!”

infant baristas: She’s died.

<insert look of disbelief with sick feeling about grave joke and an overwhelming sense of mortality>

As Ruby and I head out of the cafe and into the store, I ran into a friend and shared the sad news.  And then something very sweet transpired. As I was waiting in the restroom for my kid, a woman that had overheard me talking to my friend asked, “is it true?” She whips out her phone and shows an article denying the story. I show her my google news, headlines reporting her death… and we are both wondering… and hoping… that she is right.  We head back into the store and her hubs is  there. He looks right at her and said,”It’s true. AP confirms it.”

This woman, of my age, and a total stranger, turns to me and we hug. As we part, she says the names of Whitney’s most popular songs as if conversation… and I just said I need to watch the Bodyguard again.

Ruby and I went to my van, I downloaded “I will always love you,” cranked it up loud and drove away crying.

Now… I am not a die hard Whitney fan. Some of her songs are down right embarrassing. Probably because I can still see myself singing into a hairbrush about ‘wanting to dance with somebody, with somebody who loves me.’ It is so sad that she has died. Beautiful voice, dramatic life of drugs and that bad Bobby Brown, and a daughter that she leaves behind. Just so sad.

But what happened in the store today was lovely. I don’t have ‘walls.’ I used to, and I’m not sure how or when that all changed but I talk to strangers all the time. I don’t HUG strangers often, but it was perfect today. I like to think of it as living out loud. Some of the best encounters I’ve had have come from living out loud.

Oh.. and rest in peace dear Whitney. I will always love you.


Old Time Religion

My church at Christmastime in 2009

I have a confession.

It has been a very, very, long time since I’ve been to church. About five months. Which means my children haven’t been in five months either.

*Hangs head in shame* but not for too long, because I’m Lutheran, not Catholic.

Our pastor had even called twice to check on us. <insert more head hanging here> What?!  Summertime was busy, and there were things…that always seemed… be happening….on Sundays around 10:30 in the morning. Busy things.

Like sleeping.

I know. More shame. But I went to church today and my pastor forgave me for that and a few other things I mentioned only in my own head during confessional time.

Non of your bidness. It’s between me and Him.

While sitting in the second row wooden pew of our almost 100 year old sanctuary, my husband looks at me and points to the hymnal. Not to get me to follow along, because obviously I know the service by heart. He wanted me to notice that it was not the red hymnal we’ve had for the last couple of years but the GREEN one was back!

When we switched to the red hymnal a couple of years ago, it was very hard for me. Lutherans to not handle change well. It’s pretty much what we are known for according to Garrison Keillor. That, and our singing.

I love the GREEN one. It’s so much better. Everyone knows. I quickly snatched it up and flipped too ……..oh there it was…..hymn #221.

How I’ve missed you! Sent Forth by God’s Blessing. The sweetest, most cheerful a hymn that ever was sung. I used to sing it to my babies and dance around with them. Sang it to them on the changing table. I’m not making this up. The song brings me total joy.  I tried to find a version online to share with you, but none can compare to the organ in my church and the heartfelt singing of my smallish congregation. I checked the YouTube, and the iTunes. Nada.  Port Madison Lutheran Church sounds the best.

I was happy. The sun was shining through the beautiful windows, my family was with me, the green hymnal in my hands again. But God decided to throw one more little cookie my way.

Wait for it…..

Hymn #221 turned out to be the closing hymn! I hadn’t looked to the end of the service program to see what we would be singing, what with my standing there in bliss.

The organ started. I gasped! My husband looked at me and smiled, so did my kids. And I cried. But I sang.

Just for a little insight for you non-Lutherans, here’s how Garrison Keillor sums up my religious peeps:

by Garrison Keillor
I have made fun of Lutherans for years – who wouldn’t, if you lived in Minnesota? But I have also sung with Lutherans and that is one of the main joys of life, along with hot baths and fresh sweet corn.

We make fun of Lutherans for their blandness, their excessive calm, their fear of giving offense, their lack of speed and also for their secret fondness for macaroni and cheese. But nobody sings like them. If you ask an audience in New York City, a relatively Lutheranless place, to sing along on the chorus of Michael Row the Boat Ashore, they will look daggers at you as if you had asked them to strip to their underwear. But if you do this among Lutherans they’ll smile and row that boat ashore and up on the beach! And down the road! Lutherans are bred from childhood to sing in four-part harmony. It’s a talent that comes from sitting on the lap of someone singing alto or tenor or bass and hearing the harmonic intervals by putting your little head against that person’s rib cage. It’s natural for Lutherans to sing in harmony. We’re too modest to be soloists, too worldly to sing in unison. When you’re singing in the key of C and you slide into the A7th and D7th chords, all two hundred of you, it’s an emotionally fulfilling moment. I once sang the bass line of Children of the Heavenly Father in a room with about three thousand Lutherans in it; and when we finished, we all had tears in our eyes, partly from the promise that God will not forsake us, partly from the proximity of all those lovely voices. By our joining in harmony, we somehow promise that we will not forsake each other. I do believe this: People, these Lutherans, who love to sing in four-part harmony are the sort of people you could call up when you’re in deep distress. If you’re dying, they’ll comfort you. If you’re lonely, they’ll talk to you. And if you’re hungry, they’ll give you tuna salad!

The following list was compiled by a 20th century Lutheran who, observing other Lutherans, wrote down exactly what he saw or heard:

1. Lutherans believe in prayer, but would practically die if asked to pray out loud.

2. Lutherans like to sing, except when confronted with a new hymn or a hymn with more than four stanzas.

3. Lutherans believe their pastors will visit them in the hospital, even if they don’t notify them that they are there.

4. Lutherans usually follow the official liturgy and will feel it is their way of suffering for their sins.

5. Lutherans believe in miracles and even expect miracles, especially during their stewardship visitation programs or when passing the plate.

6. Lutherans feel that applauding for their children’s choirs would make the kids too proud and conceited.

7. Lutherans think that the Bible forbids them from crossing the aisle while passing the peace.

8. Lutherans drink coffee as if it were the Third Sacrament.

9. Some Lutherans still believe that an ELCA bride and an LCMS groom make for a mixed marriage.

10. Lutherans feel guilty for not staying to clean up after their own wedding reception in the Fellowship Hall.

11. Lutherans are willing to pay up to one dollar for a meal at church.

12. Lutherans think that Garrison Keeler stories are totally factual.

13. Lutherans still serve Jell-O in the proper liturgical color of the season and think that peas in a tuna noodle casserole adds too much color.

14. Lutherans believe that it is OK to poke fun at themselves and never take themselves too seriously.

And finally, you know when you’re a Lutheran when:

It’s 100 degrees, with 90% humidity, and you still have coffee after the service.

You hear something really funny during the sermon and smile as loudly as you can!

Donuts are a line item in the church budget, just like coffee.

The communion cabinet is open to all, but the coffee cabinet is locked up tight.

All your relatives graduated from a school named Concordia.

When you watch a “Star Wars” movie and they say, May the Force be with you, you respond, “and also with you”.

You actually understand those folks from Lake Wobegon, MN.

And lastly, it takes ten minutes to say good-bye

Peace be with you! And also with you!


Today I woke up, did my usual FB check on my phone… making my plans to skype later with Bojana, and I saw the news stream. Everyone remembering the 9/11 attacks. I was instantly depressed. It’s not like it took me by surprise. I was not… “oh yeah, today is the 11th,” but more like the darkness I knew was coming a few days ago had arrived.

My chest hurt. Lump in my throat, but I had my 3 kids and 3 more that slept over to make pancakes for so I pushed through it and remained normalish.

It’s my PMS week though. I don’t care if that is too much information for you. It’s what it is. So I knew I would not have a chance to make it through the day without crying.

But I’m not a masochist, so I did not seek out 9/11 stuff on TV, or the web. I would limit to scanning status updates on the FB. I did catch the news tonight. I figured I should, out of respect. Dammit. They showed THAT footage.

It’s so hard to watch isn’t it? Seeing the second plane hit… being all confused still….and then the tower crumbles. Then the next one. I was squirming in my chair, covering my eyes, holding my throat and reliving it.

I had been 30 years old with a 1 year old daughter and pregnant with #2. The phone rang just before 7 am, but I didn’t get to it in time. I thought it was my husband on his morning commute and called him but he said it wasn’t him. We didn’t have caller ID. I have no idea who called and woke me up that morning. Then my husband asked if I was ok, and if I was watching the news. So I turned it on with him still on the phone piecing together what I was seeing. Before it made sense I watched the South tower collapse. By the time the second one came down I was on my knees sobbing. I could not believe this was happening.

Some people are more emotional then others. I’m definitely of the MORE emotional types and the sadness I felt in those days was the deepest I have ever felt. I was scared, hopeless, helpless, in a pit of absolute despair. And pregnant. I started to worry that my sadness would affect my pregnancy. I bet a lot of pregnant women felt that way. What kind of a world would he be born into? Everything was different now.

And River IS a different kind of kid. I do think my sadness affected him. I truly do. He is very sensitive and very empathetic. His poor little heart. He asked me what 9/11 was tonight as the news was on. He knew some of what happened because I would always lose it at Fire Station field trips when they would demonstrate their locator beeper. Tonight I got out our magazines that we had saved from September 2001. We talked about the pictures, the bad men, and all the heroes. Tears running down that boys face.

I really don’t know what else to say.

Pretending to be my dog….

It has been quite crazy these last two weeks. I needed it to be so much less crazy. My coping skills are nearly broken… and my patience left mid week.  It has been a roller coaster ride, that spat me out finally in my front yard, on my back, staring into the sky next to my dog.  But to just review this recent ride:

Week before last was the end of the school year for  West Sound Academy. Students taking final exams, international students saying good bye, and then graduation for the class of 2011.  I’m so proud of those wonderful young people.

And then I start to plummet down. My own kids had their last week of school. When I wanted to celebrate with them I couldn’t. I wanted to just relax, and couldn’t. I was racing to get report cards edited, complete the final transcripts, so much work to do! My two international students were packing to go back to their families. I wanted to hang out with them, and couldn’t. Philipp’s mom even came to stay with us for a few days. What little time I could squeeze in to be with her left us both wishing we had MORE TIME. And then yesterday they were gone. Fred left for China this morning. I’ve been cheated out of the moments that were supposed to be filled with joy and reflection of the last year.

I’ve hit the bottom and I’m exhausted.

I noticed my old dog lying in the front yard.  There are tufts of her fur everywhere because she is constantly shedding. I start to walk around her, and pick up the fur.

She’s awake, but has her eyes closed, just chilling out. I want THAT. So I lie on the ground next to her. She checks me out and gives me a few kisses. I try to imagine what she might be thinking, and it occurs to me that she is probably not thinking at all. She’s just blinking.

I think, “I’m gonna try this.”  On my back staring up through the branches of a tree and into the sky beyond.  It’s cloudy. Quiet. All I can hear is bird chatter and my son sweeping his hand through his bin of Legos in his room. I can hear an airplane. That’s all. Birds, Legos, and an airplane. I blink.. like my dog,  totally wishing I was really a dog and this was the extent of my existence.

My old girl Leica… she will be 15 in August. that is 105! I look over at her, blinking, shedding, chilling.  Shedding. That’s what I was doing…. picking up fur in the front yard.  So.. I give up the sweet fantasy and decide to finish the task, and resume peopleish type things.

But I can’t get off the ground. Seriously. My back seizes up as I try to just roll over. It’s awkward.. I’m wincing in pain, trying to get on all fours so I can somehow pull myself to my feet.  She’s blinking… still, at 105.  I’m 40, slowly trying to stand up and hoping none of my neighbors chose this moment for an evening stroll.

So… I totally enjoyed pretending to be her. But my body is not used to being still, and not on the ground.. so it looks like I’m stuck in peoplehood for now.  Here is a darling video my husband put together of our old girl last summer.. doing her doggy chill out thing.  What  a life.

dog dayz from gman on Vimeo.

White on Rice

One thing I need to warn tell you about my international family is that we are in NO WAY politically correct. We are a more like a cultural phenomenon:

One Korean born dude with a German last name who grew up in the midwest and speaks no Korean. Read: Twinkie

One white girl from the PNW in complete denial of her ancestral redneckedness who USED to say worsh, not wash, and often ended sentences in prepositions. Gasp. See: Where would you like to meet at?

Two little half and half spawn from Twinkie and Redneckdenialgirl that are incredibly beautiful, and no one believes they are from my womb.

One Chinese son who goes by the name Fred because, he wanted an American name this year.

One German son who goes by Philipp, because that is the name his parents gave him.

One daughter, by international exchange, who is back in Serbia but still in our hearts. Every. Day.

And finally one and a half dogs.  Because my old dog has a goiter the size of a puppy on her neck.  We named the goiter/puppy Lance (the verb). I know, gross huh? So.. one and a half dogs.

The fact that we are all so different and under one roof is a test to our sanity every day.  So we laugh a lot. Have great dinner discussions, and embrace our diversity with racist humor.

One evening over a dinner of steamed veggies, baked chicken, and rice, our beloved Chinese Fred says:

“Mom, I’d like to take some rice and veggies for lunch sometime. Will you teach me how to make rice?”

You could have heard a pin drop. Even the 9 year old was shocked. Then my husband, the twinkie, turns to him, slugs him in the arm and says, “Dammit Fred! You can’t make rice?! You are a disgrace to our people!”

When I finally found my voice, I said, “Really Fred? You don’t know how to make rice? You never did… YOUR ENTIRE LIFE IN CHINA? Ok, I’ll teach you how to use the rice cooker. It’s quite simple.”

Philipp, our German, God love him, perks up, “Fred, I would be happy to show you how to make rice. I know how!”

I wish you could hear the accents.. it adds so much to this story.

I sat back in my chair and said, “Well isn’t that something? I’ll have to shoot video of this and call it White on Rice.”

Twinkie laughed.

The Passion is Back!

My Blog and I have drifted apart. There has been much to say but I struggled with the ‘write’ way to say it, and the right time. So there have been months of awkward silence. I began to wonder if I would ever blog again, did I even want to?
Then a friend told me about the wordpress app for the iPhone. I thought, maybe this could work for me and my Blog. It has already! I’m using it now and I’m excited to blog again. Now I can blog when I’m ready. No longer do I have to worry that I’ll be too tired when it’s time to blog. I can nail a post whenever I feel like it.
The wordpress app is the Viagra that my blog relationship needed.
*smokes cigarette*

Dieting theory…

So, for the last several weeks I have been on a diet adopted a new healthy eating plan.  I cut out sugar, salt, wheat, and dairy.  All of them. At once.  Why?  Because I just turned 39 *gasp* and I want to reduce the size of my ass before 40 hits.

No Sugar. Giving up sugar is tough. I loves me my chocolate. After a while, I was craving it less and less, so……Sugar–I’m over you.

No wheat. Really not an issue.  I’m not a big bread lover. Quitting wheat was a piece of cake. Or rather, not the cake, whatever.

No Salt.  More difficult. Especially during ‘that time’ of the month when I pretty much could use one of those salt lick blocks my grandpa used for his cows. Don’t know what I’m talking about?

I can totally relate to this kid. Nomnom.  So giving up salt is a struggle.

No Dairy.  None cheese.  None.  I don’t drink milk…so whoop dee doo.  I don’t eat ice cream much.  I’m on the lactose intolerant side so Milk and Ice Cream are no biggie.  But Cheese.  People, you don’t even know.  I lay in bed and fantasize about cheese. I. Really. Do.  Like fantasizing about quietly sneaking out of bed in the middle of the night and gently opening the refrigerator, stealth-fully opening the ziplock bag of sliced swiss cheese and peel off 2, maybe 3 slices and then tear them into strips and savor them, slowly.

But I never do that. I just fantasize about doing that. I won’t do that later tonight. I’m pretty sure.

So… with all this giving up of the good stuff, my waistline has gotten smaller.  And my butt, maybe a little.  But(t) she gots a long way to go.

You know what word I loathe? Plateau.

I hate that word.  I’m there.  My metabolism has hit the plateau phase of my diet.  It has become all too comfortable with the healthy nut bars, low sodium smoked turkey, and non stop fruits and veggies.  So, I decided to, uh, make my metabolism uncomfortable. Confuse it a bit so that when I eat my celery it goes back to slimville.

Tonight I had a cheeseburger with bacon on it, and I ate the bun, and I washed it down with a Dr. Pepper.  Take that you stodgy metabolism!  You didn’t see that coming did you?  You were expecting another bell pepper, or apple, or…or… a handful of almonds huh?  Well I sure as shit shocked you, so tomorrow when you get the healthy food again….get back to work!

That’s my theory anyway.  Every now and then you gotta throw something crazy at your metabolism so it doesn’t get too comfortable on health food.  I’m already plotting my next attack.  Steak with Bleu Cheese crumbles served on a bed of french fries. And a chocolate malt.  *sidenote- while typing ‘chocolate malt’ I accidentally typed ‘male’ instead of ‘malt.’ That makes me giggle.*