They hold my heart…Mother’s Day, 2016

I’ve written a Mother’s Day blog post for the past two years and wondered if I would have enough in me to come up with a third post.  Who am I kidding?  Of COURSE I have more to say about the wonders of motherhood.  I’ve been a mom for almost half of my life.  I’ve got material.

This is my first Mother’s Day that has all three of my kids stretched across the country –  Portland, Ft. Collins and most recently, Chicago.   Honestly, this mom is feeling a bit lonely for her kids…so lonely that I bought a ticket to Portland for a few days so I can spend Mother’s Day with my oldest son and his wife.  With all three kids no longer living in the area, the day has changed quite a bit for me from when they were young.  There were many years that they would ask me what I wanted to do on my very special, all about me day and my usual response was “just be with you kids, that’s all.”  That wasn’t exactly true.  I wanted to go to the movies.  By myself.  I wanted to sit through two hours of ANYTHING without interruption and eat pop corn and Milk Duds.  OK, I said it.  But how does one tell three young children who have just delivered to my bedside a tray with a stack of Pop Tarts and half-filled glass of orange juice, that they have so carefully prepared in my honor,  that I was thinking about going to the movies.  Alone.   Well you don’t.  The post Pop Tart glow would be faded by lunch time when life would get back to normal with laundry to do, meals to sort out and and fights to break up, because it was Mother’s Day and everyone wanted to sit by mom.  Sweet, but they were still fights.  That’s when 2 hours in a movie theater sounded like the perfect celebration for mom.  I feel guilty even typing that but know there may be a reader or two out there nodding yes.  Honestly, days were challenging with 3 under the age of 4 and if it truly was a day to honor mom, than did spending an afternoon at the movies all alone sound like an over the top request?  I’ll cut to the chase right now and confess, it was only an idea.  I never went to the movies on Mother’s Day.

My thoughts have changed.  I long for just a little bit of the chaos of 3 young kids because I miss them.  I truly miss them and I miss that active role of mothering.   I’ve mentioned the philosophy of raising kids with both wings and roots in posts before because it is something that I truly believe in and tried my best to adhere to when raising my own kids.  The wings part seems to have taken very well with all 3 of them.  It’s bittersweet for me, but it’s ultimately what I wished for them – to not be afraid of moving out of their comfort zone and exploring life’s options, stumbles and all.  It was me who had Emery, at the tender age of barely knowing how to read, direct us to the baggage claim on every trip we took together, because I was trying to instill a sense of confidence in her regarding travel, something I didn’t get until much later in life. And Grant… when he wanted to apply to the Art Institute of Chicago, I wanted to suggest the KC Art Institute instead,  but I didn’t.  He needed to test out those anxious wings of his and I knew that.  And finally, when after a brief return to KC to live and feeling homesick for the city they had fallen in love with,  once again it was me who told Thomas and Brooke to return to Portland because I knew how happy living there had made them. Yes, I had a hand in this situation.

When Thomas was a baby, I went out and purchased every book I could find on how to be the best parent ever raising happy, healthy, confident, kind kids who loved their moms like crazy (I paraphrased that).  I pored through those books like I had just enrolled in Parenting 101, desperate to get an A.  There seemed to be too much at stake and I didn’t want to get anything wrong, if indeed I did have that kind of control as a parent.  It was as if I was sculpting a child and was so afraid my chisel would chip away something that would leave my sculpted kid lopsided and maybe missing a piece and there I’d be, chisel in hand, surveying the damage.  Fortunately, that phase was very short lived and thankfully, kids are far more resilient than stone. 18 months later and one baby went to two and then there were three and I hardly had time to read a recipe let alone a book.  I got real.  I listened to my intuition, flew by the seat of my pants, had on the job sink or swim training and parented from the soul.  My soul.  I can’t say that I’d recommend all of my methods, but at the time, they worked.  Case in point, when someone’s name showed up in permanent marker on the back seat of the almost new mini van.   No one would confess to the crime, including the child who was given the name that was carefully spelled out on the seat.  He (or she) was also the only child who knew how to write all of his (or her) letters right side up and facing the right direction, a strong piece of evidence that pointed me right to the culprit, but still, no confessions.

“OK, kids, since no one will admit to writing on the back seat, it looks like I’ll have to dust for prints to get my answer.”

Seriously, too many Perry Mason shows as a kid and that just rolled off my tongue like I actually knew what I was talking about.  But what do you know?  I had a confession before I could leave the room to go get my fingerprint kit (which of course did not exist).  I used that rather poorly construed method countless times until one day, one kid said…. “Hey… wait a minute….”  And I was busted.  That’s what’s called parenting from the seat of your soul-filled pants and it works until it doesn’t. You do what you do and make it up as you go along.  Some things stick and others fall away and the whole process, perfectly imperfect, is called parenting.

One of my more memorable Mother’s Days was spent shopping for a couch for our newly remodeled basement.  It was not how I wanted to spend my afternoon, nor was it my idea or anything that would have even come to mind, but I did write what turned out to be one of my favorite essays about the whole event.  My kids,  husband included, were enthralled with the huge couch “systems” that had trays that came out of seat cushions, remote holders, food holders and mechanisms to make the whole thing move for your bottom and back comfort.  You had to plug it in.  Your couch.  Plugged in.  My attempts at directing the wide-eyed crew to the normal furniture failed miserably and it was Emery who noticed my discontent in the mega furniture mart.

“This isn’t what you wanted to do for Mother’s Day, is it, Mom?”

Somehow, her little bit of understanding was all I needed.  She’s the girl.  She may be in a similar situation as a mother down the road some day.  I gave her a smile and a women to girl nod of camaraderie.

“No.  Not really.  But we’re all together and that’s all that matters.”

Not the exact truth, but close.

Later that night I’d be listening to Bonnie Rait’s latest CD (my Mother’s Day gift) mingling with the sound of rain hitting the roof while I cooked dinner because who knew you needed to make restaurant reservations so far in advance for Mother’s Day and well… I was the one who knew how to cook.  And it was glorious in a very homey, this is what it’s all about kind of way and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything, including 2 hours alone in a movie theater eating Milk Duds and popcorn.  Not on your life.

Being a mom is a role that I covet more than anything else in my life.  It has opened a part of my heart to a love that I never could have imagined before and although my kids are all grown and living their lives away from me, the lessons of love continue.   Those 3 souls who have my heart, reminded me without knowing it of the beauty of simply stopping and seeing the wonder in things.  They woke up the little girl in me who colored outside of the lines, was messy, let her imagination guide her and broke a rule or two in the process (of course just the unimportant ones).  I did things as a parent that before kids would have had me shaking my head and mumbling under my breath,  “I’ll never do that when I have kids…”  Never, ever say never.

When Thomas was 2 1/2 and Grant was 1,  they ate an entire bottle of children’s Tylenol.  Obviously, this was certainly nothing I ever anticipated because I had every safety mechanism in place to prevent such a thing, but my never say never came when I left a partially packed suitcases out, while getting ready for a family trip.  The Tylenol, normally out of reach and site, was front and center for my little ones to discover.  I was on the phone with a friend when Thomas came up to me, handed me the empty bottle and asked if he and Grant could have more.  I immediately hung up and called Poison Control, whose number I had placed near the phone before I even crossed the threshold with my firstborn, never expecting that I’d actually have to call it some day.  To see my two young boys, one still a baby and the other not yet tall enough to reach my waist, throwing up because the syrup of ipecac was working, absolutely broke this mom’s heart. They were both crying and through the throwing up and tears,  Thomas, looked up at me and asked me why they both were so sick.  If I could have taken the ipecac for them to rid their bodies of the Tylenol, I would have done that in a heartbeat. A couple of hours later and they were good as new, as if nothing had happened.  Their blood tests showed that they were fine and the doctor made a special point to tell me that both boys had the exact same amounts of Tylenol in their systems.  Well what do you know?  Thomas had finally learned to share with his little brother.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t anything he should have been sharing in the first place, but that was another story.

Moms learn to multi task out of necessity, which unfortunately I’m learning is a difficult skill to “unlearn.”  I wasn’t any more skilled than any other mother when I say that it wasn’t the least bit unusual to be cooking dinner while calming a toddler in the midst of a tirade and hear the phone ring and a “Can you get that?” Of course I can.   Oh and did I mention that I was also nursing a baby?  Moms are jugglers and while we almost always get it right, every once and a while one of the balls drops (hopefully not the nursing baby) and we have to stop, reassess what is important and sometimes that most important thing is to simply sit on the floor of a messy house, with laundry piling up and dirty dishes in the sink and play… roll up those sleeves, put a magic cape on, don a fancy hat and play.  Mothering is messy.  Kids are messy, but they are also very good teachers and will help you prioritize without even knowing it.  They are also scam artists, but very cute ones.

So, to all the mother’s out there, whether your kids live across the country, down the street or down in your basement, we truly are all in this together.  The most flexible muscle in a mom’s body is her heart, and mine, having grown with the birth of each one of my children,  now stretches itself in three different directions across the country. Those three stretchers of my heart have made me who I am today and gave me the role in my life that I covet beyond all others.  Mom.

Happy Mother’s day to you all!

When you ask your kids to text a photo of them together, but don’t specify which way you want them to face… Goofballs.
Right here.  My heart.


One posture at a time…


My tendency in life with things I become passionate about, is to dive in head first then sort myself out on the details later,  often with  hopes of both wings AND a prayer to sort me out if need be.  It’s not the best way to do things, but seems to be the way I naturally lean.  Yoga was an exception to that and  I have no idea why, but I dipped myself into the experience very slowly, and with caution when I began some 20 years ago.   I loved how it made me feel post practice (at the time I was doing Bikram’s 26 poses in a heated room, which I gave up several years ago) but still only had a toe in as I wasn’t quite ready to fully commit.  It was like getting a full body massage but with my coat still on.   As time passed, I’d teeter between serious and shoot, I forgot to do yoga this week, which would roll into forgetting to do it this month and then I really wasn’t doing yoga at all and where was that darn mat anyway?  I was skeptical.  I was not hooked.  I was sampling the goods but not willing to go deep enough to remove my metaphorical coat.  I’m not sure exactly when I made the shift, but shift it did and I began to crave more and more of the goodness I was getting out of the practice.  I took my coat off.  I went deep.  I felt it not only in my body, but in my soul as well, which was another thing – body and soul had now become a team and were working well together.

When I first started yoga, l was focused on its physicality and how it was going to benefit my body in a jeans fitting better kind of way.  As I became more dedicated to the practice,  the inseams no longer rubbing when I walked paled when compared to what was really happening in my body.  I had crossed a line.  I had gone deeper.  Yoga seemed to be giving me exactly what I needed and with impeccable timing.  My kids commented on my peaceful nature and was I never going to lose my temper again??   It was as if I had been handed the road map to myself.  Or better yet, I had been handed the ability to read the road map that has been in my possession all along.  My strong flexibility and weak balance in the poses mimicked my own life during those early yoga years,  giving me insight into the areas that needed more focus and healing.  My mat had became the mirror to my life. THIS… this unrolling of my mat several times a week and moving with my breath, was what kept me upright during a time when I was constantly fighting falling into an emotional heap because it felt far more natural.  I’m no longer that person but do remember her and hold her in my heart and am continually grateful for those early lessons on my mat, namely the ones that after holding a difficult posture seemed to whisper to me that I was going to be OK because I was strong and getting stronger.

Fast forward 15 years and I decided to go deeper into my yoga practice,  and signed up for Max Strom’s yoga teacher training, held in 3 modules, 9 days each.  I just finished the 2nd module and although exhausted, I’m trying to hold onto the post-glow as long as I can, while trying to absorb and make sense of everything I just learned. Besides a lot of posture perfecting, and anatomy that extended far beyond my rudimentary knowledge of… well “the knee bone connecting to the thigh bone” song comes to mind,  I came away with a much deeper understanding of exactly who this person is that I carry around with me every day, both on and off the mat, hyper-extended joints and all.

Yoga has become my nudge to slow down, go deeper, stop and simply be, not because someone is telling me to do that, but because it simply feels better to live life that way.   I still day dream in class and more than once have come out of a thought only to find myself a few postures behind the class and oh well.  Perfection is not the goal – a thought that was reinforced when an almond fell out of my top during a down dog recently.   Reality.  I recently started following a Facebook page called “Yoga for Humans” that demystifies the practice with humor and real life stuff and reminds us of who we are…human… humans doing yoga to become better humans.  I’m a proud human doing yoga who has food drop out of her shirt, daydreams during poses, and will no doubt continue to make a fool of herself while trying to unravel out of a posture that she never should have tried in the first place.  A human doing yoga, mistakes and mishaps included  (thanks, Amy Rader, it’s brilliant).

I’d like to say that I unroll my mat every morning and do sun salutations to greet the dawn of a new day, but I don’t.  I cobble together some postures that feel right and if one or two postures hit the mark and feels like enough, then so be it.  My at home yoga always looks better in its pre-practice presentation in my mind than what actually transpires in real life.  I watched a video several months  ago that showed an accomplished yogi’s morning practice, beginning with her putting the kettle on for morning tea then proceeding to go through a lovely, while at the same time very strong practice until the kettle whistled.  She then leaves her mat and paces to the kitchen to pour the tea with such grace and elegance that it seems like a posture in its own right. That’s where my mind goes when I think about a morning practice, but instead I will spot a missing sock under the couch during a forward bend, which has to immediately be retrieved and as I make my way back to the mat, I notice a painting that is crooked.   I once rearranged my entire living room during my “yoga practice,”  which probably says more about my focus than anything else and my need to go to a class where I find my community and my focus.  The other thing that yoga has taught me is to listen to what I need at the moment, like right now for instance.  I’m in my yoga clothes, have a filled water bottle and my rolled up mat next to my feet and had every intention of going to class until an hour ago when sitting down and writing about yoga seemed more important than actually doing it.  Creativity is fleeting and often will out run me so I have to seize the opportunity when it arises.  I’m discovering the art of awareness and listening without judgment and those two combined will take me far, even if right now my far is not inching from my couch with a laptop perched on my strong, but getting stronger quads, while typing about yoga.

I’ve got 4 months until I head back to the final training module and will regroup with 24 other students under the guidance of the extraordinary teacher, Max Strom.   The people I’ve met have become one of the greatest gifts to me during this process and it has been an honor to surround myself with such gracious, open and truly lovely people, all sharing the common thread of a passion for yoga. I feel like I’m standing just a tiny bit taller and with a whole lot more joy because of them.   Until then, I will stumble my way in and out of postures, will daydream my way right off of my mat and onto mountaintops and Italian villages and will sit and type instead of going to class because I’m   learning to listen and act accordingly….one posture at a time.

Two 30’s, two generations. This one is for you, Thomas.



Me,  recently 30….
Thomas,  almost 30…

My first born, Thomas, started giving me advice at the tender age of not even two.  His advice and my need for it hasn’t changed, although his delivery has become  more fine tuned over the years. When he was not yet two and after a difficult day with his baby brother of just a few months, I asked him,  rhetorically of course,  how in the world I was supposed to deal with a baby who cried all day.  (It’s possible that I was simply thinking out loud, but I got an answer anyway…)

“Just love him, Mama… just love him.”

Just love him.  And that’s how a Mom who was working so hard at attempting to do everything right   was brought to her core on getting things prioritized.  Just love him, Mama.  And of course I did, but  with two under age two, there were days that were challenging.  I’ll often hear that sweet nugget of advice when I’m going through a frustrating time with someone I care deeply about.  Just love him.  Just that.  As he matured, to the ripe ole age of 4 or 5, he began to answer questions with a much more methodical approach. With a tilt of his head, an uplifted chin and as much knitting as a four year-old brow can muster, he’d respond,

“Let’s think about that until Saturday night, Mom.”

This was his answer to not having an answer and by the way, that promised answer never arrived on Saturday night.  But he was right.  Sometimes with a problem or a question, rather than jumping on it it’s best to just wait and ruminate a bit… until Saturday night or so…

That kid, that never short on words kid, who had a huge imagination and an even bigger heart has grown up and is going to be 30 soon.  30 years old.  That same 30 years old that I was when I gave birth to him.  That’s the part that I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around.  Age and the passage of time I’ve learned are concepts that only become more confusing as we age and thinking about it only seems to make it even more confusing.

I shared my son’s upcoming significant birthday with someone in my yoga class a few day ago while in a conversation about our kids and her comment was,

“Is he a lot different than you were at 30?”

“Oh yes.  Very.”

“Yeah, I get it.  My kids also were.  They were all very immature at 30.”

I paused.  I thought about what she said.  I paused again, not sure if I even wanted to be having this conversation that I initiated with someone I barely knew, but felt the need to clarify.   The truth of the matter was that my son at almost age 30 is FAR more mature than I was when I entered my 3rd decade.  My entrance to age 30 found me with an long list of jobs and states lived in to work those jobs,  along with a mismatched string of college credits from 4 schools,  all held together under a a belt of dreams.

While in my late 20’s, I thought 30 would signal the end of the wandering, the adventures, the flying by the seat of my pants and living out of suitcases because it seemed too old to me to be doing those sorts of things – old in a sense of the responsibilities of marriage and mortgages and kids on the horizon taking priority over all else, whether I was ready or not.  So I pushed that 20’s envelope and filled it up with a lot of sampling and experimenting and hopping around, while hoping I’d discover who I was and what I was supposed to be doing in the process.  As I started pushing 30, I found much of what I had been searching for and cliche as it may sound, it was with me all along.  Dorothy’s red shoes just needed to be clicked.  I returned to Kansas from Alaska, cobbled together and added to my collection of college credits to arrive at a BA in Anthropology, got married and gave birth to my first child.  It was a big year for me and one that felt like I had raced into head on, totally out of breath and slightly disheveled, as I crossed over the finish line to 30, right in step with the tick tock of my biological clock and ready for the responsibilities ahead. Had someone told me that I could slow down and take my time as 29 or 30 or 32 were all just numbers, I’m not sure I would have believed them because society seemed to be telling me otherwise, or at least that’s how I heard it.  Not only was I supposed to be somewhat settled by 30, but it was a good age to start minding the  biological clock and doing the math, that is if I hadn’t already started that process.   Ironically, I’ve handled sequential entrances into new decades in a similar manner with the pendulum of time swinging rather radically on birthdays that end in a “0” and settling down by the 1’s and 2’s.

No, my son is not like I was at almost 30.   His approach, while still enjoying the adventure of trying new things and the courage to leave his comfort zone to do that,  has been far more methodical and thoughtful than mine.  No doubt he’ll enter into his next decade with more maturity and calm than I  had and not the least bit disheveled or out of breath.  I’m not surprised, and could not be prouder of him.

So, my 60-year-old self, looking back on my 30-year-old self, giving birth to my first born on the 30th of this month (which also happens to be the day of my birth, just a different year and month) has me feeling very full-hearted, grateful and nostalgic to a point that I know if I stay too long in this place I’ll be a hunched over mess of a mom tearfully turning pages of a photo album and wishing I had toddlers again, because there will never be anything like that again for me and those really were the days.  But these are also the days!

When a mom looks at her baby, her toddler, her young school-aged child, she doesn’t really think about who they will be as an adult, or at least I didn’t.  I couldn’t get past college age in my imagination.  I can remember when my kids were very small, trying to scan crowds to find someone who I thought they’d look like given their characteristics that were already prominent.  Old habits die hard as this started for me as a child looking through the Sears catalog trying to decide what my kids would look like.  Of course I had no husband or even a boyfriend at that time to represent  the other genetic half, which meant I had to do some wandering through the men’s section to shop for features that would compliment my own and would be passed onto our incredibly perfect children.  Other attributes such as artistic ability, athleticism, intelligence,  a strong moral code and so on, were never considered, at least not then.  That would come later.

I guess it is later now and I’ve got an almost 3 decader who has surpassed any of the hopes I had for him and continues to do so.  When I look at that advice giving toddler who has become a man and think that I had a part in that,  I’m a without words kind of overwhelmed.  Seeing my own mannerisms in his or hearing him use and pass on my made up words and phrases in conversation with his peers paired up with a sense of humor that feels very familiar to me, melts my heart.

The one thing a new mom and even a not so new mom is guaranteed to hear over and over again to the point of annoyance, especially with its sad-eyed delivery, is how fast time goes by and how quickly your children will grow up.  I understand that now, simply because I’ve lived it, but hearing it when your toddler is pitching a fit on the grocery store floor because you won’t buy him (or her…) candy at the check out counter more than once had me wanting to respond….”And that would be a BAD thing???”

Yes, those years flew by and although I love to go back and remember,  I can’t immerse myself for too long into the old photo albums because I know myself too well, and it’s a slippery slope of a place for me.  Old photos aside, what I can do now is cherish who all 3 of my once toddler,  now adult children, have become and the strength of the relationships I have with them.  I can go on vacation with them and not have to pack for them, schlep car seats and strollers and counteless bags of Cheerios because heaven help me if I run out of food,  and cross my fingers that no toy guns were inserted into backpacks when my back was turned, which I know from experience can slow down a security line to a halt and rev up a lot of passenger’s tempers.  Instead, the travel has shifted to equally shared experiences with no one doing the heavy lifting and everyone enjoying a beer at night upon arrival.  Adult children are fun and so worth the wait. Sure, time flies, even faster if you’re not paying attention,  but isn’t the whole point that you still have that time in your in your clutches?  Another person in yoga a few days back told me she wished she could freeze her kids at the ages they are now, 7 and 9.  My response  to her was just to wait as every year gets better, except for a few of those middle school years, but I kept that to myself.  One day they will be men who you will adore  spending time with.  I think she was a bit put off by thinking of her not yet teen boys as men, and I understand that, but still, I couldn’t let her comment go by without my seasoned and experienced response.

Time flies and its passage is much easier when you can make peace with that and embrace the changes that go hand in hand.  My firstborn will always be my firstborn whether he’s almost two or almost 30.  He’s just a more developed version now of that curly headed tot who was never without words and was more than happy to dispense advice, whether solicited or not.  I loved him far more than I ever thought I could love anyone, but not near as much as I love him today.  And that, on the heels of his 30th birthday, I’m going to think about until Saturday night.