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Sunday, May 13, 2018

To Be A Mother

I am not exactly sure what my earliest memory is, but when I think back on my childhood, every memory that does come to mind involves either my mother, my grandmother, or both. I remember carrying a picture of her around my Preschool classroom because I couldn't bear to be away from her. I remember the most creative birthday parties in our backyard, Girl Scout sleepovers that always got a little rowdy, learning to sew no matter how frustrated got, her patience through all of it. I remember hunting cicada shells under my grandparent's willow tree every summer, picking fruit from the trees in their yard, counting bunches of grapes. I remember tins of Christmas cookies, playing with my mother's old Barbie dolls, and hunting for treasures in the basement.

I picture my mother putting Karlee to bed in her Play Pen after she had open heart surgery. I picture her spending hours looking up low sugar/low carb recipes when my dad was diagnosed with diabetes. I picture my grandmother by my mother's side when my sisters were born. I picture her by my grandfather's side through his cancer treatments, when he lost his leg, when he moved back home and had to learn to adapt.

It was from these women that I learned what it means to be a mother. It means being patient, no matter how frustrated you might be yourself. It means letting your children explore every inch of this world, without judgement. It means teaching respect of each other, of the Earth, of the whole world.  It means stepping up when someone needs to be taken care of. It means teaching your children to be creative and to use that creativity to create their own fun. It means letting things get a little rowdy sometimes. And it most importantly means love, unconditionally.

While I am not a mother yet, I look to my mother and grandmother as models of the woman I want to be. When Brandon catches me trying to move furniture myself or saving a dove with a broken wing and he says I am just like them, I always smile and thank God. And if and when I am blessed enough to become a mother, I will remember the way they raised me and pray I can be half the women and mothers they are.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Not Yet Ready To Let Go

Last Friday I got home from work and as I walked towards the house with two arms full of stuff, I heard a rustling in the leaves that we never got around to cleaning up in the fall, still piled up along the house. I stopped to see what it could be and noticed a dove perched among the mess. As I walked closer to the back door, it jumped out of the leaves and I realized one of its wings was jutting out from its side at an awkward angle. No wonder it was hopping away instead of flying. The wing had to be broken.

It continued hopping away from me, heading towards the side of the house. I slowly followed it, watching it find another soft, quiet spot in a pile of leaves along our fence. As I stood there contemplating what I could do to help it, our next door neighbor opened their door. He explained that he and his wife had noticed it earlier. "I hate to see animals suffer like that," he said. "That's nature, though. Not much we can do, but let it run its course. I'm sure it won't suffer long." I nodded my head in agreement. I guess he's right, I thought. How quickly I left my own instincts by the wayside.

In the time we were having our conversation, the dove squeezed its way under our fence and hopped through our yards. The last I saw of it, it was three doors down, making its way to another quiet place. As I made my way back towards our house, I thought, please don't let it suffer long.  When Brandon got home, I told him about the dove. Couldn't get it off my mind. But there was nothing I could have done, right?

The next day, we pulled into our driveway after returning from the grocery store and there along the side of the house, sleeping in the sunshine, was the dove. I couldn't believe it. I couldn't help but think there was a reason she was still alive, a reason she ended up, after traveling away from us, back at our house, safe. "We have to do something," I said to Brandon. "She's alive. We have to help."

So we carried our groceries inside and I called our vet, hoping they would have some advice. The secretary who answered the phone gave me the number of a wildlife veterinarian based in Lake Geneva and wished me luck. I called immediately, left a message, and waited. Within five minutes they had called me back, gave advice on how to catch and transport her, and scheduled an appointment for us to bring her in. "Why don't we say you'll be here in an hour and a half? It will be a bit of a drive for you and that will give you time to catch her." Little did we know, we would need a lot more time than that.

Brandon and I prepared a small box with a bed of paper towels and plenty of holes for her to breathe. We headed outside decked in gardening gloves and brandishing towels to wrap her safely and transfer her to the box. When we walked outside she was still sitting along the house. Brandon went to one side and I stayed on the other. Since I was more comfortable with picking her up, Brandon's job was to keep her from hopping away.

As soon as she realized what was happening, she hopped quickly past him and around the front of the house, hopping her way up over our front stoop and into the bushes. Crap! We took turns walking through the bushes trying to get her to come out. Just as she would emerge from one area and we were about to catch her, she would sneak back in another opening. What a sight we must have been and boy did we see what determination looks like. She did not want to be caught.

We played this game for what felt like hours, but got to the point where we weren't even sure where she was. We couldn't hear her rustling in the leaves anymore. Couldn't see her anywhere. After standing outside for a bit longer hoping she would emerge, we gave up. How defeated I felt, hoping she hadn't hurt herself more attempting to avoid us. I called the wildlife vet and told them we would definitely not be there soon. I opened up the front curtains wide and decided to sit and read in the window, hoping she was still there and would eventually come out.

About an hour later, I happened to look up from my book and there she was. Her small head peeking out from under the bush, still trying to catch a bit of sunlight. I called Brandon to front room and told him we had to try again. So out we went, gloves, box, and towels in hand. He went into the bushes and I waited for her to come out. She did, but attempted to fly, heading straight towards our street. We both ran and shooed her back into the yard. I hope our neighbors weren't watching because oh how ridiculous we must have looked.

I tried to cover her with the towel so she couldn't keep trying to fly away, a trick my mom had suggested as I was texting her about our situation. After about five failed attempts, I finally was able to cover her. As carefully as we could, I picked her up and placed her in the box. With a sigh of relief we realized, we had done it!

I called the vet and left a message saying we were on the way and would hopefully get there before they close. Without hesitation I loaded her in the car and began driving.  This place was not close and in the forty-five minute drive, I found myself listening for any sign of movement. How sad it would be after all of that, if she died in the car on the way to be saved. When I finally turned into the gravel driveway of the wildlife veterinarian, I breathed one sigh of relief. Now to see if she was still alive and would be able to survive.

I took the small cardboard box, which felt like nothing was even in it, up the dirt path to a small grey building and entered. No one was in the office so we waited and after a few minutes someone came out. "You're here with the dove?" she asked. She took the box from me, had me fill out a form, and told me they would see what they could do. I waited. In the time I waited, another woman came in to get a box for a family of squirrels that had made their nest in her garage. "Some people say just kill them," she said. "If I don't have to, I won't."

When the woman who took the dove emerged, she said the wing was broken and based on the other injuries they believed she had been attacked by a cat, but they believed she would recover. Their goal was for full recovery and for her to fly again, but if she couldn't she would have a forever home there. The final sigh of relief. She had made it there alive and had a chance of survival and safety. They printed off a picture of her for me to take home and told me to send a letter in a few weeks if I wanted an update.

I learned a few things from this experience. First, I have an amazing husband who puts up with my shenanigans and is willing to put on a pair of gardening gloves and walk through our bushes to try and save a dove. I wouldn't have been able to catch her myself. Thank God I have a partner to help me through life's two-person jobs!

Second, I was amazed at how quickly my initial instinct to try and help her had been curbed by my neighbor's comments. How could I have just left her to die when I wanted so badly to help her? It made me think about human nature and how quickly we change ourselves based on other people's input. It made me think about where else in my life I had changed my true instincts because of other people. How have others changed because of me?

Finally, it is easy to brush doing the right thing off, especially when it is hard and takes effort, and say "That's just how things are," but we can do more for others than we realize. Sure, it was a bit hectic. Was it how I thought I would spend a Saturday? No. But we saved a life that wasn't ready to give up yet. I hope she recovers. I hope learns to fly again

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Homemade Butterfly Stitches

Homemade Butterfly Stitches

With the family gathered
around the kitchen table
at Christmas time,
my grandfather tells us the tale
of his bandaged hand.

A slip of a pocket knife
while opening the mail.
Thank goodness Grandma
wasn’t home.
Went clear through.
Thank goodness I keep
a stack of these handkerchiefs
next to me.

His only complaint,
that the wound
makes pushing himself around
in his wheelchair painful.

And just as he has,
the story moves on
to something else.
A fox in the backyard,
Laying out seed for the birds.
Another snowfall.

You mean you didn’t
go get it looked at?
No stitches?
He laughs.
Around here
we take care of things ourselves.
He is held together
with homemade butterfly stitches
and gauze.
A trick he learned in the army.

Around here
there is no time to waste
on waiting.
If you can get it done yourself,
why wouldn’t you?

And this is the same speech
my mother gave
when she cut the tip of her finger
off with a knife,
stuck it back on,
wrapped it in a bandage
and continued making dinner.

Around here
we hold ourselves together
with homemade butterfly stitches
and continue reading the mail,
making the family dinner,
because life is too short
to waste on fuss and drama.

Around here
we take care of ourselves
and move on.
What is life without
a few battle scars?
What is life if not
a constant stitching up
and moving on?

Happy New Year, all! 

Friday, September 8, 2017

First Pumpkins, Now Sunflowers?!

First surprise pumpkins and now surprise sunflowers?! It's as if the universe knows how much I love fall (and sunflowers)! Amazing! I almost pulled these out thinking they were weeds. Another reminder that sometimes we need to let things grow to see how beautiful their potential. 

Happy Friday and Happy (early) Fall!

The only flowers I intentionally planted were the red ones,
not the pink or sunflowers. 
Grateful for however they ended up here, though!

Friday, August 25, 2017

A Small, Surprise Pumpkin

One of my home projects this year was to clean up the landscaping around our house. The front was overgrown and needed to be trimmed back, so I spent countless hours clearing out dead brush, thinning out the already growing plants, adding fresh new colors, and laying down mulch. It was weed free, clean, bright, and beautiful, exactly what I had imagined.

This work was completed within the first few weeks of summer vacation. Now, we are beginning another school year and the other day, as I went out front to get the mail, I noticed something growing up through my hard work. At first glance, it looked like a weed, a vine-like plant growing out from between a patch of pink cone flowers. On closer observation, I realized it was a pumpkin plant, already blooming bright yellow flowers, one of which had grown into the smallest pumpkin I've ever seen, and slowly creeping its way into my grass.

I stood there for a good ten minutes, baffled at how a pumpkin plant could be growing there. My initial thought was the local squirrels. Then, I remembered. Last fall I had decorated the house for Halloween with pumpkins. This plant must have grown from the seeds that were left over after the pumpkins had done their part in the festivities and had started to rot.

I could have easily gotten mad or frustrarted. So much hard work to make the house look neat and organized and this pumpkin plant was not part of the plan. It would make cutting the grass more inconvenient. It didn't necessarily match the look of plant I was going for. I didn't know if it would affect the other flowers. I didn't get mad, though. After I stopped standing there, dumbfounded at how it got there, I smiled.

This little pumpkin was my own unintentional fault. It was something I had let happen by accident, never thinking for a second that my Halloween decorations from the fall before would have left seeds that would invade the vision of my summer project. It was almost as if it had grown, not my accident, but intentionally. A small lesson to be learned as the new school year begins.

What is the lesson to be learned from this small, surprise pumpkin? Sometimes, we take so much time to pull weeds, till the soil, plan, and plant, but things don't end up as we imagined they might. Most often, they don't. The weeds grow back, the flowers don't bloom, or we end up with a surprise pumpkin growing in our garden. It is up to us to love the result and appreciate the surprises that might find their way into our gardens, seemingly by accident, but most likely, by some unintentional design.

Can you spot the small, surprise pumpkin? 
Can't wait to see how many we get! 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

A Damn Poem

Every year, writers from around the world attempt to complete the 30/30 challenge during the month of April, which is National Poetry Month. This means they attempt to write 30 poems in 30 days. They don't have to be complete poems. Most poets joke that May is "National Editing Month" because usually you only end up with a few poems that you would consider up to your own standards.

I have completed this challenge quite a few times, most of them relatively successful. This, however, was when I was reading poetry at events regularly. I could crank out a poem a day easily and while they weren't all masterpieces, I always ended with at least 5 or so that I felt confident sharing with others. So naturally, I decided that this year, in the midst of working full time and finishing my Masters, I would try the 30/30 challenge again. To sum up how things went, here is one of the poems I wrote:

A Damn Poem 

I can't even find five
minutes to write a damn word
let alone a poem. 

And after this poem, which was written on April 11th, I only attempted to write one more. Based on the above poem, you can probably guess that this was not my year to complete the 30/30 challenge successfully. In fact, I'm not even sure I got 5 or so quality poems out of it.

While reflecting on my failure at the 30/30 challenge, I realized that poetry is not the only thing I feel disconnected to this time of year. The end of the school year tends to cause everything else to fall by the wayside. I feel over joyed when I have time to work in my yard, spend time with my cats and my husband, even read a book, things that weekends are for, but the extra time seems to be so hard to come by.

I recently agreed to participate in a teacher book club at my school. When I found the book sitting on my desk, I wanted to tuck it into my desk drawer and forget about it. That sounds horrible because I know it will make me a better teacher, but if I can't find the time to read for fun, how will I ever find time to read for work? It's just another thing to add to the list.

Hell, I couldn't even take 5 minutes to write more angsty haikus to complete my 30/30 challenge. And maybe that is the downside of being an adult. There are always a million things to do and something like poetry never falls at the top of this list. It's too bad because when I wrote the first 10 poems, I felt amazing! 10 minutes to write about something that matters to me was a great stress reliever just as yard work, kitty cuddles, and reading can do.

But how can we find time for ourselves in the hectic day to day tasks? How can we find time to write about what's going on, read to become a better person, and do things that help us to relax? Maybe there isn't a solution, but my goal from now to the end of the school year is to try and write some damn poems, finish my book club book, and get some cuddles in because I know there's time, I just have to find it.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

I Ate Meat Today

I have a confession to make. I ate meat today. I skipped mass, didn't walk around with ashes proudly displayed on my forehead. I have not thought about what to give up for Lent because I didn't even realize it was even coming. I debated leaving my Easter wreath in the basement and putting up one with just generic spring flowers.

As a dutiful Catholic school girl, I would have felt ashamed for even thinking these things. It was cool to walk around with a big cross made out of ashes on your forehead and if a little got on your nose or white uniform shirt, it was even better. If you ate something you had given up for Lent, even by accident you felt guilty until you told someone and still felt guilty even after you did.

And every year there was a St. Joseph's table at school filled with hundreds of baked goods to choose from. And every year my classmate had her birthday party at a chocolate shop and there was always at least one of us who ended up taking theirs home to freeze for Easter. And every year at least one of us would slip up on our Lenten promise and though someone always reassured us that God would forgive you if it really was an honest mistake, we still felt like we had failed him.

Growing up, being Catholic was who I was. Lent was a time for me to grow closer to God, to ask for forgiveness, to feel close to him by promising to give something up for 40 days as he fasted for 40 days in the desert. I would go to church and feel rejuvenated. I was surrounded by people who thought and felt the same way. I was comfortable in my faith.

Nowadays, my faith makes me uncomfortable. I was taught that questioning our faith, though natural as humans, would lead us away from God and that we should always believe and accept things without asking too many questions. I think this is where my struggles have lied. I am human. I have lots of questions. I don't believe everything the church teaches. Some days, it is hard to even pinpoint what I believe.

Yet still, on Ash Wednesday, when I find myself with no ashes on my forehead, planning on eating meat for dinner, skipping mass, and choosing to leave my Easter wreath behind, I find myself longing for the comfort of these traditions, of the faith that I grew up in.

Today, when my student walked into school today and another asked her "What's wrong with your forehead?" and she proudly replied, "I am Catholic and today is ash Wednesday!" I felt the urge to go to church. When my student was eating a cheese sandwich and someone asked her, "Just cheese?" and she replied "I am not supposed to eat meat today" I wanted to change my dinner plans. I was jealous of her faith and the pride she had in it.

Perhaps this is all just part of growing up. Through life experience we learn to never take anything we are told at face value. We learn to ask questions. I am grateful that I have learned to not walk through life stating my faith blindly, relying on what others tell me to be right as truth. I am grateful that I do not feel guilty for slipping up, for being human. I am grateful for this journey of faith I am on, however winding and cracked it may feel. I just find myself missing my roots some days. Today is one of those days.