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What is new in your life?  I have been asked this question by various family members multiple times in the past few days of my life, and depending on who is asking, my answer changes.

My first response is usually “nothing.”

Then, depending on how well I know the person, I’ll follow up with:  Well, have you heard our big news?  Particularly since I seem to be the only one in the family with good news.

After answering questions about due dates and whether or not Bear wants a brother or a sister, we usually talk about my grandmother.  She has about a week left at the rehabilitation facility and then we hope that she will be well enough to move back to the assisted living facility where she was living before she broke her hip and had the strokes.  When I have spoken to her, she sounds upbeat, and my dad says that you cannot tell by looking at her that she has had a stroke.  She thinks that rehabilitation has also helped her wrist, which she broke after her back surgery last year.  The physical therapists are not working on her wrist, despite that it has not regained much mobility, but in some way, the physical act of walking with her new walker is requiring her to use her wrist more, and she says that this is a good thing.  I say, find rainbows wherever you can.

Conversation also often turns to my brother who recently moved home to help my father manage the family farm.  After his short marriage ended and learning that his ex-wife had quickly moved on to someone else, my brother re-evaluated what he wanted out of life and moved home.  His first harvest since returning has just now ended, and although I don’t frequently talk with my brother about his feelings, he seems happy enough.  Either this, or he is trying to convince everyone of this by posting humorous picture after humorous picture of harvest on Facebook.  My family seems to want confirmation of his happiness from me, so I always tell them what they want to hear.  I hope that what I say is true.

So far, it seems that very few of my extended family know about the divorce that I wrote about in my last post, and I am glad.  It seems too new and feelings are still too raw to talk about it in general conversation.  I spoke with the person in the middle of it today, and she still is in shock.  Because the divorce is uncontested, it is on the fast-track to finalization, and in a few short weeks, her marriage will be no more.  She told me this morning about how educational it has been to learn about her own finances and how good she feels about the idea of selling her house and starting over.  I am not certain that she completely believes it, but again, if she can find the rainbow in this, then we will all cling to it.

I thought about how I just want my family to happy as I took my morning walk today.  As I walked, I surveyed the damage of a strong storm from the night before.  Large tree limbs – almost as big as small trees – blocked one street near my house.  In other places, I could see the charred, blackened wood where lightening had forcefully removed entire sections of trees.  Small limbs and debris covered the streets everywhere that I walked.

As we returned from lunch this afternoon, someone had already chopped up the tree limbs blocking the street and had stacked them neatly in someone’s lawn waiting for the city to pick them up.  Electricians were working on the street lights outside of our neighborhood to make them functional again.  Somehow, the debris that had covered everything this morning was already gone as though someone had run a vacuum sweeper down our street.  I suspect that by tomorrow morning the only evidence of the storm will be the burn marks and bare spots on trees from the lightning strikes.

I hope that sometime in the near future, when someone asks about my family, that my answer will look like those trees.  Although the storm has come and left its mark, quickly enough, one cannot tell at first glance that anything was once wrong.

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While at work on Wednesday morning, the sky clouded over and rain began lightly hitting my window.  It was cool outside, and nothing like the day before when weather forecasters had predicted that huge tornado-bearing supercells would form and cause massive damage over most of the Midwest.  We expected storms and even tornadoes on Tuesday, but they never came.  On Wednesday, though, we were almost caught unaware.

When the tornado sirens sounded, most of us kept working, despite the fear instilled in most of us by the continued news coverage of the massive devastation in Joplin.  Frequently, the city tests the tornado sirens on Wednesday mornings.  This just seemed like any other test.

On Saturday evening, I had awakened from a half-sleep and shook my husband awake.  We could barely hear tornado sirens sounding in the distance.  My husband shrugged and fell back asleep, but I immediately turned on the television.  Within minutes, the sirens were sounding locally.  I was prepared to grab my shoes and to wake Bear so we could go to the basement when the meteorologist explained that there were no tornado-producing storms over the metro.  Rather, a tornado had been sighted approximately 50 miles away and had just crossed into my county.  I got back into bed, and watched the news until the storms had passed over us with only a little wind and rain.

It is no wonder that sound of tornado sirens has lost its power over many of us.

About five minutes after the tornado sirens began sounding on Wednesday, a co-worker popped his head into my office.  This is the real thing.

What?  I grabbed my phone and my purse and followed the small crowd forming in the hallway.  We headed into the stairwell, and after a few minutes, our business manager burst through the outside door talking incoherently about how the post office had forced her to leave.  She began sobbing.  Her grandchildren had lost their house in Joplin.  Fortunately, they were not there at the time.

I called my husband.  Like the rest of us, he had continued working, oblivious to the situation.  He assured me that he would go somewhere safe, although others in his office opted to stay on their 20th-something floors and continue billing hours.

In the stairwell, we all began searching for news about what was going on.  I texted a teacher in Bear’s classroom at daycare.  I didn’t want to bother her, but I couldn’t imagine where they would take the kids, and I needed to know that Bear was OK.  I received a brief reply that everyone was OK, but then I heard that a tornado had been sighted about 30 blocks from Bear’s daycare.  Other reports indicated that other tornadoes had touched down elsewhere in the city, mostly a little Southwest from Bear, but then word came that tornadoes had been sighted near my home and apparently, were headed toward my office.

Employees of a bank on the first level of my building ushered us out of the stairwell and into a bank vault.  There, we all waited for something to happen.   Because cell phone service was not good, many of us had to leave the vault to get a signal, and every time I stepped outside, I searched for word from Bear’s daycare.

People worried aloud about their homes and their kids.  I realized in that moment, that I didn’t care if my home was destroyed, or sadly, if even my dog got blown away.   I only wanted to leave and pick up Bear so we could be together.  I needed to know that she was alright.

The next time I stepped outside the vault to check for messages, I discovered that Bear’s teacher had called.  The message was a little unclear, but I thought that she said that Bear had gotten hurt.  I quickly called her back, and when she answered, she explained that Bear was not hurt, but that she had gotten “ahold” of some crackers that they were using the placate the kids during the sirens, and these crackers had soy in them.  Oh, thank goodness.  Despite the exposure, Bear was happily drinking both milk and Benadryl, and they thought that she was OK.

I was relieved.  I can handle a food allergy.  And Bear was OK.  Although the sirens continued sounding, a weather report signaled that the tornado warning for our county had expired, and most of us went back to work.  The clouds above us had rotated, but fortunately, no tornadoes touched down near my office.

Later that day, as I drove to get Bear, I was amazed to see no damage at all, even in areas where a tornado had supposedly touched down.  When I picked up Bear, she seemed oblivious to what had happened, expect that she had a lot to say about the crackers she had eaten.  For a kid who gets very little processed food thanks to a soy allergy, she must have thought that those crackers were the best things she had ever eaten.  It was all she talked about that night, and I was thankful that she had been spared the fear that other older children must have felt when asked to crouch in a hallway.

I kissed her and held her that night with a perspective that I rarely have.  Still fresh in my mind are stories from Joplin about a little 16 month-old boy being ripped from his mother’s arms while they took shelter inside of a bathtub, or one told to me by a friend about her former classmate who took his two young boys on an errand to the Joplin Home Depot that Sunday and left his wife without a husband or her two precious children.

I cannot imagine.  We are so lucky.

Is spending too much time on eBay looking for a new pair of shoes for Bear a good excuse for not updating this blog in quite awhile?  Probably not.  I have a couple of pairs that I’m “watching” though.  I tend not to enjoy the bidding aspect of eBay, which results in a lot of watching and waiting.  In the past, whenever I’ve found something that I want – usually after a lot of research and scrutinizing – I have placed a bid only to lose to someone more eBay-savy than myself.  And then, I’ll spend a good hour or two mad about it.  Isn’t the “Buy Now” feature easier?  If only I could find good Stride Rite shoes for less than $30 somewhere else.  Bear is about to grow out the last pair that I bought her at a consignment sale in, um September, so we’re going to need a new pair very soon, and I grew weary of the monthly Target shoe purchases this summer.  I bought monthly not because she grew out of them, but because they fell apart.  The last pair Bear had from there, the ladies at daycare actually asked me not to send her back in them.  They wouldn’t stay on, and she kept tripping on them.  Hence, all of my time wasted on eBay, and I still have no shoes to show for it.

Instead of Trick-or-Treating this year, we took Bear to the zoo.  Fortunately, she is too young to really understand that she was missing the opportunity to amass a lot of candy.  Next year, candy avoidance is going to be much more difficult.  Hopefully, by that time, she will have outgrown her soy allergy.  I feel like we could work around the peanut allergy, but soy is in nearly Every Single Piece of candy that I looked at.  Finally, I purchased a package of special allergy-free Sour Worms at Whole Foods.  The package indicated that it had 20 packs of worms inside.  When I opened the package and took out a pack to give to Bear, I found that it had ONE worm inside.  Yes, one.  As did each and every other pack.  I bought 20 allergy-free sour worms for $6.00, which works out to 30 cents a worm.

Aside from the lack of candy, Bear had a great time.  She recovered from the stomach flu (yes, that came to visit us a week after Hand, Foot, & Mouth Disease), and she loved dressing up for her daycare Halloween party.  She was the last to leave, and we literally had to drag her out of the building.  We treated Bear to the zoo next, and since her favorite books right now are Goodnight, Gorilla and I am a Zookeeper, she was delighted to see the animals.

We kept seeing another young couple with a sleeping baby at each exhibit.  Bear refused to ride in the stroller and for awhile, Dad carried her on his shoulders.  Before a long walk back from Africa, we decided that she needed to ride in her stroller, and we gave her no choice but to get inside.  Bear screamed and howled and trashed and kicked.  I noticed the young couple watching us.  As we walked away with a yowling Bear, I told my husband that they were thinking one of two things:  Either “That’s what we have coming next,” or “Our child will never act like that.”  I remember thinking something similar to the latter one day as a little boy followed me around a store beating on a drum.  Every time I turned around, he’d stop and walk the other way.  As soon as I started walking again, he’d follow me banging on the-most-annoying-toy-drum-ever-made.  Even now, as I recount this, I am thinking, “I can guarantee that my child will never wander around a store alone,” but I am sure that someday this thought too will come back to haunt me just as that young couple’s sweetly sleeping baby will soon enter the Frequent Public Tantrum phase.  I do have limited experience, but I am fairly certain that all toddlers try their parents in this way.  And, I have no doubt that Bear comes by it naturally.

This weekend, my daughter showed me that she can think outside of the box.

By thinking outside of the box, she found a comfortable place to sit when she needed to rest.

She embraced creativity when the whim struck her.

And, she found a step up when she needed help reaching her goal.

I can learn a lot from my daughter.

odd man out, originally uploaded by Terwilliger911, Creative Commons, Flickr.

Today, before Bear’s music class, I sat between two friends (one closer than the other) as they discussed a new place that one of them had “private messaged” the other about on Facebook, and I listened as they discussed taking their two little ones there together sometime. I felt that I was in the middle of a conversation that they should be having elsewhere, particularly if they were not going to include me in it. Uncomfortable, I physically shifted backward to give them a clear line of vision. Still, they did not include me, and then the class began.

After the class, another woman who has been in previous classes with me, my two friends, and our babies took one of my friends aside to discuss something that they were going to do together. Earlier in the summer, my other friend mentioned taking her son to a play date with this other woman’s daughter.

I know that I shouldn’t be offended. Obviously, we are all adults, and we are all free to choose who we want to spend time with. Particularly, in the past, this other woman has made numerous passive-aggressive comments about her daughter’s lack of hair and walking. Since my daughter has quite a bit of hair and walks very well, I felt like she was comparing our daughters, and it made me uncomfortable and a little sad for the other little girl whose mommy didn’t seem to be content with what she had. I shouldn’t be surprised that this woman has not sought me out as a companion. Frankly, I shouldn’t even care.

But, I do. I feel a little like the kid who wasn’t invited to the birthday party with all of her friends, and I hate that feeling.

When I was ten, I remember being acutely aware that most of the girls in my class had been invited to one of our classmate’s birthday parties. I was not close friends with the birthday girl, but being from a small, rural community, most everyone was invited to every birthday party, and she had been invited to mine. My mother concluded that it was not possible that I had not been invited and that the invitation must have been sent to our old farmhouse rather than the one where we currently lived. So, despite the cold, wet day, she strapped my younger brother into our 1984 Blazer, and we began battling the snowy, muddy road for the two-mile journey to the farmhouse. Once there, I sadly discovered that my wonderful and couragous mother was wrong. No invitation waited for me in the mailbox. Unhappily, we began the trip back only to become hopelessly stuck in a ditch before we could reach home. I remember walking through the cold, wet mud and crying less about the slight of the birthday party and more about the feeling that I had somehow failed my mother.

Despite this experience, I always had close friends throughout my childhood. I have no actual memories of “making” these friends, however. For whatever reason, we were always friends. I made a few close friends in college, and with many nearby acquaintances, I was not lonely. That was the nature of college.

After law school and marriage and the start of work, my husband and I wondered if there weren’t multitudes of other couples “out there” who already knew each other and spent a lot of time together socially. If there were, they weren’t doing it with us. We finally decided that social relationships outside of the school environment, particularly after marriage, were meant to be different. I assumed though that once we had kids, we’d begin forming friendships with other couples who fell into the same phase of life as we did. Now, I’m wondering if maybe I just don’t know how to make friends. Maybe I’ve forgotten, or maybe I never knew.

At ten years-old, I realized that the sting that I felt at not having been invited to a birthday party had very little to do with my desire for a friendship with the birthday girl. I did not want to be left out. Being overlooked seems to say something about one’s self, and one’s importance to others. Perhaps now, I’m looking to the wrong people for friendships. I just wish that I was grown up enough to remember the difference between the two.

 

“Bountiful implies that your cup is already overflowing so you simply tip your abundance into the hands of others.”  Christina Katz at The Prosperous Writer, “52 Qualities of Prosperous Writers:  Number Thirty-Four is Bountiful.”

My cup overflows.  It’s true.

I should regularly reflect on the gifts in my life so I can more fully appreciate its bounty.   Instead, I often focus on the minutiae of each day rather than savoring each sweet, small moment before it has passed.

I spent the morning with my daughter.  We had appointments to meet and errands to run, but before the flury of daily activity began, I sat at my kitchen table soaking in the early morning light streaming through the window in front of me as I sipped my coffee and Bear chattered in her chair about “doggy” and “cereal” and “agua.”  The morning light softened her bedraggled hair and face sticky from peaches and post-nasal drip.  I turned my thoughts from the piles of magazines and junk mail on the table and dirty dishes in the sink.  Instead, I focused on the loveliness of sitting quietly at my kitchen table, with a warm drink in hand, and a sweet soul next to me.

Later, as we waited in an exam room for Bear’s allergist, Bear and I read a beautiful book about butterflies that my dearest friend gave us about a year ago.  I pulled the book from Bear’s bookshelf today for the first time, knowing that a long doctor’s visit might be the perfect time to read it.  Bear gazed lovingly at it from the moment she laid her eyes on the cover.  We spent long moments lingering on each page where Bear could pull out flaps revealing elaborate garden scenes and run her fingers over vibrant butterfly wings, kingfisher feathers, and sunflowers.  She continually amazed me as she pointed at the ladybugs and fireflies that I asked her to find, even though I didn’t think that she knew about such things.  I found myself holding Bear a little more closely, breathing in the smell of her hair, and sending a silent thank-you to my friend for the thoughtful book that had so completely captured my daughter’s interest.

As Bear has napped this afternoon, I checked in with the world at work and found that it has not fallen apart in my absence.  This has left me with a span of uninterrupted time to think and write.  The dog sleeps on the floor next to me.  The locusts sing and buzz soothingly outside my window, and our homebuilding neighbor builds quietly across the street.   I can sit at my computer reading, thinking, and typing; embracing this rare time to be alone with my thoughts and to focus them in the directions I desire.

My husband told me earlier that his day has been passing smoothly and quickly.  His work has been going well, and clients have been cooperative.  Before long, he’ll drive back to our home and his family.  When the garage door begins groaning and rising, the dog will scamper wildly around the house, and Bear will run to the door shouting, “Daddy!” and he will step through wearing an expectant smile at our celebration.  Then, we will start our long weekend together.

All is well in my world, and I am thankful for each sweet, small moment of the day and the bountiful life they signify.  I hope that by sharing the bounty that I enjoy in life, I’ll tip my cup to help fill up yours.

The first time Bear pointed at a picture of a goat in one her books and said, “Goat,” I was amazed.  The child had never seen a goat in real life, and it seemed like a strange word to choose to make one of one’s first.  There are not an abundance of goats in her books – only one or two that I can recall (and let me tell you, I’ve read them enough times that I would know).  Sid hasn’t learned about goats in his quest to “know everything about everything.”  And, even though Bear has “country” running through her blood despite being raised in the city, she would never come across a goat at our farm.  So, her special attention to goats surprised me.

Today, Bear finally met a goat.  In fact, she got up close and personal with several.  She swatted their noses, despite being told only “soft, gentle touches.”  She beat on the heads of a few goats that weren’t fast enough or cared enough to move, and she grabbed a number of crusty tails that were caked in who-knows-what (OK, I do, but I’m trying not to think about it).  Bear had a good day.

After her nap, I think that I’ll pull out her one or two books where goats make an appearance and enjoy her reaction.

For someone who thinks that she wants to write, I don’t spend much time writing.

My lack of writing isn’t the result of a lack of ideas.  I have a number of them running around in my head.  I can’t blame a lack of inspiration either.  That’s what this blog was supposed to be about – inspiration.  Instead, I feel bad because I’m neglecting it (and my one, consistent follower.  Thanks, katery!).

I’d like to blame a lack of time on my lack of writing.  But really, am I any more hard-pressed for free time than anyone else?  Probably not.

I actually spend a lot of time thinking about writing and dreaming about the day when I will write.  So, when will I make those lost hours worthwhile and actually write?

  

009, originally uploaded by raisingbrainchild. 

 
I’m offering you a glimpse into my backyard today.  This past week has gone by so quickly, it is nice to slow down for a moment and appreciate the world around us, don’t you think?
 
My husband and I did some “slowing down” and “appreciating” this past weekend.  After a crazy week full of EpiPens and learning code words for soy, we both needed a break from reality.  Instead of going out to eat with Bear, which is something that suddenly is no longer easy to do, we stayed home on Saturday night and grilled steaks (yes, we are Good Midwesterners) in our driveway.  We usually prefer to cook our meat in the backyard on the deck and away from the curious eyes of anyone who happens to walk past, but my husband had big plans to stain the deck the following day and had moved the grill and just about everything else into the garage and driveway.  So, after thoroughly enjoying our steaks, and putting Bear to bed, we took a bottle of wine and two rocking chairs to the driveway.
 
It was a beautiful evening for mid-July.  The weather was nearly cool.  Fireflies seemed to hover over our lawn in the dusk, and no one was about.  We sat there rocking and drinking for hours.  We had better conversations that we have in years.  When the wine was gone, we were both hesitant for our sweet moment to end.
 
Life all too often is frenetic, and it would do my soul (and my marriage) good to invest in more moments like these.

 

4th of July, originally uploaded by Warren Brown Photography, available on Flickr, Creative Commons

We spent the 4th of July holiday at a small, local lake with my husband’s family. It rained most of every day and night that we were there, so the festivities were considerably dampened. On the evening of the 4th of July, there was a small clearing in the rain, so we were able to hop on the boat and head out to the middle of the lake where we could watch more adventurous folk shooting fireworks from all sides (and some stupid ones attempt to shoot fireworks directly at us – it is a small lake). I spent that brief interval between storms torn between enjoying the beautiful displays and the smooth water and hoping that each boom and zip did not wake up my sleeping baby when I was not home to comfort her, and I did not trust her grandmother to hear her cries should she wake up and realize that mom was not nearby.

Unfortunately, since it rained most of the weekend, Bear was not able to watch or appreciate the fireworks during her first real 4th of July. I was looking forward to watching her look of awe and wonder (and hopefully, not terror). Of course, she was around for the last 4th of July, but even I hardly remember that holiday since we were so mired in colicky babyness.

This weekend, Bear did not stop amazing me with all of her newfound abilities. I had purchased what is most certainly a torture-device of a life jacket for Bear to wear when she is at the lake, and for the first time this summer, I strapped her inside it and took her down to the dock to see the water. I had an entire conversation with her (one-sided, I’ll admit) about how she must wear the life jacket anytime we leave the patio and how it will keep her afloat should she ever fall into the water. I did not expect her to really comprehend any of my reasoning, however, a few hours later when we were back in the house, she carried her life jacket to me and gestured outside. She continued to this for the rest of the weekend when she wanted to go outside, and I was so impressed by her understanding and maturity! If only she had grasped that standing on a dock in the rain is not my idea of a good time!

Bear also learned to say (and sign) “please” this weekend. She now stands at her high chair begging to eat (on an hourly basis) saying “peas, peas, peas, peas.” At least the girl is polite!