...because life's humor is worth seeking
...because my fourth, doh, make that fifth baby doesn't take up the time between 3 and 3:36 a.m....and it MUST BE FILLED!
...because we can learn a lot from chickens
...and because this has very little to do with chickens and everything to do with grace!
You may remember, a few years back, we lost a beloved friend, Wahletha. She was like another granny to our kids and her husband Marv remains dear to us to this day. That was a tough time: smack dab in the middle of my last pregnancy, emotions already soaring. When I think back to those weeks and months, my heart still holds a thousand bricks. I can almost touch the sobs still lingering inside.
Our daughter Lily has been asking for years to go to visit Wally's grave. Before we moved away from MN, she asked a dozen times, always met with some poor excuse: it's snowing, raining, sleeting, too cold, too hot....but really, it was just too hard. I wasn't sure how the kids would do at the gravesite. I wasn't sure how I would do recalling those memories, that sadness.
But then Fidgi died. And I learned that life is entirely too unpredictable and that you cannot put off the people you care about....not even once they are gone.
Fidgi was my high school soccer coach. He was young and charming and incredibly talented at a time where youthful energy and extreme competence made a huge and lasting impression. Every girl on that team was captivated by his smile and good humor, his wit and his wisdom. Every girl on that team was changed in some way or another, challenged, beyond our years, to visualize our life being shaped by hard work that paid off in droves; a life of success, of hope and happiness. We were the team who had to fight the school board to keep him as a coach; they were more concerned with rules and regulations (I mean, seriously, how hard is it to overlook the lack of a proper Greencard anyway?!) than they were with the success of girls' sports. It was when I first learned that, in life, certain people have to follow the rules down to a T and certain others have to fight the system, because sometimes "the rules" aren't truly in our best interest. (It started young, folks....)
Fidgi had a way about him that made us want to be in his presence, want to work hard, want to succeed, and not just for ourselves. He inspired us to love and care for one another when most of us were more concerned about which party we were going to that weekend and who might be there. He brought the best out of us. He challenged us, not just to be the best soccer players we could be, but to be the best people we could be. He taught us about soccer, about fitness and nutrition, health and vitality, about relationships and life. He showed us what it meant to find balance: between work and play, and all things in between. And he made sure we didn't take ourselves or each other too seriously, that we could laugh at ourselves and be silly, even when the going got tough.
And then one day, just a few weeks ago, he died.
He was 47.
How could it be that this man, who singlehandedly changed the course I took in my life, was dead before I ever had the chance to really thank him? Instead of dedicating my time and talents solely to music and pushing towards that singular focus, he encouraged me to also focus on my game, to work harder on and off the field. He praised me for my determination, for the time spent in the gym getting stronger, for the hours spent running to increase my endurance, for the extra shots and touches after practice, the way I transformed my diet and focused on my health. He lifted me (as well as others) up in front of peers as the teammate to emulate: a hard working role model, one who was trying to help the entire team both on and off the field. (Seriously, how could you not love a man who made you feel glorified?!) And I think he truly meant it. And so I carried that with me into college, into life.....continued making good decisions, even when they were tough to make, stayed aware of my health, of what I put in my body, of how I treated it as well as the wellbeing of those around me. I could meet any challenge because I was taught to believe in my self, in my ability to control outcomes; because I was taught the benefit of hard work and determination, because I was taught right living in a world where so many things could push you off track. And because I was taught to work with others and to care about those around me, I always found support when I needed it most.
Because of this one coach, I believed I could walk on to a Division 1 team, run marathons, push myself to run a Boston Qualifier and run Boston.....and it flowed into other parts of my life.....into my music, into my relationships.....and I believed in my ability to share these passions and wisdom with others, to become someone else's teacher, and mentor and Coach. Because of his influence, my life was effectively transformed. And yet, I never got to tell him how much he shaped me.
The truth of life however is this: If you live long enough, you will lose people you love. If you live long enough, you will lose some of your greatest mentors and life coaches. And no matter how you look at it, that loss is hard. Terribly hard.
But.....it is part of the journey we share.
Thankfully, their memories and lessons live on. Fidgi taught many of us about life and in the end, his death is that lesson we probably already knew but perhaps have chosen to ignore: that we should never assume that tomorrow is guaranteed. Because it isn't. Not for any of us. This earthly life that we hold so dear is fleeting and my guess is that Fidgi would also challenge us with the question: So what are you going to do about it? (Only, he would use his endearing accent and end with that sly, all-knowing, smile and we would melt under the weight of its truth and think that we were his favorite people on earth simply because he cared.....he had a lot of favorites I believe.)
So, thank you dear readers for continuing with me along this journey. Thanks for sharing in the ups and downs; for laughing with me, and crying with me. This is life.
Imperfect, painful, and fleeting.....and yet so incredibly beautiful.
Mel-High Girls Soccer with Fidgi Haig, Coach, of soccer and life....
Solly: Mom, um, you know I can't go to school tomorrow.
Me: Oh really Solomon? Why's that?
Solly: Because I am so, so, soooo busy tomorrow. I think we will just have to cancel.
Me: What are you doing to keep you so busy tomorrow?
Solly: Well, I have some writing stuff to do so we just have to cancel.
Me: You have writing to do? Solly: Well, um, yeah. I have other stuff too that just keeps me so busy tomorrow. I can't go to school.
Me: Like what solly?
Solly: I have a lot, a lot, a LOT of growing up to do tomorrow.
Me: Solly, just out of curiosity, why don't you want to go to school?
Solly: Because I get so, so, SO stressed out at school.
Me: Seriously? Stressed out, Solly? Why?
Solly: Because Cody......Cody gives me the creeps.
Me: Cody gives you the creeps? You mean Cody, as in your best friend at school? That Cody?
Solly: Yeah, but he gives me the creeps.
Well, okay then.....and the drama to get him to go into the classroom continued into the next day when I forced him to go to school even though he was too busy and it stressed him out and the kid we carpool with gives him the creeps....and he didn't complain later about having to meet the cool parrot that came in for a visit with a local Veterinarian. But, the teachers said he was the only kid who acted like a parrot was so "last year's news" and they could tell he had handled birds before. If by handling they meant punching and kicking and occasionally getting beat up by a rooster who is too big for his britches, then yes, he has handled lots of birds!
I am sure this story is not over. Have a great day!
Um, I think I'll take the bust please? (Lord knows I have been waiting for my turn for far too long now.....I was beginning to think that I would stay in "Stage 3" forever but then I had babies and realized, stage 3 wasn't so bad after all....and apparently after I left the post-baby stage, I entered the TMI category so I think now is a good time to redirect.....)
Aaaaaaanyway, Boston is about a week away and as I glance out the window this morning, watching the stormy weather and utter gloom, I am feeling rather at peace about my decision not to run this year. After ten months in physical therapy for what started off as a little hamstring irritation (turned hip flexor strain) and has ended up being a continuing aggravation, it is clear to me that my body is not eager to be doing the kinds of distances that are required in marathon racing.
So, there is no Boston for me this year. My name is there.....and perhaps even some of my spirit.....but that is the extent of my participation. At first, I was very sad about the decision. And every last time I got a Boston Athletic Association email or packet in the mail, I was terribly upset, as if the B.A.A. was just trying to antagonize me. It ate away at me, like ringworm running circles just under the skin.....and I cringed at the idea of "quitting" before I even started.
But sitting here this morning, in the still and quiet and warmth of our home, I recall the craziness of taper week; the flood of anxiety; the fear of death, or worse, failure, and quite honestly, I am glad my body refused to cooperate with my insanity this year. It's about time one of us came to our senses!
So, for those of you who were eagerly anticipating watching the miles tick away while I suffered through another 26.2 miles, rest easy knowing I will be happily coaching a group of 10 year old girls at a soccer tournament instead. I guess it's time to pass that baton on to the younger generation and forge a new identity. (At least until the next crazy brilliant idea comes to mind anyway.....)
All in for Boston!
(You know, except those of us who found a tiny spark of sanity for once.....)
"There is a young cowboy, he lives on the range." (Or in this case, the coop.....)
My mother called me the other day to tell me I needed to write something nicer about Solomon. Her argument had to do with how sweet he is (which is true) and that I have painted this picture of a monster (which is also true). So she requested that I write something about what a love Solly really is.....so, here it goes.
Dear readers, I must confess, contrary to most of what I have previously told you (which is all truthful and honest), Solomon is a complete and total snuggle bug (when he wants to be). He is so sweet and tender and almost-gentle and loving (at least if you are his mom...and sometimes his dad....or a few select others), that he insists on hourly hugs and kisses and, quite like a little puppy, he wants his back scratched and his tummy rubbed every night at bedtime. He will attempt to curl up in your lap while you read him story after story (and by curl, I mean wiggle and squirm as if he doesn't really want to be there but when you set him down he immediately crawls back on you and continues his little wiggly jig.) He is cute and funny and smart as a whip (why daddy, can you just hold this hot chocolate for me and keep it safe, away from Liam....I'm just going to sneak off outside and run down the entire street chasing after mommy who just drove off but don't worry, you won't even notice I'm gone and it is totally safe because look, no cars!) Even his name, Solomon, is supposed to mean "peace".....and at one point in time we thought maybe by naming him something associated with "peace" and "wisdom" we could bring some sort of calm into our lives. (Read here for the story behind his name.)
So yes, I have painted him to be a monster of sorts but that is only because when he is not being totally and insanely adorable, singing sweetly to himself so that our hearts swell with love and joy, he is walking about destroying everything in his way, like Madeline's foot, which he took out recently with a kitchen stool:
(Good feeling gone!)
So, yes, he is a sweet, loving little boy but that does not exclude him from also living up to his name: Solomon, the Destroyer, because, if we are being totally honest here, wherever Solomon is, there is also a disaster waiting to happen. Yin and Yang.....it's the complete package.
"There's a song that they sing when they take to the highway, a song that they sing when they take to the sea, a song that they sing of their home in the sky, maybe you can believe if it helps you to sleep; but singing works just fine for me." (James Taylor)
And if you are Solomon, singing works great, along with a little daily smashing. Singing and smashing. If he were a super hero, he'd be SuperSweetSmashMan.
As if I didn't learn my lesson the first time, (think Liam's Horrific Halloween Party....the one where I didn't show up with the entire class's snacks until.....ah, just read it here) I opted to volunteer for the 6th Grade Spring Party so that I could make an effort to be more involved with Aidan's life. (Also known as SPYING.)
As luck would have it, they stuck me on Face Painting, which means, not only would I be actually engaging with a bunch of 11 and 12 year old kids (rather than silently judging from a distance) but I would not even once see my own son, who, in an effort to avoid me and the embarrassment I would most likely bestow on him, walked clear to the other side of the party once he saw where I had landed (he even passed up the chance at free Oreos and the Pizza table so as to avoid me! Kids.)
At any rate, for those of you who don't know me, I actually like face painting. I like the freedom to draw ridiculous things all over a kid's face and tell them how awesome it is (all the while snickering at the thought of those innocent parents who have to clean it up later through gritted teeth....I do believe I may have some issues). And I will admit, I thoroughly enjoyed this particular experience.
You see, as it turns out, 6th graders are all forming their little packs and clubs and cliques and when they get their face painted, they all want the exact same thing as the rest of their pack, you know, to be different. It's like a silly initiation ritual or something. And they were coming to me to help them. Ha ha. Ha ha ha.
So the first girl that sat down was part of a group of five girls who all wanted a sweet, simple rainbow like they saw on the suggestion sheet on the table. NOT! That would be WAY too easy. What they actually wanted was for each of them to walk away with a ridiculous black mustache, beard and uni-brow. (Why they would want such a thing is beyond me but who am I to question the wisdom of 6th grade girls?) So, I got right to work. I had each of them pick out a different color to add some variety and contrast to their black 'staches and then suggested we add long eyelashes underneath the brow. They were thrilled. After running into the bathroom to check themselves out, they came running back for more. (I had just completed a series of triangles on a group of boys' foreheads who were all too scared to put an eyeball in the middle....so they walked off with dumb triangles on their faces. And they didn't even laugh when I asked, "What kind of triangle you looking for? Equilateral? Right triangle? Wrong one?".....so I botched them up on purpose. Just kidding.)
But I digress. The girls came back and confided in me that the codeword for their club was "chickenbutt" and could I please write it across each of their foreheads.
Chicken Butt. CHICKEN BUTT. Seriously. It's like the universe is feeding me folks!
And while the fun part of me thought, "Hey, that's fantastic! Let's do this!", you will be pleased (and probably a wee bit shocked) to know that I do have a mature, adult-ish side that actually sent in a veto here.
"You know girls," I said, quietly and very seriously. "I will tell you the truth. I have a thing for chickens. And while I would love to do what you are requesting, I kind of think I might be stepping over some lines if I write that particular phrase on your foreheads. And I really don't want to get any of us in trouble so what if I just write 'Chicken...' as if to imply the code word without actually writing it all out? Our little secret, you see?"
You could tell immediately that I was their hero.....the wind beneath their chicken butt wings....because their ridiculous (manly drawn) faces lit up in excitement at the little secret about to be scribbled on their foreheads. They all sat down, allowed me to write "Chicken..." across their faces and then ran off giggling to take selfies and declare themselves the coolest girls in the school.
You'd think Aidan would be showing me off to his friends at this point but alas, writing "Chicken..." on a bunch of girls' foreheads, above their unibrow and mustache/beard combo, apparently doesn't cut it for 6th grade boys. I think his exact words were: "You know you have issues right?" But really, I can hardly be blamed for this one. It's the universe's sick fault! It's like I'm being egged on here.....hee hee hee.
Here is a short story to make you feel like a really, super awesome parent.....(apparently some of us are just going long for the laugh)....enjoy.
How I Accidentally Killed a Guy
As you know, Solomon has a knack for getting into mischief. (Think Curious George but with far more screaming, bigger costs....oh, and headaches.) The other day, he got into some pet supplies I had placed in a drawer in the laundry room (where he had served his hundredth time-out of the hour) and even when I noticed him holding a thermometer in his mouth in the car a little later, I didn't think much of it until we were standing in line to pick up the girls from school that afternoon. Solomon had spontaneously made friends with another little boy who had a green matchbox car. They were playing nicely, even taking turns with the little car, while the other mom was watching like a hawk. I do not know if she just sensed the monster within Solly that is always at the ready, if she was worried he would try to steal the car (which he would) or if she was watching her own son's behavior (which I could assure her was just fine relatively speaking), but it was very clear she was not too keen on our two boys playing together. They were having a grand old time none the less. They chased each other through the line, pushed the car along the windows and hung on the railing together, essentially creating their own entertainment (which I think became amusing to everyone when you saw the stress it created for Helicopter Mom.) And that is when Solly pulled out the thermometer from his pocket, as if to share his most beloved object with his new friend. He stuck it in his mouth and then held it towards the little boy's face, you know, to share the experience with his new friend. Suddenly realizing where he had obtained the thermometer, I jumped in at that moment, quickly snatched the thermometer away before the other kid had a chance to touch it and jammed it into my pocket while explaining to the boys that it really wasn't a great toy actually.
The man next to me quietly noted how closely the other mom seemed to be watching the boys and how horrified she looked in that moment. I chuckled as I replied, "If she only knew that that was our cat's rectal thermometer."
He didn't stop laughing until he choked on his gum and died.
(Ok, ok, so he actually didn't die but he laughed so hard that by the end he felt the need to introduce himself, as if I were some parenting Goddess whose very presence was sacred and had made him speak in tongues by way of fits of laughter and joy. I wish everyone understood me so well.)
(Ok, ok, ok, he probably just wanted to make sure he knew who I was and more importantly, which children to keep his own away from, but I like my first theory better.)
Thus ends the story of how you are a far better parent then you realize (and of the most disgusting moment in Solomon's life to date, although, my guess is we have not seen the worse of it.....just sayin.')
Oh dear readers, don't go getting your tail feathers all bunched up (if you still have any left after being completely pecked to death by the other cooped up hens this winter....wait, that part comes later).....the chickens have not yet melted, not entirely.
What? You want to know how chickens "melt"? Well, dear readers, I thought you would never ask! (Which really wouldn't be a problem because I was going to tell you anyway!)
It is a well known fact, like a general rule of thumb, that one should never cross one's neighbors.....you see, the problem with attempting to stir up trouble for the "crazy chicken lady," as a neighbor so affectionately called me when texting her daughter but accidentally SENDING IT TO ME INSTEAD, (hee hee hee, which of course endeared me to her forever....your own fault, my friend....) the chicken loving neighbor might just decide that at every possible turn, she wants you to be aware of the hens living next door (or right in front of your kitchen window, as the case may be).
The Beginning (of Somewhere in the Middle) of the Story:
This winter has been a wee bit brutal. We have had a lot of, um, cold weather and quite a bit of this white fluffy stuff known as snow (which really means only that, yes, winter came again this year too....). It all seems rather normal to me really, coming from Minnesota, but according to everyone here and their mother, the last two winters have been quite abnormal. At any rate, we had a nice big snow storm the other day and the girls wanted to go outside to play in it, and like usual, they asked me to come along. So I debated it in my head for all of two milliseconds: laundry, dishes and toilet cleaning or sledding out back with the kids......(it's because I love the kids that the housework is not done Kurt, I swear!)
At any rate, Lily and Madeline are really good at rolling snow to make snowmen so they decided we should make another snowman to replace the one Aidan destroyed. I was excited about the opportunity to make some monstrosity, er, I mean, a ridiculously big, totally awesome and entirely tasteful and pulchritudinous (thank you, thesaurus....) snowman in our back yard (right in front of the neighbor's window.....) and so I suggested we make the base super big, bigger than any snowman they have ever made; I mean, I was thinking ladders and pulleys and the possibility for needing outside help. But then this strange thing happened: the gigantic base we were making started to look an awful lot like the body of..... you guessed it, a chicken! So, of course a lightbulb went off in my head (which, truth be told, happens so infrequently that it would be totally irresponsible of me to ignore....so really, I was just being a responsible person y'all, that's all....) and that's when this happened:
And then, one thing lead to another (you know how these things go) and an entire flock was born......
And so, then, one day, they started to melt and um.....wait, where was I going with this story? Well, I can't recall but there may just be snow chickens in our yard every winter FOR THE REST OF OUR NEIGHBOR'S LIVES! (You did this to yourselves dear neighbors, really, you did. Might I offer you the number of a good realtor? Or are you totally excited to see what I come up with in the spring????)
Hee hee hee.....
Have a happy last few weeks (months???) of winter!