How Summer Got Away From Us

It seems like forever since I was able to sit down and write. The stories of our recent past have become a jumbled mess and those moments I was certain I would remember long enough to write down later, are gone. Sadly, my memory is not what it once was. Perhaps I took too many soccer balls to the head earlier in my life or maybe it has to do with that dumb incident last fall where I banged my head against the ground harder than is probably recommended (something I possibly should have taken more seriously at the time), or perhaps it is just the aging process taking its toll, but really, this summer is a big blur and has somehow managed to get away from me with very little shared. And for that, I am sorry.

But all is not lost. Because, just when I thought "Shoot, an entire summer without a story to share," one popped up (as they tend to do if you just pay life a little attention!)

So the story goes like this: a friend ask if I wanted more hens. (Uh, yeah. Always.) He had a friend who needed to get rid of her four laying hens because apparently that happens when you go through a nasty divorce. (Note to self: stay married.)

I got really excited because I had just given away three hens alongside our roosters (in attempt to offset the fact that she was taking three roosters off my hands....I think I got the better end of that deal personally!) And so my hens were not laying enough to keep up with my family's consumption. More hens would be awesome. Anyway, at the end of the dialog, the soon-to-be divorcee gave the hens to someone else and I was left feeling a little let down. So I went online and found a family near Mars who needed to get rid of their six laying hens because they were moving. (Yay for Craigslist!)

The man and I emailed back and forth a little while about the chickens, their health, the reasons he needed to get rid of them etc. and on one of the responses in the chain, the name associated with his email came up as Spartacus Clover.

Now, I have to stop here for a second and say, this might be where curiosity kills the cat. So, hypothetically, if you were emailing back and forth with someone you didn't know and their name popped up as something curious and peculiar like Spartacus Clover, what is the first thing you would do?

Google it, of course.

So, I did that and um, well, let's just say, I had to think twice about showing up at this random guys house to pick up his chickens. Actually, I had to go back and reread the post to make sure I hadn't overlooked some other sneaky clue like: Hens in need of a good home (Join me for some S&M when you pick them up).

(How many of you already Googled Spartacus Clover? ......Yeah, I thought so.)

I happened to be in a text conversation with my soccer team's manager about that time and so I ran it past her. (Someone should know how to track me down just in case....) After she finished laughing her tail off, she offered to send her husband along with me (for my PROTECTION guys! Not because he likes that stuff....sheesh.)  And, living in small town America, I could already see the headlines: Soccer coach and mom of 5, gets mixed up with local Dom while her friend's husband runs off with six hens and two of her kids.

I politely declined the offer to bring along some third party and set up a time to pick up the hens. Solly and Liam came along (that would scare anyone off right?) and after passing several houses that left my stomach a little unsettled, we arrived at our destination where a young woman about my age was waiting on the porch while two kids ran around outside. (Oh, THANK. GOD!)

Long story short: the six new hens, Lily, Maddy, Haley, Bailey, Dawn and Kernel, are enjoying their new digs where their pink, brown, white and blue eggs are picked up everyday for consumption (unlike at their former home where the eggs were left to rot) and they have plenty of space to roam.

I have no idea what happened to Spartacus. (And every plan to keep it that way!)

The Rescued Six: Kernel is in the left corner, Dawn is up top, Maddy in the middle, the Twins, Bailey and Haley are to the right and the bottom right is Lily, although you can't see her fully. 

A new favorite: Maddy, the Buff Brahma


This, That and the One Eyed Duck

*Sometimes, when I am tired of telling the kids to pick up their rooms, I sit on the floor while they play and throw little legos and army men under their bare feet when they are walking.....it makes me feel better, and teaches them a good life lesson.

*Lily asked me the other day how her voice sounded since she had forgotten her nasal spray medicine that morning. I told her she sounded a little hoarse.

"You mean like a Miniature Horse?"

When we chatted about possibly taking her tonsils and adenoids out to prevent her from having laryngitis so often and that it might take away her raspy voice she said, "But I like my voice! I don't want to get rid of it!"

Yes, yes she likes her pony voice very much. Obviously.

*You know you have a true friend when they give you a "Fried Egg Mold" just because they saw it in the store and had to get it for you...because it so totally rocks! And it makes you smile every time you use it so really, it kind of does totally rock!

(Thanks Deborah! What would I do without you....or this?!)

*When your son asks you to help find "his" missing goalie glove (that he stole from his sister) because he can't find it anywhere, and so you search and search and can't find it either, take a break and grab a glass of ice water and while you are in the freezer, just peek in the back of the ice box on a whim. (Don't ask questions. Just trust me.)

*When the local farmer tells you he has a one-eyed duckling for sale, don't get all excited as you picture bringing home your very own Cyclops Duckling.....and whatever you do, don't let your kids talk about it on the way home because then they might decide on a name (like Bingo, the One Eyed Duck) and twist your arm into going back and bringing home Bingo and his sidekick, Dawson (because apparently they come in pairs). And that, my friends, is how these two little guys made their way to our house and into their very own kiddie pool:

Bingo, showing off his good side, and his little sidekick, Dawson
Dawson, too cute for his own good.....and the only reason he still lives with us (I suppose I should have heeded all the warnings about how messy ducks are....my bad!)

*And finally, when your newest little day old peep allows you to hold it and rub its tummy until it totally relaxes and looks stoned, don't just assume it is one chilled out little peep.....
It was apparently a very patriotic peep, however. 

Happy 4th of July!


A Glance Back in Time

Recently I ran across this little letter I wrote my grandma back when we we had just moved to California (again). I thought it was worth sharing since I apparently have not made time to keep up with my blog this year.....it kind of feels like I am running about 8 years behind so this is fitting. 

May 29, 2007

Dear Grandma, 

I am sorry it has been so long since I last wrote…I am beginning to sound like a broken record. Anyway, we are finally getting settled here in CA. It is a beautiful state, to which I’m highly allergic! I have been sneezing and stuffy since our arrival a month ago. Ugh! Hard to enjoy perfect weather when your eyes are red and puffy from the itching! Oh well. Such is life. 

We have started to make some new friends, a big feat these days it seems and we have been going fairly regularly to the Methodist Church right down the street. It is an unusual church, well, let's just say it's not as traditional as some, but it seems like a good demographic mix and it is the closet church to us, a big plus. We had tried a different UMC nearby, one located in the retirement community up the hill, and I almost had to up and leave about 20 minutes into it. I don’t think there were more than a handful of us under the age of 75, not a big surprise in a retirement community obviously but then the pastor got up to do a “centering” prayer and he began by saying, “breath in, breath out, breath in, breath out,” real slowly and I thought to myself, “I suppose in this church you have to remind people to do that,” and of course I started to laugh and laugh and I had to lean forward to suppress my tickle and try to hide the fact that I was giggling so hard and Kurt leaned over to ask if I was laughing or crying, hard to tell since I had teary eyes at that point but I was glad because I figured, if Kurt can’t tell, then perhaps no one else noticed…at any rate, I don’t think that will be the church for us. We’ll stick to the one closer to home and deal with the fact that the minister almost seems more like an old school priest than a Methodist preacher. Whatever though. You have to pick your battles and just because I feel like getting up and debating him on what John Wesley would’ve changed about his sermons, doesn’t mean it isn’t a good church…just an unusual take on the Methodist faith. And the pastoral intern, I know he says he comes from the Presbyterian tradition, but both Kurt and I would’ve guessed he grew up in a Jewish home. Nothing wrong with that of course but, anyway, it all seems to keep us engaged I suppose. 

So, I am sorry I couldn’t include any recent pictures. I have a lot of new pics on my very full camera but somehow in the move I misplaced the connection so I can’t upload anything into my computer. I have to figure out where to take the camera to get the information off of it…a much bigger deal with 3 kids. But, rest assured, as soon as I get some new photos printed, I will send them your way. 

I am guessing by now mom has told you we are expecting our 4th child. We just found out so it is still very early in the game. But, if everything works out, the baby will be born at the end of January, or something like that. I had not planned on being pregnant for my 30th birthday but, alas, God had other plans (and we were obviously not very careful) so, here we are. Somehow, it seems a little more stressful and a little less exciting this go around. 

Our house is quite lovely, although much smaller than our Midwestern home. We have snuggled in though and will be staying put for at least a couple of years. Kurt loves his new job so far but isn’t as fond of CA. There is something different about the way people interact here. Everyone is so individualistic, like an “every man for himself” type of feeling that doesn’t make you feel very connected to anyone. We need to give it more time but it isn’t like being in MN where people kind of wrap you up and take you in. No one has stopped by to bring us (the new neighbors) cookies yet but then, that is probably highly unusual these days. We just had GREAT neighbors back in MN. We have yet to sell our home back there so who knows, we may go back and live in the same place. We'll see. 

Well, I have to wrap this up. Lillian is making growling noises from the other room so I had better go check it out. It will soon turn into screeching I am sure…oh, there she blows!

I love you and look forward to seeing you sometime soon. 
Karen Diane

p.s. In the wake of my Grandma Mac’s death, I just wanted to tell you how special you were to her. She felt so indebted to you and your help early in her life. Thank you for being such a gift to her. She loved you very much. 


Tonight's Thoughts

These last couple of weeks and months have been a massive blur. Shortly after Fidgi passed, my good friends lost their son, also 47, to some heart and blood clot issues. Like Fidgi, it was completely out of nowhere. Like Fidgi, it was a total shock.

Truth be told, I didn't really know Christopher very well. He flitted in and out of the scene, occasionally stopping in to see his folks when we were around and once joining us and his parents for a holiday dinner at our home. But I only really knew him from stories and listening to him speak on the phone with his mom when the kids and I happened to be visiting. He was a sharp, eclectic and very private guy, their only child. His loss left us stunned and unsettled. Personally, I just can't make sense of it. I know his parents can't either.

After that horrible week, when he had been fighting to hang on and his parents, in utter dismay, were just trying to cope, I (almost guiltily) took my younger daughter's soccer team to their first tournament together. While I was so pleased with Lily's team, their sweet championship win was but a fleeting victory in light of Fidgi's and Chirstopher's deaths. Don't get me wrong: I am so proud of those kids and not just for winning. I am most proud of how hard they have worked and how much they have overcome to get where they are. When I think of all the good things that can come from youth sports, it is the will and drive to both overcome obstacles and create successes that I most hope these kids walk away with. Sure there are friendships and shared experiences and fun and laughter and physical fitness benefits, and even some tears of sadness and frustration; those harder lessons learned. But recognizing their power to create outcomes, learning to believe in themselves, to see the value in helping one other, and having faith in a future they cannot yet see and yet striving to get there anyway, those are the things I hope they learn above all else.

And when I ponder my place in it all, I realize I don't want to be just another coach who teaches a game. Anyone can do that. I want to be a coach who helps create better people; people who can figure out how to get the results they want while building others up along the way and most importantly, people who never, ever give up. They won't always get what they dream up, they won't always win that trophy or prize, but by giving their all until the bitter end and by helping others do the same, they will lead vibrant and full lives, lives without regret.

In the wake of another unexpected loss, the questions are far more numerous than the answers. But that one glaring lesson remains: we simply do not know how long we get to walk this path. We must make the most of the time we have and with the people we have in it. And that time is now.

I wish that lesson came easier.

Rest in peace, Christopher.


The Truth Behind Loss... and Life

Loss is hard.

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. 

Remembering Wally

Mel-High Girls Soccer with Fidgi Haig, Coach, of soccer and life....

Thank you, Coach. 


Solly's School Saga (Continued)

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!


Boston or Bust

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.....)

Now, how do I sign up for that bust? :)