Rain, Rain

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Rain, rain, please please stay.

I so enjoy a rainy day.

My wrinkles seem to fall away.

My curls are back and looking great.

The garden’s happier this way.

The kids are stuck inside to play (yay!)


Rain, we love to hear your sound

Of droplets dripping to the ground,

Of distant thunder moving in,

Of creaking branches in the wind.


Ha! There goes the satellite dish,

In answer to my fervent wish,

To shut that Disney channel down,

Put Sponge Bob’s whining out of bounds.


The oldest wants to read her book:


(Ankles crossed upon the table,

Bag of chips torn through the label,

She digs her way through Rowling’s fable.

She doesn’t even miss the cable).


The second child just wants to cook:

(Dinner bubbles on the stove, and

Scents damp air with spice and cloves.

Flour and yeast rise into loaves,

As rivers slide down panes in droves).


My third child only wants to look:


(She, out the steamy window sees,

And feels the violence of the trees,

And checks the dove’s nest in the eaves,

And worries over honey bees).


Puzzle pieces snap in place.

Cocoa’s drunk at dizzying pace.

“Remember when” by the fireplace.

I try to memorize her face.


For with the dawn of the shining sun,

I’ll lose my children one by one.

Gone from kitchen, gone from chair,

Into breezes warm and fair.


So Rain, Rain, please please stay.

Keep them home just one more day?





On Why I Craft:


I take a lot of heat from my friends about being crafty.   They think it’s funny that I like to make things, and that I like to make things that would be much cheaper and easier to buy.  When one of them joked that my living room was beginning to look like the lobby of the Cracker Barrel Restaurant, I started to give my craft projects to charity.  But I still make things.

Even as a child I liked to crochet.  My Grandmother taught me how.  When I was in high school and college, I earned my spending money as a lifeguard, and I crafted to dispel the quiet of the rainy days by making pictures with a scrap of linen and needle and thread.  In my thirties I learned to quilt.  Recently, I took up knitting.  I just can’t help myself; I like to make stuff. 

I used to tell myself I made things because I wanted to fill inevitable empty hours producing something useful, instead of wasting my time watching TV, or reading tabloids in waiting rooms, but I have gradually become aware over the years that I do it for a different reason.   Crafting is therapeutic.  It’s more than therapeutic.  If I do it right, it sets my thoughts to music.  If I find a quiet place, with good light, and allow myself to hear the rhythmic clacking of my knitting needles, or to feel the quilting needle hit my thimble as it rocks melodically through the layers of cloth, I can send my worries over the rhythm of the work, and if I am patient and listen carefully, the rhythm of the work will float the answers back to me.

For the time I embellished a story to a new friend to make a point (former therapists and writers of fiction are at high risk to do this. I am both),  and she perceived that as a lie, and I got a stomachache every time I thought about it: knit one, pearl two, knit one, purl two.  Am I a liar?  Knit one, purl two. Did I mean to hurt her with my story?  No, I meant to help her.  Knit one, purl two.  It isn’t nice to therapize your friends.  Knit one, purl two.  Telling the story, that way, was a mistake.  Knit one, purl two.  Apologize. Knit one, purl two.  A true friend will forgive.  Knit one, purl two.  If not, learn.  Breathe.  Move on.  Knit one, purl two.

For the time my daughter was late, really late, home from the movies with a friend, and I could hear sirens, and I hadn’t really trusted the parent that picked her up: stitch five across blue, five back blue.  The crosses formed by the stitches remind me the angels are with her.  Stitch ten across green, ten back green.  “She is fine,” I tell myself, “They must be out for a coffee, or a coke, or something.”  Stitch one and a half, yellow. The front door finally opens and I find myself misty, and I hug her hard and send her to bed, and I smell alcohol thick on the breath of the mother when she apologizes.  Four stitches down red.  Four stitches up.  Thank you God; thank you God, thank you.   Eight stitches across, green.  Eight stitches back.  

For the time I had a terrible, terrible argument with my husband.  I can remember neither the source nor the resolution of that argument, but it was so bad, it brought the children out of their beds, crying and afraid in their footie pajamas, wild eyed, not knowing where their loyalties should lie.  There was a week of terrifying silence to follow. Needle up, needle down.  Needle up, needle down.  I feared I would not be married at the end of it. Needle up, needle down.  Be patient.  Needle up.  He needs some time.  Needle down.  Keep making his supper and his bed.  Needle up, needle down.   It doesn’t matter.  Needle up, needle down.   Love him anyway.  Needle up, needle down.

For praying my dearest friend through her painful divorce, knit one, purl two. For watching the Twin Towers fall, two stitches across, two stitches back.  For raising children and keeping faith in a husband, needle up, needle down.   The stitches turn to a chant, the chant to prayer, and the prayer to truth.  No matter what I am called to mourn or worry, I can stitch my way through it. 

And that is why I do it; that’s why I craft.  The lobby of the Cracker Barrel be damned.      



Ode to my husband on Our Anniversary


He does not write sonnets. He does not dedicate love songs. He does not fill bathtubs with rose petals. He doesn’t even unload groceries most of the time.

But when the time came for me to rent a car last summer, he made sure there was a Mustang GT, v-8, in red waiting for me at the airport. And yes, it does go from 0 to 60 in under five seconds. (Don’t worry, I didn’t try it with the kids in the car.) This is the kind of thing I appreciate about my husband.

Here’s what else:

1. He takes my old minivan to gas up before a snowstorm, and he’s the one who
cleans the salt and mud off after the snow has melted.
2. He never, ever hassles me about the bills.
3. He does laundry, even lingerie, and he does it RIGHT.
4. He makes a mean Margarita, and doesn’t count how many I’ve had. If there’s a little pressure behind the eyes at daybreak, he’ll bring me an Advil and tell me I didn’t say anything embarrassing, even If I did.
5. He encourages me to fall asleep on the sofa, in sweats and warm socks, if I am “tired.” (I’m not a person who can admit to being sick).
6. He stays up with sick children. If I am exhausted he will take a shift, even if he has to go to work in the morning. He understands how lucky he is to have a family, and doesn’t want to miss any of it.
7. He will help me clean up in a hurry if someone calls and says they’re coming over.
8. He will watch the PBS version of “Pride and Prejudice” with me for the seventy third (or seventy fourth?) time and listen to me sing the praises of the very young and handsome Colin Firth.
9. Sometimes, he even listens to country music, or takes me to a concert where some cowboy from down home is singing about Georgia red clay, turnip greens and/or drinking Tequila. It’s easy to forgive the eye rolling.
10. His recipe for banana chocolate chip pancakes is to die for.
11. He has a deep, hearty, and joyful laugh, which can drag me out from the darkest emotional doldrums. Nothing makes him laugh harder than the facial expression of a small child who has eaten something yucky, or if he hears someone use the word “poo”.
12. He can think on his feet. Once, when we were dating, my very pretty roommate walked out in a thong with her nether-regions fully visible from where we sat watching TV. He could have reacted ten thousand negative ways, but he looked at me with a puzzled expression and said “has she gained weight?”

There are so many more reasons to keep the guy around, but mostly it’s that he gets it that I really, really dig fast, shiny, loud cars, even if learning to drive a manual transmission is hopeless for me. “There’s nothing wrong with a girl who appreciates a big engine.” he says, and that’s why I love him.



Some days I just want to go home. Today is one of those days.

I live in Colorado, and walk with my children to the school bus each morning beneath what is arguably the most majestic view on planet earth, but it is not home.  The people here are wonderful, and supportive, and I have made a few true and lifelong friends among them, but they are not of home.

Home to me is south of here, way south, although I am not a true southerner.  I was not born in the south, nor was any member of my immediate family.  My ancestors who fought in the civil war served Abe Lincoln, not Robert E. Lee.  I do not speak with a southern accent.  I was born in Chicago.  I arrived in Atlanta at two years of age, when my father accepted a job transfer, so I have no childhood memory of being anywhere else.  It was in the south that I learned to be.  It was there that I was educated, and there that I fell in and out of love with the now enlightened grandsons and great- grandsons of slave owners.   It was there I learned to negotiate friendships with southern women, and became a southern woman, sort of.

Because I didn’t share their history, and so was not permitted to participate in their romance with the lost glory of the old south, I never really fit in with the true southerners who I grew up with, but still I feel, keenly, the siren call of the south.  It’s a feeling I share with those who were born there and whose people have lived there for generations.  I know my yearning for home is not only mine because I hear about it from others all the time.  All I have to do is turn on the radio.  Have you ever heard a tune called Sweet Home Toronto?  No.  Midwestern Chicken?  No.  The Devil Went Down to Arizona?  No!  You have heard, though, Sweet home Alabama, Dixie Chicken, and the Devil Went Down to Georgia.  There is something magical and poetic about the south.  Even the musicians, the poets of our time, feel it.  It’s no wonder that I feel it too.  It’s no wonder that I miss it.

I miss the oak trees and the azalea and the dogwoods of spring time.  Heck, I miss spring time.  We don’t really have spring in Colorado.  What they call spring is nothing like the long Georgia season that begins with the daffodils in February and ends with the perfume of the cherry blossoms being carried away into summer by the last of the cool breezes.  Springtime in Colorado is characterized by snowstorms, not flowers.

I miss hot nights (literal ones, not metaphorical ones).  I miss not needing a sweater on a summer evening.  I even miss the overcast, gothic, depressing heat of late summer.  I miss the warm damp rotten smell of the earth in the garden.  I miss home grown okra.  I miss red dirt.  I miss fireflies viewed across a suburban yard from an Adirondack chair.

I miss the slow brown roll of the Chattahoochee under a white sky, when the next bridge you can see from your innertube is blurred by the haze, and you can feel the faint tug of the plastic cooler afloat in the water behind you because it’s tied to your tube with bright orange plastic twine.

I miss the smell of honeysuckle that grows in the chain link fences around playgrounds. (I’d like to teach my daughters how to gently pull the stamen from the base of the honeysuckle blossom, so that they can taste the sweet drop of liquid that it carries, and drop the spent flower to crush under their flip-flops, to release the last of the scent).

I miss fall leaves.  I miss acorns.  I miss the sticky crunch of a Rome apple in season.  I miss the first cool crisp day of autumn.  All days are crisp in Colorado.  It’s so damn cheerful all the time. 

I miss the rain tap tapping on the roof.  Snow on the roof does not make a sound, and therefore does not create the restful, safe, and cozy feeling that rain does.  Snow, also, refuses to run helpfully into the storm sewers like rain does.  It demands to be shoveled.

I miss delicate shoes; they just don’t make sense in this climate.

I miss the low, lingering, musical voices of the people.  I miss the sense of history and the high ceilinged architecture.  I miss box fans in windows.  I miss sweet tea, and waitresses who call me honey.

Maybe it’s because today, I’m mad at my husband, and he is the reason I reside in what today seems like an airless, cold, treeless, brown and grey wasteland where the howling wind never calms, that makes me crave the feeling of home.  Maybe it’s because, today, I am weary of the staccato rhythm of life above the Mason Dixon line.  Maybe it’s because a few days ago we had a rare and precious rainy day, which reminds me of home, no, causes me to feel at home, and today we are back to the relentless glaring sunshine that somehow makes me feel guilty for needing to rest.  Maybe it’s because today, I just happen to be feeling sentimental.  

Whatever the reason, today I just want to go home.





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I answered him thoughtfully. “That the house would stay clean for fifteen minutes after the kids get home from school. That I could hire a cook. That the kids would read classics instead of books with corpses on the cover. That my best friend would find a man who treats her right. That tomorrow could be sunny and 75 degrees.

That we could get a tankless water heater! Did you know, I asked him, that those things kick out hot water forever? Even if you have three daughters living in your house?

I wish we could get tickets to the Florida Georgia Line concert. I wish your mother and I could find some common ground.” I walked into the closet to change into my coziest pajamas, and so raised my voice so that he could still hear me. “I wish I could tolerate more than ten minutes of playing Barbies with the girls. What does Barbie really have to say anyway, after she gets home from her date with Ken?”

“That we could spend all summer at the beach together. That our children will grow up to be happy, kind, contributing adults” I walked back to the bed as I considered the rest of my answer. “That I had more time to write,” I said as I let my tired body sink into the luxurious warmth of our aged and therefore very soft sheets. I let out a sigh of relief as I lay my head on my pillow.

This is my favorite time of day. It is quiet and peaceful and safe. I can be completely relaxed and completely myself. I don’t have to clean. I don’t have to think. I don’t have to plan. I don’t have to decide. I can rest.

As I felt his arm slide round my waist, I went on … “To receive a phone call from an actual publisher. To see a book in the library with my name on the spine! That someone would pay me for something I wrote. That a poem of mine would hit the charts in a song sung by Faith Hill.” I could hear my voice getting higher and my words coming faster. ”To be interviewed by Charlie Rose on PBS, or Katie Couric, or…or Barbara Walters! To appear on Book Notes, or on the today show, or on Good morning America!” I was really rolling now. “To see my name after the words ‘adapted from the novel by…’ scrolling up a movie screen. That the main character in my novel would be played by Julia Roberts in the movie version.” I heard him laugh.

That’s not exactly what I had in mind, sweetheart,” he said from somewhere over my left shoulder,”when I asked about your wildest fantasies.”

Up on one elbow now, he kissed my forehead and turned over. “I’ll look into that water heater tomorrow.” And then he was asleep.

Elite Sports for Kids

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Let me tell you our story; you decide what you think. 

My oldest dest daughter loved the game of softball.  She always had.  She’d been playing since the spring of her second grade year, when she asked to sign up to play.  Baseball is something my husband and I both love.  In fact, we conducted a good deal of our courtship at Fulton County Stadium, cheering for the Atlanta Braves. He played very serious baseball growing up, and was excited about her interest, so we let her do it.  She had a great time, some seriously great coaching, and the price was right. The whole family was enjoying her participation.  There’s something absolutely wonderful about a Saturday morning at the ball park with the smell of hot dogs, the crunch of the peanut shells under your feet, and the red dust wafting through the air.  Even better to soak up the sun from your folding chair, watch your baby turn a double play, and listen to the coach tell you that your kid has heart, and potential.  

We threw a wrench into the machinery of Daughter #1’s plan for greatness in the sport of softball when we moved to Colorado during the summer of 2009. We signed her up for the local recreational level team as soon as we arrived that summer, but it just wasn’t the same.  She had skills the other girls in her age group didn’t.  Nobody on the team could catch, even the easy fly balls, and the players didn’t know where to throw the ball if they did happen to catch it. There were grounders going between legs, and outfielders crashing into each other while the ball drops five yards away. To make matters worse, the league rules required the players to take turns at each position, which meant  Daughter #1couldn’t play shortstop, her favorite position, consistently. She was bored and frustrated.  So was I.  My husband couldn’t even stand to watch.   

The rec team coach sought us out after a game near the end of the season. He told us that daughter#1 had talent, and that we should seek a higher level of play if we had aspirations for her.  “We can’t teach her anything new at this level,” he said.  “If you want her to play in high school”, he said, “You should get her into a ‘competition’ level program, so she can maintain her skills and make the team.”  We listened for a few minutes about the stellar reputation of the coach at our local high school, about her winning record, and the fact that a lot of the kids she coached went on to play softball in college.  (I was to learn later that the words “play in college” were a euphemism for earning scholarship money, but I didn’t know that then).  My husband wore a huge toothy grin the whole way home.  He was bursting with pride.  I knew I should feel proud too, and I did, but I also felt pressured.  “Does this mean if we don’t get her onto a ‘higher level’ team, that she wouldn’t be able to play in high school at all?” I asked him from my side of the front seat.  My husband said he thought it did.  “If the other girls are practicing and playing,” he said, “and our daughter isn’t, the other girls will be much better than her by the time high school tryouts roll around, and she probably wouldn’t make the team.”  I really didn’t like that answer.  It made me feel like they (whoever they are) had us over a barrel.  Besides, I didn’t think it should matter whether we wanted her to play in high school or college.  The question was… did she?  

Then one beautiful Friday afternoon, the first week of school, she came home saying that she had been invited to try out for a “travel team”–a term interchangeable with “competition level team” or “elite team”– that very afternoon.  The wheels began to turn in my head.  This could be the solution our problem, I thought.  Maybe a “travel team” would be a better match for her ability. Maybe this team would help her keep her skills up so she would have the option to play in high school, if she wanted to.  I was willing to consider it for her, if she wanted it.   She said she did.

So I called my husband, who left beers with his buddies, and the three of us attended the tryout.  Daughter #1 did well that day.  She slammed a bunch of machine pitched balls far into the outfield, and she ran the bases fast enough to make the coach smile as he clicked his stopwatch.  The coach spent some time talking with her too, which gave her a chance to show that she knew the more intricate rules of the game.  Honestly, I was nervous during the tryout.  I wasn’t entirely sure she had the “right stuff” for this “higher level of play”.  Most of the other girls trying out outweighed her by at least twenty pounds and she was not so good at accepting constructive critism (I wonder where she got that?) but the coach said she was good enough to make the team.  I don’t know why I was nervous.  Girls who played at a much lower skill level also made the team that day.    

It was only $1200 dollars, the coach told us, a reasonable fee compared to most ‘elite’ teams.  That amount would include her uniforms, he said, a calendar year of instruction with practices twice a week and weekend games during the fall, spring, and summer.  There would be no games during December, January or February, but practices would be held all year.  What did he say?  $1200 dollars?  I was used to paying $75 to $100 for a six to eight week season in the spring and again in the fall, so $1200 seemed like an outrageous amount of money to me. My husband, however, didn’t bat an eyelash, and since he was the family expert on sports, I repressed my concerns about the money, tried hard to quash my incurable thrifty nature, and stayed quiet.

 My husband told the coach that we would sleep on it and give him a call in the morning with our decision, but I knew by looking at him that it was a done deal.   The kid really wanted to do it, and for some reason, some reason vaguely related to never having had a son, I thought, my husband was emotionally invested in letting her.  “I don’t want her to miss this opportunity,” he said, “like I did.”  (When he was a high school senior, he was offered a spot on the baseball team at Virginia Tech, but passed it up thinking he would not be able to manage the demanding engineering program and baseball.  It is a decision he’s always regretted.) In time for practice the next day, he wrote a check, and our girl was on the team.  She and her dad were excited, really excited.  I had some un-examined and un-named reservations about the whole thing, but I was determined to be supportive.  Since everyone else seemed so happy, I would try to be happy too.

 I learned pretty quickly that the $1200 fee was only the beginning.  The original fee only covered the basics: two jerseys, two pair of baseball pants, and a jacket.  We were responsible to buy everything else. To meet her potential, Coach said, Daughter #1 needed better equipment, including a three hundred dollar bat, special jerseys that would protect her heart, and a wide selection of Under Armor (like long johns, but sporty) to be worn under her uniform for comfort in various weather conditions.  There were special shorts that prevented injury during sliding. There were practice pants and t-shirts. There were the ten or so pairs of different shades of orange socks to match her uniform.  And then there were the shoes.  The “right” cleats were unbelievably expensive.  My softball player was twelve years old.  Really?  Even my husband took issue with the price of the bat, and got her a slightly less expensive one, but he bought all the other stuff she “needed.”  He replaced her shoes when she outgrew them, twice.  Plus, it seemed like every time I took her to practice I was shelling out cash for additional fees for batting cages, softball camps, and what they call “clinics,” which is a fancy word for more practice, except with a different coach.   What I call the “Band Aid budget” went up dramatically.  Every week I was buying gauze and tape, ankle braces, band aids, ace bandages, and gallons of Neosporin with the weekly groceries.  Expenses related to softball were beginning to add up, but I was still able, for the time being, to talk myself out of my worries over the money.  It was okay with me, I decided, if she was happy, and interested, and challenged by the game.  It wasn’t so much saying goodbye to money that bothered me, but the impression that we were being gouged.  But…I told myself it would all be worth it, if we can help her achieve her dream.

It wasn’t just the expenses I worried about.  I also worried about injury.  I worried about severe injuries like concussions, broken arms and legs, or a sudden heart attack from being hit hard in the chest with the ball. (The team kept a defibrillator on the field to deal with such incidents, so it must have been a possibility.) I had visions of emergency rooms and physical therapy.  Sarah already had a weak ankle from a bad slide when she was eight.  (She was safe, but her ankle wasn’t.)  It hasn’t been quite right since.  I’m not sure it will ever be quite right.  Just like the expenses, her smaller injuries began to add up.  She constantly jammed her fingers, which were often black and blue and purple.  Skinned knees and elbows were a regular occurrence.  I worried that all the little cuts and bruises would have a cumulative effect.  I had visions of my perfectly formed baby as an older woman in a tattered housedress, working her way slowly from a recliner in front of the TV to her kitchen for a cup of tea because her body didn’t work so well, with hip, or knee, or ankle, or god forbid, brain problems.   And for what?, I wondered.  Softball is neither an Olympic or professional sport.  If she worked hard she could play in college, but was that worth a lifetime of pain? Of course I said nothing.  Sublimating my worries was becoming a habit. 

I also learned pretty quickly that “travel teams” are called “travel teams” for a reason.  We traveled by air out of state for one tournament and my husband and daughter traveled hours by car every weekend for others.  I am not exaggerating.  There were tournaments every weekend, which started at 7:00 am on both Saturday and Sunday morning and lasted all day (so much for church, we now worshiped the sport of softball).  My younger daughters and I joined them when our schedules allowed, but most weekends, the family was split.  I missed them sorely, at first, and then I grew resentful that the team demanded so much of our family time.  Besides, I thought it was odd that our team always seemed to be playing against the same five other teams, no matter where we played.  The whole league, all five or six teams, would take themselves to another city, in another part of the state or country, and then play the same game that they could have played in the park where they practiced, which was within walking distance of our house.  I didn’t get it.  Certainly there must be enough girls who are good enough to play “elite” softball in our own city (population 2.7 million) to make up a league, but I dismissed my thought, thinking the experts must know what they were doing.   

Early on I noticed that every time I sat down on a set of bleachers, some parent said something to me along these lines:  “We are so pleased with this team.  Our daughter has improved so much since she’s joined.  We understand that college scouts attend club games more often than high school games.  We just know so and so (their daughter) will be able to get some scholarship money, so she can go to college.”  I would smile weakly, and say nothing, but I didn’t agree with the logic. I thought if we all put the huge amount of money we are spending on softball into a college savings plan, a four year education at a good in-state university would be paid for in no time. I thought if the kids put the time into studying that they put into softball they would all earn academic scholarships.  Every time I had this conversation, which was a lot, I got a sinking feeling.  Didn’t any of these parents know the statistics about how few kids get athletic scholarships?  Shouldn’t it just be for fun?   Was I missing something?  Was there something about this hope-for-a-scholarship thing that I didn’t understand?  

I wondered too, after these conversations, what about the kids whose families couldn’t afford the time or the money required for participation in “elite” softball (or baseball or football or soccer, or any sport)?   If what the other softball parents said was true, that college scouts came to more club sports games than to high school games, wouldn’t the players without a lot of money get left out of the mix? Wouldn’t the whole sport suffer as a result? What if today’s system had been in place thirty years ago, and the parents of Pele or Joe Namath or Mary Lou Retton couldn’t have afforded “elite” sports?  Soccer and Football and Gymnastics would have suffered a great loss.  This system, this race for scholarship money, seems fundamentally unfair to me.  It seems that you have to have the money for club sports in order to get the scholarship money for college. I began to think that the word “elite” in elite sports referred to a young athlete’s socioeconomic status, instead of their ability. It was a disturbing thought. 

Meanwhile, back on the field, our daughter was becoming disillusioned.  Her team was losing, a lot, and they were embarrassing losses, massacres.  If there is one thing I can tell you about my eldest daughter that can in no way be refuted by anyone who ever met her, it is that she likes to win.  No, she needs to win.  There were problems with the coaching too.  There was a lot of yelling, stomping around, and kicking up dirt on the field, which was tempered by precious little encouragement. This kind of coaching was a poor fit for daughter #1, who is a perfectionist (I wonder where she got that?).  When she made a mistake that caused the coach to yell at her, she couldn’t let it go and move on.  She would miss the next play because she was still thinking about it.  Her performance on the field got worse, not better.  She would come in from her games and practices with a hangdog look on her face, complaining of stomach aches.  Once, she threw down her glove and walked off the field, mid game.  Another time, she spoke disrespectfully to her coach.  She was exhausted from the long hours the team kept, and her school friends were dropping out of her life because she didn’t have time to spend with them.  She threatened to quit.

My husband and I were horrified.  We weren’t raising a quitter, or a brat that sassed adults and threw temper tantrums in public.  Her behavior was clearly unacceptable, and I told her so in no uncertain terms, but internally I was torn.  I didn’t want her to quit, especially after our mounting investment, but I could see how unhappy she was. 

When I spoke to my husband about it, he said I was coddling her.  When I suggested we were wasting our money if she was no longer happy in the sport, he told me I was insufferably cheap.   He was right, I was coddling her, and I am cheap, but to me, the issue was happiness.  To him, it was commitment.  People were relying on her, he kept saying.  She needs to be a team player, he kept saying.  I could see his point, but softball had become a constant source of anxiety for all of us. My husband and I disagreed about the importance of softball in our lives, and we argued about it sometimes. My other two daughters were missing things they wanted to do, like birthday parties and piano lessons, because of the softball schedule.  Softball was taking a toll on our whole family, but I swallowed hard, bore up to the strain, and encouraged my other daughters to do the same.  I wasn’t so sure anymore that we were helping her to pursue her dream.  She was no longer having fun.  Neither was I.  Not even my husband was having fun.    

When Daughter #1 and my husband came in from practice late one night, talking about going to a nearby ski resort for  yet another tournament,  I said ”Hey, let’s camp out!  It should be perfect weather up there this time of year, and we can save a few bucks.”  It just slipped out, the thing about saving money. I shouldn’t have mentioned it.  I told myself to get over the money issue. Nobody was going to go without because we were paying for softball. 

And then… my husband said to me (I remember this part in slow motion, because it was the moment of my epiphany about ‘elite’ softball) “Naw, we need to get a room.  If the team doesn’t buy enough rooms, we can’t play in the tournament.”  He leaned against the counter and chewed a bite of the sandwich I had made for him, not noticing the light bulb that was slowly illuminating over my head.  In my mind, the niggling discomfort that I had been feeling from the beginning crystallized into anger.  I began to feel like a chump, a mark, the victim of a scam. This is a business, I realized!  This whole exhausting, expensive, worrisome thing is not about teaching kids skills and sportsmanship.  It’s not about supporting our daughter in her goals.  It isn’t about financial help with college tuition.  It isn’t even about softball.  It is about out selling hotel rooms, and equipment, and batting cage time, and maybe even sports medicine appointments.  Suddenly it made sense to me why the girls who weren’t that good made the team!  It was because the only real criterion for making the team was the parent’s ability to pay the fee!  Then I felt the punch in the stomach of the harder realization:  my daughter probably isn’t talented either, but the coach/team/league just wanted to get the fee.  Suddenly it made sense to me why we always seemed to be playing against the same four or five teams, no matter how far we had to go to play them.  Suddenly it made sense how a grown man had the gall to tell me a twelve year old girl needed a thousand dollars worth of equipment.  It was because they were making a profit!  It’s a racquet, and the “experts” to whom I had been deferring were actually profiteers.  It isn’t just a business, it’s an entire industry!

I felt like an idiot.  Stupid!  How could I have fallen for this gigantic line of BS? How could I have believed in those sales-pitch words like ‘elite’ and ‘competition level’ and the worst of them, ‘scholarship’?  And what’s worse, how could my smart, athletic, and heretofore sensible husband have fallen for it too? How could he stand there chewing when our hard earned money was draining out of our accounts like water from a sieve, and our daughter was miserable?

I quickly added in my head all that we had spent in the past year on softball.  (I had been doing it all along, but I couldn’t admit it to myself.)  The total was in the neighborhood of $5,000.  $5000!     

It was then that I began to yell.  “Are you kidding me?  Are you kidding me?” I screamed.  (I am usually more articulate than this, but I was so angry that my vocabulary failed me.)  I didn’t care if the children heard me.  I didn’t care if the neighbors heard me.  I didn’t care if my husband concluded that I had lost my mind.  Maybe I had.  I was mad at myself because I hadn’t listened to my gut, and at my husband because he hadn’t listened to me, either.  I was mad because we were out $5000, a year of our lives, a thousand other more educational and valuable experiences that we had not had time for, and it was all because I had not spoken up.  Well, I was speaking up tonight.  I recovered my ability to speak intelligently, and I covered all my aforementioned concerns at the very top of my lungs.  It was a bad night.  My husband and I didn’t speak for a day or two.  He remained committed to the team.  I couldn’t.

When I cooled down and we were finally able to talk about the issue rationally, we decided to stick with it through the rest of the season, because we felt that it was better for our daughter to learn to stand by her decisions.  I yelled and clapped for her and the team just as loud as ever, but I was faking it, and I suspected she was rolling her eyes at me under her batter’s helmet, rather than resolving to hit a homer.  I had to drag myself, and her, out of bed for softball, where in the beginning she had jumped up eagerly to get ready for her games and practices.  When I sat on the bleachers, I felt like I had the word “sucker” tattooed to my forehead and wondered why the other parents didn’t feel that way too.  I had never quite fit in with the softball parents, but now I really felt separate.  I just wanted it to be over.

At the end of the season daughter #1 quit the softball team, to the great disappointment of her father, and to the great relief of her mother, and she has lost her love for the game of softball.  On high school orientation day this spring, she passed by the sign-up sheet for the freshman team without a backward glance.  She couldn’t get away fast enough.  She has moved on to basketball now, which was before, something she did in the off season to keep in shape for softball.   Even though she says she loves the game of basketball and shows off her scrapes and bruises with pride, I can’t say she loves basketball the way she loved softball, way back when.  I hope so, but I can’t see it in her eyes, or on her face.  She seems jaded and wary, as if basketball might hurt her too. 

I feel bad.

I feel guilty because I wonder if my feelings, which I truly made a herculean effort to keep under wraps, could have affected (infected?) her anyway, and ruined her first love.  I feel guilty because it may have been me that caused her to fall out of love with the game of softball.  If I had not behaved so badly, if I had been more supportive, if I could have found the right way to encourage her, or if I found a coach for her that was a better fit, might she someday be a star?  I don’t know.  I don’t know, and that’s the hard part.  There is no doubt I could have done a better job helping her achieve her dream, but for the life of me, I still can’t figure out how.

There has to be a better way. I just wish I knew what it was.

From the Don’t Get Me Started File: The Cookie Sale

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How do you feel about an organization that uses second graders as their sales force?

Yes, we are talking about the esteemed Girl Scouts of America. 

Honestly, I have a lot of nice things to say about the Girl Scouts.  Each of my three daughters has had a great, no, lots of great experiences with their respective Girl Scout troops.  They’ve been to every sort of museum, had every kind of outdoor experience you can think of, and volunteered for deserving charity organizations.  They have learned to work and play with other little girls without the three’s-a- crowd drama that happens between little girls in elementary schools and at birthday parties. This last one is big.  If you have daughters you know what I mean.

The Girl Scouts have also given my daughters excellent female role models. Every Girl Scout leader we have ever encountered has been unbelievably generous, and each has been patient.  God knows they are patient.  Each has been very organized; they have to be.  Most are working mothers who truly don’t have the time to give all they do to my daughters, but they do it anyway.  Girl Scout leaders, I thank you, truly, from the bottom of my heart. 

The only thing that gets under my skin is the annual cookie sale.  And the Cookie Sale REALLY gets under my skin.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m told that learning to sell is a great experience for children, and that it’s a skill that will serve them well in life.  Maybe that’s true, but the annual cookie sale is a gargantuan pain in the neck, and not for the little girls so much, but for their parents. For the better part of four months, we moms and dads are expected to get our daughters to regular meetings, to extra  “cookie meetings” and activities, to find the time, energy, and locations for our daughters to sell, manage the forms, the money, the pick- up and delivery of cookies, and the return of cookies that don’t sell.  I would be remiss, in this rant of mine, if I did not mention how difficult all this is to add to the schedules of other children we might have, the other activities of our girl scouts, and some other stuff we might like to do (like eat and sleep).

Around Halloween the leaders start feeling around to see who might be willing to be a cookie mom.  God bless the cookie mom!  The best advice I can give you is to run and hide.  One year I volunteered to be the cookie mom, not really knowing what I was getting into.  Let’s just say I would have benefitted from a Harvard MBA, which I don’t have, to handle all the money issues that arose.  Sales proceeds were lost and/or miscalculated.   Customers ordered too many boxes of cookies, too few boxes of cookies, and the wrong boxes of cookies.  Customers asked for refunds if they didn’t like the cookies.   All the money problems gave rise to emotional problems.  More than one Girl Scout mom wound up crying in my kitchen.  It wasn’t pretty.   I ended up fifty bucks in the hole, and I was irritated.  Wouldn’t it have been much easier to just give my fifty dollars to the Girl Scout troop?  They would have gotten the entire fifty dollars instead of just a small percentage per box, and I would have been much happier (and thinner).  

Now that I know better, I don’t volunteer to be the cookie mom.  But I still dread selling cookies all through the Christmas season.   Sometime shortly after New Year’s Day it begins:  the first e-mail arrives announcing all the cookie events that are coming up.  Last year my two girl scouts were taught about marketing at one meeting and were asked to make a promotional poster to send to their parent’s job, so their dad could sell cookies at work.  Has it occurred to the powers-that-be that perhaps some employers may not be thrilled for The Girl Scouts to do business on their company time?   If so, they haven’t acknowledged it.   My husband’s company has been extraordinarily understanding. They’ve been happy to allow our little girls to come in for an hour one afternoon every year to do their selling.  They would be well within their rights to say no. One Girl Scout Dad I know works for a company that has banned the sale of cookies in their building. His bosses say that he isn’t paid to raise money for charity.  I’m afraid I agree.

There was also a cookie “rally”, in the tradition of Amway, where the girls go to get all pumped up so they can go home and bug their mothers relentlessly to knock on the doors of strangers to beg for money.  I’m told that many little girls commit at the rally to sell hundreds of boxes of cookies!  I’m opting not to send my daughters to the rally this year.  More pressure to sell is the last thing I, I mean they, need.     

Oh, and don’t forget the booth sales.  That’s four hours selling cookies, in February, outside a grocery store, in Colorado.  It’s just eight more hours in the cold I’d rather be doing something else.  Truth be told, booth sales are the easiest way to sell cookies.  There always seems to be an older gentleman who stuffs a couple of twenties in the jar but won’t take any cookies.  Last year, however, an honest- to-God paranoid schizophrenic glommed onto us (as we froze our brownies off) and told my eight year old all about how she got probed by aliens.  Lovely! 

The absolute worst, though, is that both my second grader and my fourth grader were put on a sales quota!  Each child was responsible to sell eighty boxes.  Turns out they made their quotas, but it wasn’t because we care all that much.  Sure, we’re happy to offer cookies to the friends and coworkers that want them but we won’t be applying pressure or “marketing” to anyone. The kids have school, homework and an array of extra-curricular activities, which is as it should be. Children should be spending their precious childhoods (and I use the word precious in the truest sense of the word) learning and growing, not fueling the huge machine that Girl Scouts has become.

What I don’t get is how competitive some of the parents get about the cookie sale.  I’ve seen numerous cars painted with advertizing.  I’ve seen a sales banner across someone’s front door.  I’ve been told behind the backs of hands that some moms are cheating by selling too soon, or after the deadline, or over the internet (which apparently wasn’t allowed last year, but will be this year).  Accusations are flying around the neighborhood via e-mail about unfairness, and that some girls are selling in someone else territory.  What?  Territory?  Wait just a minute there, mama, calm down and take a breath… aren’t your daughters supposed to be doing the selling?

And another thing, is it even moral to sell Girl Scout Cookies?  A look at the ingredient list will tell you that they are basically chemicals wrapped in transfats and then dipped in sugar.  That’s not healthy for anybody, is it?  I wonder how many heart blockages were caused in part by Thin Mints, which have 25% daily allowance for fat, or by Samoas which have a whopping 30% daily allowance!

Back in the days when Girl Scouts sold cookies to fund their camping trip, it was cute.  Likewise, it’s not a bad idea for children to learn to sell something.  But four months of training, added activities, and relentless pressure to sell, sell, sell, is a little over the top.   It takes over my life.  And the mommies, I’m telling you, seem a little out of control.  Somewhere, a line has been quietly crossed by the Girl Scouts.  This is the line that, when crossed, turns a band of gap toothed smiling little girls with mismatched clothing into an army of a sales force almost solely responsible for funding a very large non-profit organization.  I find it distasteful, at best. 

I want back on the other side of the line.   I have fantasized about taking my girls out of scouting altogether, just to get out of selling cookies, but that isn’t a viable option because they love their leaders and their scouting friends so much.  So, Instead of responding to the pressure by selling more and more cookies this year, I think I’ll limit the selling to an hour or so in the safe, well-known setting of my husband’s office.  That way they’ll have the experience without all the pressure.  I’ll let them off the hook for all the other stuff, stop feeling resentful, and if they don’t make their quotas, I’ll make a donation large enough to cover their activities for the next year.   Bitchy and elitist? Probably.  Go ahead and judge me for having the money to throw at this problem.  It will be worth every penny, I say.  And…. I’ll be so much happier.    





An Open Letter

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Just for kicks, I’m posting my response to the now famous article, All The Single Ladies, written by Kate Bolick and published in the November, 2011 issue of Atlantic Magazine. In it she laments the shortage of good men, the obsolescence of marriage, and her decision to break up with a man she loved because of the vague feeling that “something was missing.” She goes on to say that it’s alright though, because women don’t need men anyway. The article is intelligent, well written and thought provoking, but… I happen to disagree with her point.

If you haven’t read it and would like to, the article is available on line for free. Just Google ‘Kate Bolick, All the Single Ladies’. You’ll find a link near the top of the first page.

Married ladies, single ladies, and even you guys, I’d love to hear your opinion on the matter.

To All the Single Ladies, From an Aging Married One: An Open Letter to Kate BolickDear Ms. Bolick,

I read your November article in the Atlantic the other day, and then I read it again. And then I slept on it. In the morning I read it a third time. The whole thing is troubling to me, all the research proving that men are falling apart, and that the institution of marriage is falling apart, and that women must stay single or settle for a financially dependent husband or an unfaithful one. I don’t like to hear it. I don’t like it at all.

I have to say I don’t believe it, not all of it anyway. I reject the assertion that all the good men are gone. I don’t believe beautiful, smart, educated women like you are single because there are no men worth marrying. I believe beautiful, smart, educated women are single because they want to be. I think you are single because you want to be. It’s isn’t that there is no man worth marrying, but that there are no men you want to marry.

Don’t get me wrong. I think that choosing to remain single is a perfectly wonderful way to live. Should something happen that ends my marriage; I don’t think I would ever remarry. I love my husband and he makes it worthwhile, but the fact is: marriage is hard work. I often have moments of jealousy when I think about my single friends, and how they can do whatever they want, whenever they want. I wish I could order in, or go out, or stay out, or paint my bathroom pink, just because I happen to feel like it. Sometimes I fantasize about having that kind of freedom.

I also agree with a lot of what you have to say. I agree the deadbeats and the players exist, and that they are not good enough to marry. I spent the first three semesters of my college career at Florida State, where my freshman class was 80% female. A date consisted of a guy coming over to a girl’s place, eating her chips, drinking her beer, watching her TV, and trying to get lucky. If he didn’t get lucky, she would probably never see him again. Deadbeats! That’s what they were! When I transferred to the University of Georgia, I was delighted to find that most guys would at least take me to the dollar movie or a pizza place once in a while, but then I fell irrationally and unabashedly in love with a player. He was the kind of guy that would take anybody to the movie or for pizza, if you get my meaning, regardless of my feelings. The love affair came to a disastrous end, which I wouldn’t have chosen, but the truth is I deserved better treatment than that, and I am better off because it ended. You’re right, Kate. None of those guys were “good enough.”

I agree with you that there is a group of men who are absolutely unmarriageable. Certainly, addicts and criminals fit into that category, as do gay men, homeless men, mentally ill men, men who are cruel to animals, and abusive men. In my mind the largest proportion of men who are unmarriageable are fine people, but people I don’t happen to be attracted to physically. There’s not really anything wrong with them, they just aren’t for me. I understand that sometimes women marry who they think is the ‘good enough’ man and find out too late that he falls into one of the categories above. To those women-and I count several among my closest friends- I say “I’m truly sorry.” And then I say “get out!” He too, is “not good enough.”

But… does a man have to make more money and/or have more education than a woman to be marriageable? In my considered opinion, no. So, when you throw out all the truly unmarriageable men, a healthy number of “good enough” men are left.

They are everywhere, if you are looking for them. I’ve spoken to many solid men over the years that are looking for good women. There was the guy that used to be on my husband’s bowling team. He wasn’t college educated, but he was a moral man with a dependable income who would worship the steps in which a deserving woman would walk. There are the men my single friends dance with in night clubs, one of whom told me that women weren’t interested in him because he had never been married, and they were worried about why. Then his friend chimed in and told me he had been rejected because of his divorce. “We can’t win,” they said. There was the power company lineman (the guy who climbs power poles to get your power back on after a storm) that married a female acquaintance of mine that happened to be a doctor. They have been happily married for nearly ten years now.

There is the youngish widower that came to fix my air conditioner over several days a few summers ago (it was really really broken). Because it took such a long time to fix the air, he became privy to my lifestyle, and on the third day, because he was stuck at my house, I offered him a ham sandwich for lunch. “Is there any chance you have sister who’s single?” he asked me. “I’m a good man,” he went on to say, expressing his frustration. “I don’t make a ton of money, but I can make a good life for a woman if she’s willing. I’m a good father. She could work if she wanted to, or not. I can take care of a woman.” …and he was handy! He was a pretty good catch, I’d say. Good men can be found if you are open to looking, to seeing, what they have to offer. If you want to.

If we disagree, it may be because I was raised very differently from you, and, therefore, my world view is different from yours. If my math is correct, I am only six years older than you, so the times weren’t drastically different, but our families must have been. I, the youngest of three, was raised in the Deep South by devout Catholics. The women’s movement never really existed for me outside some vague notion of my mom being against it, even though she had a college degree and owned her own business (which is almost unheard of in her age group). I have a distinct memory of the irritated expression on her face when I told her I had heard Free to Be, You and Me at a friend’s house. “Too feminist,” she said. I also remember my sister pleading with my parents for a subscription to Ms. Magazine. She didn’t get it. It too, apparently, was too feminist.

I never really considered not shaving my legs, or keeping my own surname, or staying single. In my family I was expected to grow up and get married. And have babies. I was given a dynamite education, but that was done so that I would have a fallback position, just in case, God forbid, my prince didn’t come, and I’d have to fend for myself. Sexist? Maybe, but that’s how I was raised.

I started dating when I was fifteen. By the time I reached my mid twenties, I had had enough of dating. I wanted to get married, and more importantly, I wanted to be a mother. Like you, I had dated a few men (boys?) exclusively for years at a time. Between those relationships, I dated a lot, sort of falling into whichever next relationship was easiest. One day, when I was between relationships, I had an epiphany. While I pushed a load of towels from the washer into the dryer, I realized that I was really happy just doing the laundry. I realized that I was having more fun doing the laundry than I had had on a date in a very long time. This, coupled with my desire to settle down, made me realize I had to make a change. So I made a vow to myself. I wasn’t going to accept a date unless the man who asked met a few simple criteria. Otherwise, I would stay home and pay attention to the brightness of my whites instead.

1. I had to feel a sexual attraction to him. No “really nice guys,” no “I’ll just go and have coffee with him, I might feel a flicker as I get to know him” kind of dates. If there was no giddy fluttery feeling, no date. Period.
2. He had to be kind.
3. He had to be strong, the emotional kind of strong. I knew from watching my parents, marriage required it.
4. He had to be honest, no matter what. I don’t enjoy being lied to. I learned that from my player.
5. He had to be more fun than the laundry.
6. He had to have a mother already. I was looking for a man to love, not a child to care for.

The man who was to be my husband just happened to be skidding into marriage o’clock just as I finished folding that load of laundry. He asked me out, he met the criteria, and the rest is history. We have been together for nearly twenty years, married for eighteen, and we have three daughters. I’m crazy about him.
I wanted to get married, so I set my goal, I strove for it, I did it. Now I get to enjoy it.

I feel I need to emphasize something about my seemingly fairy tale ending. The guy I married was never perfect, not for one day, not for one minute. There were and are issues on which we will never agree. He was the “good enough” man. According to what you say in your article, he was not marriageable. He wasn’t more educated than me. I have a Master’s degree; he has a Bachelor’s. Nor did he earn a great deal of money. I confess, he did make more money than I did, but then everyone did, even the guy flipping burgers. (My profession is social work). In fact, he earned less than most of the men I had dated, and he certainly earned less than my father.

Consider this: If all the good men are gone, maybe it’s because most men weren’t marriageable, by your definition, when we married them. Maybe somehow, because we wives kept faith and worked hard on our relationships, “good enough” men turned into marriageable men, which is a theory that begs the conclusion: If you wanted to, you could take a “good enough” man, and inspire him with your bountiful and unconditional love, to become one of the marriageable. That’s what I think happened in my case.

When I married my husband, he had an okay job he wasn’t crazy about, he was financially independent, but not rich, and he had his fair share of emotional baggage (but he was smart, good in bed, and I loved him). Why would he need to do any better? Why would he replace his old truck/clean the bathroom/ own throw pillows/move the pool table out of the living room if he didn’t have a woman to please? Why would he learn the names of the power puff girls/make sure there was enough tread on my tires/buy life insurance if he didn’t have a family to worry about?

My husband would grumble if I suggested that I somehow molded him into a better man, and I’m not suggesting I did. What happened is that he took the love that I chose to give him, that I wanted to give him, and he became attached to that love, addicted even. I found that he would strive gallantly to earn more of my approval, to earn more of what you call “adoring gazes.” He really wanted me to stick around, so he cultivated the characteristics that I valued. Now, he is a helpful and contented husband; he’s the sweetest Daddy that ever played hopscotch, he gives us every material thing we could ever possibly need, and he takes out the trash without complaining. I couldn’t ask for anything more. Now, he is imminently marriageable. I’ve found great happiness with the “good enough” man.” See how it works?

I don’t believe for one minute, either, that women don’t need men anymore. Maybe we can (and should!) take care of ourselves financially, and maybe we can have children without them, and maybe the pressure is off to live our lives like our parents did, but…women still need men. Why else would the young, educated, career minded women you describe in your article accept short sexual interludes in a bathroom stall or alley in exchange for a few minutes of being held and maybe a punch in the arm as thanks? They must know that these assignations won’t lead to anything permanent, or even pleasant, other than the occasional orgasm, and we all know that’s possible without a man. I think they do it because they have sex drives, just like us matrons. We all (heterosexual women) need men because they are cute and funny and sexy, and because it’s difficult to stay away from them, regardless of our ideals about who might make a good husband.

We also need men to help us raise our children. I’m here to tell you, raising good kids is HARD, and I’m making my attempt with the economic help and emotional support of a “good enough” man. I have three children. They get hungry three times a day, so I spend about four hours a day, on average, just making sure they are fed. There is a few hours spent on homework daily, and an undetermined amount of time spent attending to their other educational needs. There is laundry, which is incredibly time consuming (but I don’t mind), keeping their home clean enough to maintain their health, and driving to extracurricular activities. This is a long list, but it doesn’t even begin to include all the things my children need. I would be lost without the help of my “good enough” man. There are literally not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything without him. I don’t have a career to speak of, so I have the luxury of catching up on things while the kiddos are at school. How do women who must go to work every day, and don’t have a man they can count on, do it? I honestly don’t know. I don’t think I would advise my daughters to try it. Like my mother and her mother before her, I will encourage them to get married before they have children.

I was stunned to learn that the “Leave It to Beaver-style family model popular in the 1950s and 60’s had been a flash in the pan.” It’s over? Really? I suspect there are different ways to live, but out here in the suburbs, almost all our neighbors and friends live in a Leave It to Beaver-style family model. We live in one now; I’m June. I grew up in one; I was kitten. Maybe this kind of lifestyle is waning, but it’s still around. It works for a lot of us.

The Gen Xers who believe marriage is obsolete may reconsider that opinion when they are up at three am with a vomiting infant, haven’t had a shower in three days, and have lost time at work because of their child’s illness. Not only is it imperative to have some relief in these situations, but the thought that because one isn’t married, that one’s partner can just walk away with no financial or legal responsibility, is nothing short of terrifying. On the really hard days, on the days I just want to run away, I’m glad the legal entanglements of marriage exist. It helps to keep me committed, and I think it helps him too. If marriage is obsolete, then our men can just leave us, which is bad, right? Marriage can be a good thing, if you want it to be.

Finally, I’d like to talk about love for a minute. Where does love fit in to all the statistics about marriage, the declining state of men, the obsolescence of the American family, and women who can’t find a man that suits them? I think the true nature of romantic love has gotten lost in the shuffle, that women have developed a false understanding of how love and marriage is supposed to feel , based on romance novels and movies starring Julia Roberts. To believe that marriage is completely fulfilling, romantic every day, and something other than a constant negotiation between the needs and desires of at least two people is to believe in fiction, like Santa Claus or a man without faults.

I think that love, the feeling, is the reward you get for love, the doing. That is, if you don’t do the work of love (having faith in a man’s potential, forgiving his mistakes, being there no matter what, agreeing to disagree) you won’t get to feel love. If you want it, you can have it. You just have to choose it, and do the work to get it.

Hey! I think I found your something missing.

Small Miracles


Small Miracles:

There was a little miracle at my house last night.  I caught just the tiniest hint, the smallest breath, of my baby’s infant smell.  You know the one.  Remember when you would hold your baby on your lap and become intoxicated by the air near the crown of her (or his) little head?  Well, my baby is fourteen years old; I had thought her baby scent was lost forever to the ravages of chlorine and basketball practice and scented shampoo. Oh, how I have missed it! 

She is in the ninth grade now, my angel # 1, and a bit of an overachiever.  She was searching the websites of a few colleges she is interested in, perusing the entrance requirements, the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition, whether they offered courses in her interest area, and whether there is a beach nearby.  I was feeling proud of her, really proud, as I chopped vegetables for dinner, and watched over her shoulder as she surfed.  I was so overcome with pride that I felt the urge to give her a hug, and tell her what a great/smart/wonderful/together kid she is.  So I did it, I walked over to the computer table and wrapped my mom arms around her neck.  She sat there in front of the computer, not really acknowledging I was there, and I told her all the nice things I had been thinking.  I kissed her temple, right where her smooth forehead met her perfectly straightened hair, and there it was!  It was part baking bread, equal small portions of Ivory soap and graham crackers, and part indescribable deliciousness that is unique to each child in the first years of her life (designed by God, I think, to keep her mother close).  Last night I got to breathe in this most beautiful of beautifuls, maybe for the last time.  She is nearly grown after all, at least on the outside.

So much of our time, angel #1 and mine, is wasted in pointless arguments over pointless disagreements like whether she has to eat something before she goes to school (she does), whether she “needs” to color her hair (she doesn’t), or who was supposed to do the load of jeans that have been on her bedroom floor for the past two weeks (she was).  She is often sarcastic and nasty for no reason at all, stomping through the house, throwing her attitude around, and making my life generally miserable.  Why won’t she let me enjoy how fabulous she is?   She was such a happy baby!  What happened?    

 Then another something wonderful happened.  When I gave her the hug, she did not wave me away.  She did not make a wise crack or a sarcastic remark.  She did not say “MAAuum, you’re sooo stupid.  She did not slam any doors or yell at me for the fact that I exist, or because I brought her into this world imperfect, which makes me, in her eyes, the source of all her troubles.

She did not remind me in any way that it’s her time to begin to move away from me, to disagree, to make the mistakes that she will cringe and fret over when she is my age.  Instead, she just let me love her for a minute.  She allowed me to kid myself into thinking that I have plenty of time before she leaves us.  She patted me absentmindedly on the arm and said “Love you too, Mom.” It was another little miracle.  Some people might call it grace.

For these miracles, small though they are, I am eternally grateful.  I think I can live on them for a very long time, at least until she brings home a grandchild, when she will finally understand the fleeting magic of the smell of an infant’s precious head, and how fast those infants grow.  Amen. 

Notes From the Bored Housewives Club: An Overview


Notes from the Bored Housewives Club:  An Overview

Once upon a time I was a professional woman.  I wore a business suit, jewelry, and pretty shoes.  Long ago, educated people trusted my opinion and followed my recommendations, and sometimes my recommendations changed lives.

My career was social work.  Over the course of ten years I worked in a battered women’s shelter, with the child victims of sexual abuse, and with perpetrators of sexual abuse.  I worked in a non- profit agency whose goal it was to end child abuse.  I worked in a modern day orphanage preparing teenage girls for the world. (It was a great job). I worked for the government finding educational opportunities for kids who didn’t respond to traditional teaching methods. I found foster homes for children who needed them, and I placed abused and neglected kids for adoption (the best job ever).

I had power.  I believe I was able to use it to change the world for the better.  But…that’s all over now.

About four years into my career, I got married (a good choice. I think it’s probably going to work).  Immediately thereafter we decided we would like a baby.  We both wanted to be parents and thought the time was right.  According to God’s schedule though, the time was not yet right.  It took four years, a team of experts, various pharmacological potions, more than a few hypodermic needles, countless hormone induced rages/crying jags, and about ten thousand chats with God to achieve our goal.

When I finally became pregnant, I chose, for a million reasons, to stay home with my baby.  After all, she was so hard to get, I didn’t want to give up even one minute of my limited time, with probably the only child I would ever have, to some child care provider who couldn’t love her like her mama would.  Besides, as a social worker, childcare cost more than my salary. (Sad isn’t it?) How hard could it be?”  I asked myself.  “It can’t be as hard as finding happy, permanent homes for 17 severely disturbed foster children,” I answered myself.  So, completely without trepidation, armed only with an overzealous work ethic and an overdeveloped sense of guilt, I became a stay-at-home mom.

It turns out I was right; being a stay-at-home mom isn’t harder than finding forever homes for severely disturbed children, but it is almost as hard, The challenges are different than I expected.  The most difficult part of my job is boredom.  I mean, how many times can one perform the same task, say, picking up the same tiny pair of shoes, over and over, before life starts to feel a little meaningless?  The next most difficult part is the isolation.  Some days, no, most days, I spend alone with very little adult interaction, and that for me, is hard.

Regardless of the challenges, I’m very glad I quit my job to become a stay at home mom. We were lucky and blessed (and surprised) enough to be able to have two more daughters, which has caused joy beyond my wildest dreams, and the pride I feel in my children is worth all the hard days and short nights.  It’s been fourteen years since the fateful day I began my second career.  It was a good decision.  When I miss the power, my husband lets me boss him around, a little.

To combat the boredom and the isolation, I write. I write about the things I think about, from my perspective as a woman, as a wife, as a mother, and as the maker of a home.  I write about the issues that affect my life, and maybe yours.  I care about education, the environment, the food supply, how to raise good kids, how to keep a marriage happy, and how to keep myself sane, so I write about all that.  When I just can’t keep my mouth shut any longer, which will be pretty often (my husband says), I write about politics.  For fun, I review books and movies; I’m especially interested in the ones that are relevant to family life.  I also write responses to the magazine and news articles that get me thinking.

I fancy myself a sort of Carrie Bradshaw, but for the older and less fashionable, or something like Andy Rooney, but for the younger and more fashionable, or, I know, an Irma Bombeck for the new millennium!

Here’s what it is, basically: smart girl settles down to keep house, and trouble ensues.