Friday, August 31, 2012

Fyeah Friday...

It's the beginning of a three-day weekend. 

On the agenda for this weekend:

1.  Napping.


2.  My hubby's birthday today. 


3.  See #1.

4.  Wine-Thirty.


5.  Refer to the first one on the list.

6.  Football games.  These will be viewed from our trusty couch and included high-caloric dips and snacks, I'm sure.  There will be rooting, yelling, cursing while covering children's ears, stomping of feet, and let's hope lots of jumping up and down whilst high-fiving. 


7.  Check Numero Uno, por favor.

8.  A gathering of like minded folks on Sunday evening (aka a partay).


9.  *singsong* Nuuuuuuuuumber One, take a look at it. 

10.  Snuggling of short folks. 


11.  Knitting.


12.  Window Shopping.

13.  Dreaming.

14.  Fire in a fire pit.

15.  And naps.

Have a fun & safe Labor Day Weekend, all!

(P.S. All pictures have come from pinterest and properly credited.)
(P.P.S.  Happy Birthday, Hubby of Mine!)
(P.P.S.  Happy Belated Birthday to my fave tennis star, Andy Roddick, and congrats on your pending retirement, buddy.  I've had absolute blast watching you play and have loved being your fan. <3>

Monday, August 27, 2012

Firsts - Football....

If you live in Iowa long enough, you'll come to understand that football, whether it be played on Friday nights or Saturday afternoons, is a big stinkin' deal. 

Don't get me wrong, I love football. 

I love sitting huddled up on metal bleachers with a blankie under your hiney and two over your lap while you're yelling with family and friends for the hometown hero.  There is nothing quite like hearing the marching band playing the school song and seeing the cheerleaders decked out in their school finery. 

And then there's college football.

We don't have any professional sports teams in Iowa.  Minor league stuffs but nothing than a state away and it's just not the same thing, ya know?

We take our college football very seriously around here and you'll also come to understand that the further west you go, there are some folks who root for the Iowa State Cyclones.  The closer you travel to Iowa City, you'll see cars, homes, and people decked out in their black and yellow finery declaring their allegiance to the Iowa Hawkeyes.

And our home is no exception.

We're for the Hawks.

Every member of our family has a hoodie or a tee-shirt or jersey that bears the Hawkeyes symbol.

It's also a big stinkin' deal to attend the football games in Iowa City.

If you're a Saturday grocery shopper, you know well enough to avoid the city like the plague during game day.

Anywhere and everywhere around Kinnick Stadium (proudly named after our very own war hero and Heisman trophy winner, Nile Kinnick) is a madhouse.  But, if you're lucky enough to be part of the spectacle that is game day....well, that's a whole different ball of wax, as they say.

A few years ago I was lucky enough to take our son to his very first game at Kinnick Stadium.


We had scored some tickets thanks to a very good friend of ours and on a Saturday morning in early Fall of 2008, Arik and I set off early to Iowa City.  I can remember chit-chatting on the way there, a little blurry-eyed yet, but that kid was ten then and could chatter, chatter, chatter when he was excited.  It was still cool to do that then.  Now that he's 14, he plays things a little bit aloof and close to the vest.  We parked with little problem and started our way towards Kinnick.

If any of you follow college football, then you know half of the entertainment is the people and the tailgaiting.  The closer we got to Kinnick, the more people we saw.  Kinnick is pretty impressive, especially if you're a ten year old.

Heck, who am I kidding?  I walk by that stadium every day to work and I still love it.  I run into the football players in the morning, coming back from a.m. practice in their sweat socks, pulled up to their knees, and Adidas flip-flops.  And one day was lucky enough to accidentally bump into our very own Coach Ferentz.  He was a nice guy with a ready smile and a 'Good Morning' to me.

Yeah, yeah, I forgot who I was for a second there.  This is why I should never meet famous people.

Annnnnyway, the closer we got to Kinnick, the bigger the melee'.  There were grills, coolers, awnings, and the scents of good food.  Everywhere you looked it was black and gold.

It's a sight to see.

Arik, bless his heart, kept stopping to look around every now and again and I would have to remind him to press on.  We got in line to get to our seats and arrived early enough to watch the stadium fill up.  Just right before game time, I told him to turn and look around.  His eyes got huge and he just looked back at me.  I'll never forget that look.  The stadium can hold a little over 70,000 people.  I can only imagine how that looks to a kid, but if judging by the look on Arik's face....yeah, it's mindblowing.  

I love that our stadium is deemed one of the 'toughest' to play at in the Big Ten.  I love that our student section is crazy and fun to watch.  I also love that you can't explain the deafening noise when all of those folks are on their feet screaming for our team.  You can't explain, you can only experience.

We were lucky enough to sit in front of some lovely folks who let Arik stand on his seat most of the game as we rarely sat down.  It was the Shonn Greene show that day.  He was a running back for our beloved Hawks who has having an epic 'on' day.  We screamed until we were hoarse.  We stopped to quench our thirsts with five dollar Cokes and high-fived our neighbors - front and behind - several times during the game.  Slowly, every one around us was talking and all came to find that it was Arik's first game.  I think he got high-fived more than anyone - including the team - that day.  There's something magical about sharing a game with a kid.  It reminds us of being a kiddo ourselves and what it feels like, the magic, of watching a game like that for the first time. 

It's something only a child can understand and as much as we'd love to get back that wonder of the game, we get to experience it in bits and pieces through our children's eyes every now and again.  Although, if pressed to comment on his memories, Arik would probably just say:  "It was cool."

And at the end of the day, our team were the victors.

Final score:  38-16.

 We wound our way out of Kinnick and back through a sea of Gold to our vehicle.  Arik's chatter filled the air the whole way home as he relived every one of Shonn's break out runs toward a touchdown and how big the band was and how cool the drum line was and yes, the girls in their cheerleader skirts, but how cool was it to see so many people?  Yeah, I could listen to that kind of excitement all day.

Opening day for the Hawkeyes is this Saturday at Soldier Field in Chicago against Northern Illinois with at 2:30 p.m.  If you get a chance to catch the game, turn it on and help root on our Hawkeyes.  I know our family will have out butts firmly planted in front of our tv and all wearing our black & gold proudly.

It's part of being an Iowan.

It's who we are.

We're the Hawkeyes.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


This time of year always makes me think of the smell of new shoes, collars that are still a little stiff around the neck, and the excitement of sitting next to my best friend (although, to be honest, that particular joy didn't happen very often).

Yup, it's back to school time.

I got to see all of my babies off to school this morning (I'm writing this on Tuesday evening) with not one tear and much excitement.

But it does get me thinking about the people who most inspired me most in the classroom.  I can honestly tell you to this day that I remember each and every one of these people fondly and my experiences with them made me a better person and a better writer.

I met Mrs. Shellady in fourth grade.  Everyone, and I do mean everyone, wanted Mrs. S as their teacher.  She was one of the 'cool' teachers.  We've all had 'em, right?  She was the one.  I can't tell you the day she started reading 'The Great Gilly Hopkins' by Katherine Patterson but I can remember how I felt when she got done reading it.  The story follows Gilly throughout her stay in a foster home and her misadventures with her step-mother and her fellow foster kid, Earnest Teague (I didn't even have to google that.  That kid's name is burnt into my brain.) along with the search for her real birth mother and her mother's eventual rejection.  I remember thinking that this kid had a similar story to mine - which was odd, let's be honest.  But it must have been cool enough for Mrs. S to think it was okay to read to us and it got the NewBerry award if memory serves.  If I'm wrong....well, it won't be the first time.  But, I'd like to think that those books that she read began me on a path with a love for books that has lasted until today.  She also gave me a nurturing environment.  I never felt anything but love from that lady.  Bless you and thank you, Mrs. S. 

Now, onto sixth grade and Mr. G (aka Mr. Gingerich).  Here begins the story of Heather's writing career.  He held an after school writer's workshop and I remember I still have his remarks on one of my stories about a female great dane somewhere tucked into a blue suitcase that still says 'Heather Ulin' on it in masking tape from a summer at Girl Scout Camp.  Either way, we would wile away an hour or so as he read us Ray Bradbury (the man had an absolute love affair with Bradbury) and we'd sketch pictures to go with our stories and write.  I loved every second of it.  And maybe reading Bradbury began that love with words, too.  I loved how the words sounded when he read them, reading these odd passages of words that didn't always make sense, but I loved how they sounded in my little mind.  At the made me feel special in a way that was good and not the way where every one stared a little bit when I said my grandparents adopted me.  This, for a change, was all about me and not about where I came from.  Thanks for that, Mr. G. 

Fast forwarding to seventh, eighth, and ninth grades we arrive at Mr. Tony Hancock.  He, to this day, was probably the biggest influence writing-wise for me.  He pushed me to make more of my words, to expand, to expound, to figure out what those big words meant, and to make things simpler, too.   He was the first to request to send a piece of my work into a conference wide publication meant for kids of our age.  I got my first publication....and then my second.  Again, those bound pages are stuck somewhere in that suitcase.  But, Mr. H, in addition to pushing me as a writer, also gave me my first taste of success.  I'll remember him forever for that.  And Mr. H, wherever you are, thank you so very much.

Lastly, but by no means, leastly, Mr. Frakes.  Holy cow.  Fast forward to senior year and taking one of his classes was something I'd wanted to do my whole high school career and finally, there I was.  I remember working my ass off in his class, reading things I would never read as they didn't run along the lines of VC Andrews or Sweet Valley High (dude, don't judge - I was a kid) or something equally teenagery.  I remember reading through The Charge of the Light Brigade for that class and it giving me literal goosebumps.  Again, here was a teacher showing me things that I would not have actively sought out if left to my own devices.  Ever.  Thanks for that, Mr. Frakes.  

These people, aside from a few authoric (hush, it's a word) influences later on in my life, have left their indelible and loving mark on my heart.  They gave me an outlet when I had a lot going on in my little life, they helped nurture a gift, and they gave power to someone who felt powerless a lot of the time.  Behind my Bic and my wide-ruled notebook, I could change the world.  So, to you, to you blessed teachers, thank you.  I wouldn't be the same without you. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Preconceived Notions...

Well I just got my ass handed to me. 

I also just sighed deeply.

I was out on my morning jaunt and I spied a woman - a student, I thought - at a distance and couldn't help but notice her sparkly shirt in the distance.

My first thought was 'Sequins?  This early in the week?  Whatevs.'

And then she got up and bumbled her way down the sidewalk. 

Let me add also that this week is the week students have returned to the University of Iowa and while behavior like this during the weekdays is not that common, it is not unheard of to have some nubile young co-ed bopping her drunk ass down the sidewalk at 9:00 a.m. CST. 

Thankfully, I had my sunglasses on as I rolled my eyes.

Do you guys see where this is going?  I sure didn't.

She said something to me and I popped my ear buds out and said 'Pardon, me?'

Then I got a good look at her:  Hazel eyes, salt & pepper elbow length hair, tanned deeply lined face and the flower patterned sequins shining in the morning light. 

"I don't have any toes," she said. 

"I'm sorry," I said. 

"People don't always believe me.  They've tried calling the cops on me before."

My heart fell.

"I call 'em fisty one and fisty two," she elaborated on her state of toelessness. 

Way to go, Heather, I thought.  Just way to freaking go.

I believe I told her 'bless your heart' and that I hoped she had a good day. 

Normally, folks, I pride myself on being able to look beyond the surface, the superficial, if you will and look into who the person is.  (It's not always the case, though.  Just ask my best friend.  We both thought we hated each other for years before we befriended one another.)  And today, God or someone reminded me to not lose that particular skill.

I'm normally a people-watcher by nature.  And, as a writer, I'm always creating a story in my head.   Working in a hospital/university campus, you do often wonder why that particular person is there.  Are they there to see their niece or nephew?  Are they there to drop off their father-in-law for an appointment in Ophthalmology?  Or is one of their loved ones here receiving treatment for one type of cancer or another?

It's their story.  Every single one of us is living out our story. 

And while it's not always particular heart warming, inspiring, or even dignified at times, it still is, by God, our tale. 

As I was walking back up the steps to  my office my first thought was of that saying about being kind to people because you have no idea the battle they are fighting. 

Today, I was reminded of that. 

And now I'm sharing it with you. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A Night Less Ordinary....

There are very few things in the world like a community of women.

And I can honestly say that I don't like all women, but the women I do like, and am fortunate enough to have been befriended by, are pretty amazing.  They're your every day, garden variety women who are muddling through life while life tries to make their existence extraordinary...sometimes kicking and screaming the whole way.  

Either way, I found myself with two of my gal pals last night on our back patio (which sounds way fancier than it is) with a small fire, bottles of wine, and itunes. 

 (labeled Bliss on Instagram....Apropos, no?)

It always always amazes me how women are able to flit from conversation to conversation without missing a beat.  We're able to talk about death and our grocery budget in the span of two minutes.  Or how little Georgie is fighting a cold.  Or how Sue is not studying nearly enough while George Strait or Maroon 5 provides the soundtrack. 

And as the night goes on, sunglasses are tucked up as makeshift headbands, and ball caps are tucked low against foreheads, that's when the real talk begins. 

It's very easy to stare into a fire with the cool night air floating around you on the cusp of Autumn.  It's also easy to listen, to hear, maybe what someone is saying but not saying. 

It also always amazes me how there is always tears.  But, there is laughter and hugs in equal measure.

I love how there are emphatic arms waving about while wine slops out the left side but there is no stopping the story nor the leaning forward laughter that follows.  The talking over each other, the stories from yesterday or ten years ago.  Or how there is a group hug at one point.  How there is texting from family members, pictures to be posted on facebook and/or instagram....

And why is that?

Why do we feel the need to acknowledge that we're doing this?

Because it's a celebration of sorts, I think.

(Even the Sun Sets in Paradise...)

We may not have won this week, but we're here at the end of it, talking to each other, sharing each other's joy and misery, and this too shall be marked down.

On instagram, obviously.

We might not get a chance to do this until next Spring or we might be sitting in those same chairs two weeks from now but the spirit that is underneath our little community of women is always there.

We're here to share your load, to laugh at your stories, to hold your hand, to acknowledge your pain, and to remind each other we're not alone.  

And tomorrow is another day....

(The Aftermath...)

Friday, August 17, 2012

That mom....

I've decided I am never going to be 'that' mom.  I just can't.

I'm never going to be that mom that has it totally together.  I don't or can't even appear to have it all together.  I will let your room end up looking like this until I can't stand it anymore.

(aka last Sunday - Jude's room)

And in a fit of pique (or the fact that the County might've put yellow tape across the doorway condemning your room) I will help you clean it up. 

(Jude's room One hour later - aka The After)

I won't be the greatest decorator in the world.  As a matter of fact, I'll probably forget that I was supposed to sew you curtains for six months and then wait until we've bought a new comforter for your bed and then decide to sew them. 

I'll wait till the last minute to buy your school supplies. 

I will also stay up till midnight the day before your birthday baking treats for you to take to school.  Or buy them somewhere the morning of.

I'm never going to be Betty Crocker or Suzy Homemaker.

If you run out of clean underwear, don't blame me.  I showed you how to use the washer and/or the dryer.

I won't watch that stupid youtube video that you wanna show me.  Seriously, after the 87th time, there's only so many times I can watch a cat and/or dog chasing it's tail or watching grown people light their farts.

But, this I promise, I will do:

1.  If someone breaks your heart, I will try very hard not to want to break their knee caps (but when you aren't looking I will send Jude to find them).

2.  I promise to listen to your dreams, hopes, and wishes without bias or laughter. 

3.  I promise to hold your hand during the scary part of the movie and not tell a soul.

4.  I promise to clean up your scrapes, bumps and bruises with as little pain as I can possibly muster while putting on peroxide and neosporin.

5.  I promise that when you're sick, I will buy the more expensive soup with the actual stars in them. 

6.  I promise to be honest with you and let you know when I'm scared, too. 

7.  I promise to always love you (but to keep it real, there's gonna be times when I may not always like you...and I'll be sure to let you know when those moments are). 

8.  I promise to listen to you when you're frustrated with me and to see if we can come to some sort of logical compromise....after I've sent you to your room and calmed down enough to see straight.

9.  I promise to sing and dance with you and be absolutely silly (which, let's be honest, is the permanent state of Chez Fleming.  We are nothing if not ridic most of the time). 

10.  I promise to embarrass you by kissing your dad and saying I love him.  (and one day when you're married and have kids of your'll see why this is cool)

11.  I promise to yell the loudest at your game/meets/recitals/solo competitions/etc. 

Why?  Because I'm that mom.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

When I am down and oh, my soul, so weary...

Do you feel that loving hand on your shoulder and knowing that person is no longer taking steps on this Earth?

Have a dream late on a Saturday night/Early Sunday morning and you wake up aching to talk to that person one more time?

I'm surrounded by needs, wants, and gotta have's every single day, but every once in awhile during these days - these dog days of Summer - I feel something bigger than me. 

My grandma has been gone eight years tomorrow.

(I imagine she has a hand in this entry, these words, from where she's sitting with her sisters and brother in Heaven and watching)

I remember those days quite vividly.

She'd had a 'spell' and gone to the ER.  Tara and I were visiting the Big City to go school shopping.  Stopping into the ER, we checked on her, and helped her pick out pictures for her room at the nursing home of Sadie that had been taken recently.

I kissed her three times on the forehead (don't ask me about three's...I have a thing) and told her to be good.

I couldn't sleep that night practically at all.  I woke up around five that morning (it was a Monday) and couldn't go back to sleep.  I was thinking of calling in sick that day for some reason if nothing more than a mental health day.

My grandpa called around seven to say that grandma had passed away at 5:15 that morning.

I don't remember what I thought in that moment other than I was changing Sadie's diaper and that I just said okay, okay, and told him I'd be down in a little bit.

The next few days were an absolute blur.  You all know how that goes, right?  You lose someone you love, someone who has defined your very being, and you crumble or shut down for a bit, right?

I never thought I'd be able to survive losing her.

She drove me crazy on a daily basis.  I loved arguing with her for the sheer enjoyment of revving her engine.  It drove me nuts when she whistled under her breath and didn't know she was doing it.  I loved her homemade noodles.  I loved her writing.  That woman could get to the heart of something faster than anyone I'd ever met and succinctly.

She also told me once that I was one of the strongest people she had ever met.

Coming from her, that meant a lot.

She grew up during the Depression where nothing was to be had ever.  She graduated from high-school.  She married my grandpa and had four children and fought for my Aunt Mary (who was born with PKU and wasn't diagnosed for some time after that) tooth and nail to have a good life.  She loved antiques.

She said 'Toodle' when you were leaving the house.

I don't think I've heard that word in years and I miss it.

I remember sitting there at the funeral with my mom on one side of grandpa and me on the other.  I was doing so well.  I had marched through the whole of the visitation and people's hands and their words about her.  I had done it without falling apart.

Until that song.

I had heard it on Oprah's birthday special or something and of course it made me think of my grandparents.  Of course it did.

The lilting beginning of the violin and then Josh Groban's angelic voice sang.

At that moment, it was almost too much.

I found out later that my Uncle Tom had heard that song on his way up to the hospital.  It made him think of her. 

Kenny, bless his heart, was sitting with the other pall bearers and he said he looked over at me during that moment.  I was sitting with my head facing the ceiling, bottom lip tucked in and chin wobbling.

I can't hardly ever hear that song these days without switching the station, fast-forwarding though, because it's almost too much.

That song brings it all back.

She didn't die too young, I don't think.  But when you lose someone you loved, who you respected and looked up to, it just plain old-fashioned sucks.

And standing by her casket before they closed the lid and wheeled her away from me for the last time was almost more than I could do, too.

I stood there with my mom in front of me and Kenny behind me.  I put a picture of my mom and me - a picture from that July, from my birthday, our first one together again in almost twenty years - in there with her.

I said goodbye.

But when I think of her, when I try to drum up an image of her, this is what I come up with: I see her standing in her garden with a dishtowel on her head in the morning summer sunlight weeding with a hand over her eyes and a hand on her hip.

She loved garnets (her birthstone).

She wrote in her journals almost every day that I knew her.

I could fill a book with what I know about my grandma and my life with her or her life with me.  Either or.

The thing of it is, I miss her strength some days.

I miss that unwavering pillar that she was in my life.  And when I do, I usually pull myself up by those proverbial bootstraps and carry on.  But I miss her voice and her laugh - God, could that woman laugh.  She had a great laugh.

She collected baseball cards that one summer.

She had a shelf dedicated to the poem "When I am an Old Woman, I shall wear purple and red..".

She loved all of us.

And once upon a time, she sat at a kitchen table with her foot propped on a chair reading thumbing through a seed catalog with a cup of coffee at her elbow and a smoke in the ashtray.

And I loved her.

And today, right now today, I miss her.  

Monday, August 13, 2012

Letter to Me....

I was really struggling with what to write about this morning.  It's gloomy outside, you see, and that makes for my internal 'Remus Lupin' to want to be all morose and to sigh meaningfully.  (And if you don't know who Remus Lupin is, I'm really not sure we can be friends any more.  On second thought, go and Google him.  If you don't have him in your life, you should.)

I woke up late this morning after staying up too late and there's just really not enough coffee in the world to straighten this out but I'm determined to get on with the day - Monday or no - and make the best of it. 

So anycrap, I was chatting away - courtesy of Gchat - with my gal pal, Susan, when she suggested this 'List of Lists' that she had tucked away in the bowels of her 9200 journals.  Seriously, some day soon I might devote a blog post to each of my gal friends who make my life go 'round.  SERIOUSLY.  They're amazing and so unique in their own ways.  Oh lord, sidetracking like crazy.  Back on topic, Heather.  Okay, so I'm blindly picking out one of her topics from the Listy List of Lists and adding my own particular spin to it.  Here goes nothing:

What Would We Say to our Future Selves?

I'm going to do my own take on that.  I know some of you are country music fans and when I read this the very first thing that I thought of was Brad Paisley's, "Letter to Me". 

(Embedded for your listening enjoyment)

Dear Heather (at seventeen),

It's me.  That me that you see in the mirror only a slightly older version.  Prove it?  Okay, you've filled the last half of your diary about a certain Washington High School basketball player.  Yeah.  Now you believe me?  Good.  With that, I just wanted to stop and give you a few pointers on upcoming events in your life.  It might seem daunting or impossible that you'll survive and live through the things that you think should break you, but you won't break.  It's a close thing, but you won't. 

Trust me. 

1.  That annoying habit you have of thinking the best of people?  Don't lose that.  People will prove you right more than they will prove you wrong.

2.  I know you think you won't ever find 'the one'.  You do.  He's amazing and not what you expected at all.  Which just goes to show you that life is full of surprises.  He will be just what you needed just when you needed him. 

3.  I know that you wrote down in your Senior Memory Book that you'd have four kids jokingly.  You're right.  They're amazing.  And that first one?  You'll love her because she's his (that awesome guy from the number above), but you'll grow to love her for being herself.  The Boy, will give you the reason to put aside your own luggage as you pick him up.  He's a turning point for you.  And the next two...*shakeshead*...Oh, just you wait. 

4.  Friends.  Less is more.  You don't have to be the Prom Queen.  Quality over quantity, babe.

5.  You will get to see your mom again.  And after the first twenty minutes, it'll be less awkward and more like that piece of you that was missing will go sliding back into that slot like it was never gone. 

6.  Lay off the Pepsi, shortie. 

7.  Losing your grandma?  You live through that, kiddo.   It sucks like hell but she's left you a wonderful legacy of becoming a lover of words.  Although, you will never figure out how to make her homemade noodles.  Might wanna just let that one go. 

8.  You'll get to meet folks from all over the world eventually and will travel out of the great state of Iowa to meet them.  I know you don't believe me because you hate even driving on the interstate and won't do it unless pressed, but you tackle that particular fear, too. 

9.  All of that stuff you learned in Government and Social Studies?  Completely useless.

10.  Even at 39, you still love The Beatles.  Some things are just timeless, hon. 

In closing, I want to tell you to sleep less, smile more, let it go, and look for peace.  You are going to have some great adventures and there will be moments when the very core of your existence is shaken....but, kid, you survive. 



Now....what would you guys tell your seventeen-year-old selves?  :CHINHANDS:

Friday, August 10, 2012

True North - A Mission Statement, of sorts

Have you ever heard of True North? 


I mean, of course you have.  Everyone has heard the term 'True North'.  But, when I think on it, I think of what guides me.  Like, what is my internal compass pointing towards?  There are things that will always pull at you, and there is always going to be something that touches you at the heart of things and gives a gentle tug, tug their way. 

I was thinking about that a lot this morning.  I mean, what pulls at me at the heart of everything.  In other words, what proverbially melts mah butter. 

I came up with four things. 

If ever I had a mission statement they would include these words from other people that I regard as wholly inspirational in different ways.  They may mean so many different things to different people, but to me, they're what makes me tick. 

"I have spread my dreams under your feet, Tread softly because you tread on my dreams..." ~ WB Yeats

If you've known me longer than ten minutes, you'll know that I love the Irish poet, William Butler Yeats.  He turns a phrase quite like no one I know and I get lost in the rhythm of his words.  They're lovely.  But this particular passage means more to me than anything.  I remember reading it for the first time.  You know when you're watching a moment in your life and you know deep down that this moment is going to matter?  Yeah, that's how I felt the first time I read those words.  Wow, just wow. 

"You may say I'm a dreamer but I'm not the only one..." ~ John Lennon

Should I elaborate or is this one pretty self-explanatory?  We're all dreamers at heart.  We just happen to have different goals, ideals, and sense of purpose.  I'm not the only one, man.

"No more games, I'ma change what you call rage; Tear this motherfucking roof off like two dogs caged; I was playing in the beginning, the mood all changed; I've been chewed up and spit out and booed off stage" ~ Marshall Mathers (aka Eminem)

Anyone here surprised that I, of all people, identify with these lines?

Me, too.

I'm normally not the hugest rap fan at all, but when you break down the lyrics of this song, really listening to the words that Mr. Mathers is serving up so very articulately, it's just a simple song about a man rising above the 'system'.  In fact, he's beating the system.  So many people bare-knuckled that kid to keep him down in his 'place' and he didn't listen. 

That, my friends, is the scrapper mentality.  I wasn't ever really aware I possessed that quality until I desperately needed it.  It's one of the few things that I actually like about myself.

(Side bar conversation:  Have any of you ever seen the movie Murphy's Romance?  Guh.  James Garner.  Love him to pieces.  But I will never forget the scene where he and Sally Field are doing dishes and just talking and she asks him "What's the matter, Murphy?  Don't you like yourself?  To which he replies, "Yes, but I never thought it would be contagious."  Best lines from a stellar gent.)

And lastly, but not the least:

"I'm a mom.  It's who I am." ~ Heather Fleming

Again, this doesn't need an explanation, does it?  Those four people in my life, along with Kenny, have defined who I am more than anything else that this world could dish out, serve up.

In closing, what's your True North?  What guides you?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

With Love, Jude's Momma

Still here and kicking.  Just wanted to say thanks for all of the thoughtful comments on my last post.  Seriously, bless your hearts. 

Today, there's not going to be a What to Read Wednesday.  I might return to my regularly scheduled craziness next week.  This week there are too many thinky thoughts in my head that are longing to get out obviously. 

Last year around this time of year, I posted an open letter to my youngest child as she was heading off to her first year of preschool and it was very traumatic for me....not so much for that little go-getter.  This year, I'm going to do the same thing.  So, again, if you would be kind enough to indulge me, that'd be great. 

This was her first day of preschool last year (aka 2011).

That picture is from this morning in the car. 

Dear Jude,

In about six days you are going to be five years old.  I cannot believe how fast the time has gone from the time I got to meet you on August 14, 2007 to now.  You have been such a surprise to me, an unexpected joy that I didn't know I needed in my life until you came along. 

You, little girl, are stubborn to a fault.  At times, you drive me and your dad absolutely crazy with it.  And then you come along and do something like ask for hugs and kisses.  You are equally unashamed about who you love as you are about who chaps your butt. 

You love your big sister, Sadie, more than anything or anyone in your world.  If you could, you would follow her everywhere chattering at her a million miles an hour. 

Your fingernails are always filthy from digging in the dirt and finding worms.  Seriously, if I had a nickel for every time that you've brought a worm in my back door cradled inside of your tiny palm....I'd have a buck-fifty.  You also always have tiny bruises on your legs from running everywhere.  You don't walk unless you are obstinantly putting your feet down and digging your heels in because you aren't going to do whatever it is that you've just been told to do. 

And as a little secret between you and your momma, I secretly love this.  Don't ever lose your ability to be you, kiddo.  Have your own opinions and don't be afraid to shout them loud enough for anyone to hear.  I admire your courage and heart so very much, baby girl.  You show me every single day of my life, that its okay to go running headlong into that great big world of ours to have an adventure.  There's really great things like friends, dogs, trees, rain, and people to notice out there and you never fail to point all of the cool stuff out to me.  Like cows.  They're cool too according to you.   

You also love music.  You love to sing along.  You love to spin and twirl while you grin and shout "Watch me, Momma."

Which brings me to the next thing: you are the only one of my babies to call me Momma.  I don't know where you heard it as everyone else in the house calls me 'Mom'.  Not you, kiddo.  You called me Momma from the get-go. 

You, Jude, are going to be the end of my sanity, I know, when you're fifteen and we can't see eye-to-eye on anything.  I know you're going to be THAT child.  But until then, I will cherish every kiss goodnight you wanna give me.  I'll act like those worms are no big deal (although, you aren't bringing them in the house).  And I promise I will always answer every single time you holler, "Momma!"

Okay, world, you take care of her when she ventures on out again in a few weeks and off to her last year of preschool.  She's so excited to see all of you again.  But, her momma worries.  So yeah, take it easy.  She's only little yet. 

With Love,

Jude's Momma

Monday, August 6, 2012

Monday Musings

Okay, due to lack of interest on my part, I'm putting off Music Monday until next Monday.  Today, I'm hoping you will indulge me slightly.  In a roundabout way, I'm going to tell you a story. 

Late last year I started reading a book called "The Courage to Write."  I wrote a few stories down in my other online journal pertaining to this book.  Ralph Keyes, the author, believed that you had to write about those stories in your life that matter most to you.  Actually, let me rephrase that.  He believed that you had to write about the hard things in your life.  I almost laughed at that.  Seriously?  Hard stories?  Look around, Mr. Keyes, I thought.  While some of my life's troubles were due to my own making, I believed that a lot of my life and how I view things all hinged on a decision I made when I was seven years old. 

But, that is a story for a different day. 

I took Mr. Keyes lesson to heart and dug in and wrote about what I believed to be my defining moment as a person or what had shaped and molded everything in my life up until this day.  He believes/believed that in order to be a good writer, a fundamental success, you had to tell your story first in order to be in touch with any other character. You had to let go of the 'story' you 'knew'.

I wrote everything down about how I felt during that time...or the aftermath anyway. 

And then promptly forgot all about those lessons in lieu of real life, etc. 

So, again, if you will, please indulge me. 

This past weekend, with the help of some really great friends of mine, I realized why I'm feeling the way I've been feeling lately.  Aside from the crazy that is handed down from generation to generation in my family, I've been having feelings of definite sadness and can't pinpoint it for any logical reason.  My life is fine.  My family is healthy.  I've got a good job.  Just got a pretty, pretty car not too long ago.  I got to go flying for the first time ever.  I drove to Tennessee and back. 

So, why am I lying in bed unable to move save for clicking the track pad on my laptop?


Yup, plain old-fashioned simple fear. 

A long time ago, I promised myself that when I reached this point in my life, I would write a book.  Here I am, in that 'good' place for the first time in my life and I don't have a clue what to do with myself let alone a blank page that needs to be filled with words that people would want to read and buy and tell all their friends about. 

My life, our life, has not been the best the past few years.  In addition to working temporary jobs where life is always in a constant state of flux, I worked in places that made me feel about an inch tall at all times.  My go-to mantra during those days was that there would be a light at the end of the tunnel and that I would find a place that accepted me for all of my ridiculousness and that it would be better than anything I had ever imagined.

Yeah, I found that place.

Now what the hell am I supposed to do with myself? 

I know how to struggle and survive. I know how to rob Peter to pay Paul.  I'm a champ at packing my kids up and taking them to the beach because it's free or to the library because again?  Free.  I'm a thrift store shopper by choice AND necessity.  I'm so used to living in that state.  Again, we're still figuring out life on a daily basis, budget-wise, but also, again, it's still much better than it was before. 

So why am I subconsciously looking for things to be upset or angry about?

I'll tell you why:  Because I don't think for once in my life that I've learned how to thrive.  I don't know how not to be in the scrapper mode 24/7 and always hoping for the best.  Do not get me wrong, there are things in my life that need to be improved greatly.  It's just that mental checklist I've had running in my head for the past eight or so years is full of check marks in all the appropriate columns except one:  Write a Book. 

So, I manufacture shit to be unhappy about.  I don't do laundry until the absolute last minute because then I'll have something to be pissed about.  I don't make the bed for two weeks because then I can be pissed that it looks like crap.  Or don't do any of the DIY home improvements that I've been longing to do because, again, I still get to be upset. 

What sane person does this?

The one who is scared to death to take that step towards her dream.  I am scared beyond belief about writing something down and having no one read it.  I mean, who in their right mind would want to hear about my life?  Who really gives a crap at how I look at life?

Because when I think about writing about my life, I don't see the difference.  I don't see the attraction.  I don't see the selling point. 

I'm just me.

Just crazy Heather who loves to put words on a blank page and to twist them around to suit my needs and/or moods.  But evidently, I have to sit down and type out, listening to the click clack of my fingers on the keyboard, about what matters to me. 

I have to tell my story first. 

It's not gonna be some tell-all about who has wronged me in my life, I know that.  But, it might include the moments that made me who I am today.  And include those folks who have shaped my world, for better or worse. 

In closing, I'll ask you to bear with me, and maybe be a little kind.  It's my first day on the job of living my dream. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Firsts - Heartbreak Hotel (aka Crushing Cancellations)

Urgh.  So yes, again, I'm a day behind.

But to be fair and in the spirit of 'keeping it real, yo', yesterday was an effing bear.

Ever have one of those days where almost nothing you touch goes right?  Yeah, yesterday was that day.

But, onto the topic at hand:  Firsts.

August 10th I was going to take our 14-year-old son to his first concert, ala Hot Chelle Rae.

Keyword:  Was.

We got the notification via Ticketfly (nice folks who kindly reimbursed all the fees for the tickets and everything) that afternoon.  But that, my pals, pretty much put the capper on my day.

I take that back.  When I got home and there was a small quart of bright rose colored paint spilled all over my laundry room floor, yeah, that was straw that broke the proverbial camel's back as it were.  Who wipes up paint while fighting back tears?  Me, that's who.

Okay, god, I need to quit veering offa the subject.  So, I had to tell Arik, bless his heart, that there wasn't to be a concert.  Arik's pretty good at hiding stuff.  It must be a guy thing.  Anyway, he just nodded.  But when he walked away with his shoulders sagging, I felt horrible.  (Also, later on that night, he came and sat by me and asked "Did they say why?"  No, kiddo.  Just a scheduling conflict but kill me why don't you?  Arik's sad face is like what a puppy looks like after someone has kicked them.  Ie.  It should never happen ever again.)

I mean, of course, there will be other concerts.   Of course there will be.

But will it be like this one?  Probably not.

Why you may ask yourselves....Well, I'll tell you:

It's one of those concerts where Arik and I would have both enjoyed.

Growing up, I was fortunate enough to have a really good friend whose momma - bless her heart, seriously - schlepped us all the way to the State Fair in Des Moines to see New Kids on the Block with Tiffany.  (God, I'm really aging myself here.  LOL And for the record, I was a Joey girl.)  It was awesome.  I can still remember standing under that scorching hot summer sun singing along, shoulder-to-shoulder, with some of my best pals.

For 14-year-old me, it was Heaven.

Fast forward a few months later and we got tickets to see them only this time at Carver-Hawkeye in Iowa City.  If memory serves it was to be January 6th (or 7th) of that next year, but at the last minute the concert got canceled (to be rescheduled in the middle of Iowa. Oy vey)  Picture it:  Four or five very distraught and angsty teenagers sitting around watching VHS videos of their band over and over while making themselves sick on Coke Classic (what?  It was Joey's fave.) while lamenting their tiny heartbreak.


God, it was the days before we fell in love for the first time, before that first real heartache...but I can still remember nothing hurting quite like that did at the time.   

And my friend's mom let us all stay there, in our jammies all day long and do nothing but watch those videos of 'our' boys being silly.  I can still remember - to this day - a moment from those tapes where Joey and Donnie are in the front of the bus and Joey or Donnie has something in their teeth and the one is saying to the other:  "Ovah, ovah, ovah" in their adorbs Bostonian accents. 

It's weird, the things that stay with you over the years.

I also remember my friend's mom taking us up to Carver-Hawkeye in July and cutting us loose to go and watch our guys when they finally came back.  Fourth row at a three-ring circus.  Keep in mind, this was during their hey day (which was no more evident than at the State Fair event as it was Tiffany opening for them instead of vice versa). 

Now, let's fast-forward a bajillion years to present day. 

These guys, Hot Chelle Rae, are on the verge.  In the few months since Arik and I have started listening to their music, we've noticed a huge upswing in their fanbase.  They're getting bigger and it's fun to watch. 

(Side Note:  Jude is dancing and singing along to the Nuh Uh Uh's as I've got this going in the background.  LOL!)

We, Arik & I, laugh along at their antics on twitter - especially, Nash, he's...something else - and watch their vids together laughing at what these boys get up to.  (Seriously, they're ridiculously hilarious, especially Jamie.  And Ian....okay, Ryan's a hoot, too)

And you know what?  Sometimes, these days, it's one of the few things Arik and I can talk about.

He's a teenager and growing up fast and doing his own thing and while I love watching him become who he's supposed to be, you almost feel like you - as the parent - are getting left behind.

Yeah, there's that.

I was looking forward to standing shoulder-to-shoulder with my kiddo screaming out lyrics that we both know and watching his face as he watched the fracas that is someone's first concert.  And walking out afterwards, barely being able to hear, with his ears ringing and watching that ear-to-ear smile that Arik gets when he's completely stoked about something. 

There's really nothing like it in the world.  

But, it'll keep until another day.  We'll get there.  Just not now.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

What to Read Wednesday....

Yup, I'm thoroughly aware that I'm doing my What to Read Wednesday post on a Thursday.  We had a minor illness outbreak yesterday in our home with the 14 year old boy.  He's back to his lovely irritating self, you will be happy to know, and I'm back here in front of the computer again hoping to blather around about what I'm reading/have read/thumbed through and tossed aside with wild abandon.

Either way, this week's episode of what to read is being brought to you by a writer who passed away this week, Maeve Binchy.

Okay, here's a little back story on my history with Ms. Binchy.  The first time I read one of her books it was because there was a little movie that had come out entitled 'Circle of Friends'.  Remember that?  Chris O'Donnell (yum), Minnie Driver (gorgeous), and Creepy Colin Firth (difficult to reconcile him to the buttoned-up Mr. Darcy but ...that's a story for another time)?  Remember that movie?  LOVED that movie. 

Also, I'm going to interject here about Ireland and all things Irish.  It has been on my bucket list for the better portion of my aware life (it's like when you start remembering getting lost in the cornfield when I was three...I can remember looking up into the sky and seeing corn and clouds), I've wanted to go to Ireland.  I've had a fascination (ie. unnatural and probably a little creepy) with all things Irish whether it be actors, singers, poets and/or writers.  Their accents fascinate me.  Their turns of phrase are difficult to mimic but amazing just the same.  So, yeah, fascinated would be a good word.

Okay, back to Ms. Binchy and Circle of Friends.  When I found out that movie was based on a book, I got myself to the local Wal-Marts and picked up a copy.  It was good.  I don't remember it making a significant impact on me (other than learning/being reminded that Hollywood loves to take words and twist them to suit their money making machine in order to bring butts into the seats) but I liked it enough to pick up copies of her books when I hit up my local GoodWill/Consignment stores. 

I don't remember the first time I read The Lilac Bus but I do remember loving it.  It's got a few stories inside of that book and the other few are fine but nothing spoke to me - or so I remember - like the The Lilac Bus did.

She - the author, Ms. Binchy - starts out telling tales of each member of this 'bus' who happen to catch it every Friday evening from Dublin to their home town of Rathdoon.  Each character in the book has things going on in their mind that you would have no idea about by their outward appearances.  Her look at characters, at people, are unflinching and told with a matter-of-fact air about it.  These people may wrestle with their demons but .... you'd almost never know it.  One character has a mother running a pub and who is dangerously close to becoming a raging alcoholic.  Another has a sister in Dublin who is suffering from bulimia.  Another yet comes home to find that his brother has run off with the local flavor of the week leaving behind a wife, children, and a 'chips' shop. 

On and on, chapter after chapter, highlighting each character until the story unfolds and weaves together these hometown folks helping each other with their flaws, their problems, and giving each other hope against what they're struggling uphill with. 

I love it.

To this day my cop of The Lilac Bus is dog-eared, wrinkled, and pages are falling out because of use.  You can tell that someone definitely 'loves' this book. 

And to be fair, her other books are equally wonderful to read.  She believes in a big cast of characters and in her last few books, she reprised 'roles' of characters from other beloved books and in her last book 'Minding Frankie' there was a moment that made me do the ugly crying bit, saying good-bye to a character that I'd followed along with for three or four other books. 

She writes those kinds of characters.

They're so wonderfully flawed, real, and human that you identify with them almost immediately.  They leap off of the page and make themselves at home with a cup of tea and a biscuit in your sitting room and you don't want them to leave...ever. 

So, when I heard this week via Twitter (am I never unplugged? LOL) that she, Maeve, had passed away, I was ... hurt.  It's very difficult to try and explain to people who don't read, don't fall in love with characters, who don't wish them well and want to know things turned out the minute we hit that last page and find it blank only to close the back cover, run your hand over it, and smile softly because yeah, it was that good.  It's hard to explain it to people that you mourn because a book is done.  And knowing that I wouldn't read her words again - well, new words - is hard to digest. 


So, instead of having her new words to look forward to you, I'm doing something that she might appreciate.  I'm putting a sandwich board out here on the my blog and saying read this.  Or pick up Tara Road.  Or Circle of Friends.  Or any of the other many novels she has published over the years, sit down, and give yourself over to the lives, trials, and tribulations of people who are an ocean away. 

Again, if you have something you think I should be reading, let me know!  I'll add it to my list of things to read and may be you'll get to see me yammering on about it in the weeks to come!

See you guys tomorrow for Fyeah Friday!!!

(also, all images, unless otherwise credited, courtesy of Google Images....loves me some google)