Do I Look Perfect To You?

A neighbor just stopped by to pick up some homemade broth I made for a detox. Now, this neighbor only half-way jokingly complains about how perfect this mom or that mom is. And I laugh, because I also like to jab at women who appear to have their act together. I especially like to point out when they’re nice as well as beautiful, as if I just added “serial murder” to their list of offences.

Because no one is actually perfect, despite appearances. So when this neighbor left after a brief visit, I wondered if I had anything to add to the fodder of her joke-plaining about other women. I chuckled as I came up with these things that allude to perfection.

I’m now placing my tongue firmly in my cheek, for those who don’t know me well.

First is the reason for her visit: homemade broth. Listen up. I not only boiled carrots, celery, onions, cilantro, garlic and the usual suspected vegetables. I also added kale, daikon AND its greens (for extra perfect points), rutabaga, parsnip, ginger, red cabbage, seaweed and squash. All organic. Simmered in purified water. Score!

Then consider my kitchen, which was momentarily clean. The warm breeze was blowing past my citrus cilantro reed diffuser perched on the windowsill. Our fresh fruit bowl just happened to be overflowing. My little chalkboard announced “It’s a BEAUTIFUL day!” as sung by U2.  My daughter was napping peacefully in her Tinkerbell outfit complete with fairy wings. Our tabletop waterfall added to the ambiance with the comforting sound of water trickling onto a pile of stones. The only mess on the floor was a delightful little village of beanie babies playfully placed on miniature wood furniture. Next to that charming scene, my three-pound weights I use to rehabilitate my shoulder. Wait. That sounded imperfect. Scratch that. Oh, and it happened to be the one day of the week that I showered and blow-dried my hair.

Yes, I think I gave her plenty of material to complain about. Funny thing is, I’m so far from perfect that I don’t even know what perfect is anymore. I’d be surprised if it’s as easy to attain as buying this and that, then placing it around the house to make a comfortable home. Cute kids probably help but mine didn’t inherit any adorable genes from me. (One of the many beautiful qualities of adoption: when people compliment my kids’ looks, I can agree because I had nothing to do with it.)

Well, my daughter just screamed from the bathroom that her underwear is wet, my son’s begging to play on my iPad and the pizza I’m about to stuff in the oven has an ingredient list as long as my arm. That ought to make my neighbor feel pretty good right about now.

Pinning My Hopes

I have resisted taking the plunge into Pinterest. Until now.

 

It started innocently enough, with a well-intentioned search for the “best gluten-free recipes” and “help for autism”. Then I felt the urge to find “crafts using Guatemalan burlap coffee bags”, “perfect poses for family pictures”, and “letters cut from books”. Then I desperately need to find “rustic barn wood frames”, “quotes about dogs”, and “how to decorate with antlers”. And then I couldn’t stand another minute without seeing “beautiful flour containers”, “Amy Grant songs”, and “making words using rope”.

 

Realizing that I could find photos and tutorials for just about darn anything, I’m now going into the REALLY important issues that may impact my life. To make money, I’ll search for “selling art made from dog hair tumbleweeds”. To save money: “fitting into your old clothes by layering Spanx”. To stay healthy: “replacing calorie-laden foods with air without getting hungry”. To avoid last-minute stress: “how to remember that dinner happens every day at 6 pm” and “Christmas comes every year on December 25”. To feel productive: “how your house can clean itself while you write a blog”.

 

And finally, to save my marriage: “how to delete evidence that you spent two hours on Pinterest today” – just in case he doesn’t appreciate my new beautiful flour containers.

Skiing: 1978 vs. 2013

skiing-with-jonasWhat difference does 35 years make? Not much, when it comes to my emotional maturity. A whole lot, apparently, when it comes to my style on the ski slopes.

Last night I took my eight-year-old son to Hyland Ski for a few hours on the snowy slopes. We were both dressed for an Antarctic expedition, even with the temps topping 30 degrees and prompting thoughts of spring. My dirt-colored Columbia cap covered my girl parts – you know, my long hair and drawn-on eyebrows. My ski pants and coat? Also dirt-colored, with panels of black and white. My skiing? Not showy, let’s just say that. I snowplowed behind my son to make sure he didn’t careen into the trees as he tried to keep up with his more experienced buddies.

Flash back to 1978. What color was my hat? Hat? What hat? I wasn’t about to cover my blondie-locks, no matter how blustery the weather. Back then, I was considered a “ski bunny”. My goal on the slopes? Attract boys and show off my skiing, in that order. When I lost a contact, I wouldn’t wear my glasses, oh no. I just navigated with one eye spying the shadow-inducing moguls. Scary, huh? And my outfits were colorful, because color mattered. I recall having a crush on both Greenie from North Branch  and Big Red from Cambridge until I learned their real names, then found out how much they liked my ski bunny friend. (Hi Kris! Can’t believe you’re a grandma!)

Okay, not everything changed from that groovy decade that spawned That 70s Show. I still felt an un-mom-like euphoria when I bombed the hill with a bunch of eight-year-olds and beat them to the bottom. (Didn’t really matter that I outweigh them by a 100 pounds, making the real cause of my victory not skill, but gravity.) I also hit a few jumps like I did in the old days, the only difference being that it used to be on purpose.

But in the end – despite knees complaining about having to bend for several hours while enduring the equivalent of speed bumps, eyes the color of Big Red’s ski jacket, neck warmer glistening with snotsicles – I went home with the cutest boy in the world. Wouldn’t trade places with my younger snow bunny self for all the Alleve in the world!

Lovely Little Wildflower

Anna with DandelionsLovely Little Wildflower

Roses are red, violets are blue;
Can’t really say which is best.
But I know a little wildflower
Who’s different than all the rest.

This flower’s surrounded by Sleepy Sheep
And fidgets colored like a rainbow.
She’s probably chewing on gum as well.
(Sound like a little one you know?)

My wildflower will often stand out
In a field of well-mannered blooms.
While the garden emits its sweet fragrance,
This wonderful wild one often fumes.

Rough around the edges, sure,
But with a tender center.
This is my little wildflower
We daily encourage to be gentler.

Shorter than those with leggy stems,
Darker than those native to our state,
Slower to develop than others,
Bigger obstacles to navigate.

I sometimes want my little flower
To be more like the others
Who engage, fit in, mature, take part,
Grow up to be just like their mothers.

But not every flower has a beautiful aroma,
Perfect petals and a long green stem.
Some have thorns and unruly leaves.
Is there any less beauty in them?

Thank God that our Prairie and its blooms
Have many gardeners to tend to their growth.
Firm guidance with a loving hand:
Our budding blossoms clearly need both.

To raise my wildflower in particular
Requires the temper of a saint.
She needs patient teachers and guides,
(Which is something this poet often ain’t!)

Daily she needs nurturing and protection
While the winds of life are blowing.
She also needs tough love and discipline
Until she’s finished growing.

Will my little wildflower be chosen
To be part of an award-winning bouquet?
Will she grace the cover of garden magazines
Our coffee tables proudly display?

Will a lovely bride proudly carry her
As she walks slowly up the aisle?
Will she be a surprise on Valentine’s Day
With her only purpose to create a smile?

I might have wished, many years ago,
To have just such a popular bloom,
The one everybody wants to exult,
Who feels loved when she enters a room.

I no longer care … but sometimes wonder
Why God planted this wildflower in my bed.
“I created you to be her gardener, dear child,
But you won’t walk alone,” He said.

He provided other caring men and women
With the tools and experience to be
A wonderful village of gardeners (that’s you!)
To join hands, heads and hearts with me.

So as this lovely little wildflower
Continues to bloom and grow
There are a couple things I really want
Her other loving gardeners to know.

Together we planted seeds,
Together we prepared the soil.
Together we rejoiced in her growth
Together we saw fruits of our toil.

You tilled the soil, day after day.
You gave the sun and the water.
You treated this wonderful wild thing like
A special (and at times rebellious) daughter.

This amazing, God-planted wildflower
Has stronger roots because of your care.
You are a wonderful gardener, friend,
And an answer to many a prayer.

I’m glad this wild flower found me
And so happy that she found you too.
We’ll never forget all that you’ve done
And we’ll never, ever forget YOU.

Am I Typical?

Stop! Why answer that so quickly, mean-spirited follower? Give me a chance to compare our behaviors before boldly declaring me abnormal. Because sometimes I do something that may be considered quirky, then wonder if anyone else does the same thing. Are you with me? Let’s see.

I get giddy and smile like a pageant queen as the buses take my kids away in the morning, then I dance a little crazy jig when I get inside the house. Every day.

I also smile at myself when I pass by a mirror, just to be friendly to myself. (Believe me, there’s no other reason I’d smile at my appearance these days.)

I stick my tongue out at drivers who are mad at me. Sometimes I just point at them and laugh, just to tick them off more.

Instead of squishing them, I extend the life of most insects by bringing them outside. I’d do the same for mice and chipmunks, if my husband didn’t insist on killing them.

I can’t listen to Prince without doing a little Norwegian Middle Age Woman grind.

I don’t notice at all when I say “uffda”. Everyone else seems to take note, as in, “She lives in a metropolitan area, she’s under age 95 and somehow she’s not embarrassed to say utter that Norwegian cuss-wannabe.”)

I taught my dog how to dance with me. She has two left paws but lets me lead.

When no one’s around, I sit at the piano and sing songs by The Bangles. (“Eternal Flame” anyone?)

I still like to believe that animals go to heaven.

I enjoy coloring more than my kids do.

My dollar bills are always facing the same way, a harmless holdover from my bank teller days.

I brake for sunsets and rainbows. I’d stop for unicorns too, if they were real.

I can look a four-foot-tall pile of dirty clothes squarely in the eye without picking it up but stop immediately to adjust a picture that’s not perfectly straight.

I often eat all the dough before I get to baking the brownies or cookies. I once woke up at 3 am and craved brownie dough, hauled my sleepy butt out of bed, and made my sweet dream come true.

Have you heard of lucid dreaming? I can actually control what happens in my dreams. I won’t get into details but that’s a GREAT gift when you’re longing for things you’re too timid to do in real life. Like fly. Or eat clouds.

I have perfect pitch, and I test its accuracy often. I’ll hum a specific note, then go to the piano and play the note to make sure the two match. Yep, that’s middle C alright.

When all alone, I’ll close the door of our little half-bathroom to create an acoustic wonderland, then sing Heart songs as if I’m THAT Nancy – along with her sister Ann Wilson. The room’s too small to recreate their signature kicks, though.

After I clean a room, I’ll peek at it several times throughout the day just to remind myself how good clean looks and feels. So this happens, like, once a month. At best.

I’m embarrassed to say that I believe 10 am is the new 7 am when it comes to getting out of your PJs, and 3 pm is the new 5 pm when it comes to happy hour.

Okay. Now I see why you answered so quickly.  I’ll concede that my “normal” may be your “weird”, and I’ll probably like you more if your “normal” is my “freak show”.

When Anna Ran Away

At a wooded campground. To the next neighborhood. Through the grocery store parking lot.

 

Maybe it’s easier for a mom of a special needs child to sound the alert, whether it’s begging other campers to help look for your child or enduring disapproving glares as you cut in line to talk to the grocery store manager.

 

Why easier? Because she knows that uttering THAT phrase – “my child has been diagnosed with autism” – invokes fear that the child is not capable of typical behavior. The runaway child may not turn to an adult to ask for help. She may not look at all worried that cars are scooting by her in the parking lot. She may not even wonder where her mommy is. In fact, she may be smiling because the wind is blowing in her face. Or repeating some movie lines that no one will understand except her mommy, who hears them a hundred times a day.

 

First to the campers: Thank you for hopping on your bikes and circling the campground until we found Anna. This was my first experience losing my child and your willingness to put down your wine coolers and leave the campfire warmed my heart. When I heard my husband yell from several campsites away that he had found Anna, my fear overflowed in the form of tears – angry, frustrated, grateful tears of joy.

 

To the kind, older couple I’ve never met who live in the next neighborhood: It must have been surprising to find a little girl sitting on your deck, watching your cat through the window. As I biked around … and around … and around our neighborhood, I barely saw your two heads, and then a little dark one, rise over the horizon as you walked her home. Again, tears.

 

To the well-meaning guy at Rainbow who called 9-1-1: I appreciate that you recognized that a little girl, unattended, should not be running between cars in the parking lot. I don’t appreciate that you mentioned the word “neglect” three times as we waited for the police to arrive. Yes, I really did turn my eyes away for just a second. And yes, there really was no reason for Anna to run away. And yes, I really am a good mom.