Saturday, October 24, 2009


: unswerving in allegiance

I cheated on my husband today.... with another football team. He knows I love football. He's known that for years. But I don't think he realized just how much I still love the Alabama Crimson Tide. They were, you see, my first football love.

If I met you, I'd tell you I'm a Vanderbilt fan. And I am. We have season football tickets for our entire family. We have Vandy gear that we all wear to the games - a cute black-and-gold striped dress for the five year old, fuschia t-shirts for the eight and nine year olds, a black & gold tee for me and VU golf shirts for the hubby. We go to every home game, watch every away game on TV. But, Vanderbilt, oh, Vanderbilt. They lose. They lose games they should win. And they do this with alarming regularity.

I start every game excited, fired up to be there. I clap. I scream. I jump up and down when we convert on third and long. And then my team puts me back in my seat. Because our quarterback throws a pass to the wide receiver's knees. Our running back runs straight into a heap of defenders for no gain. And, far too often, we simply self-destruct. Because this has been happening for years - I've been a Vandy fan for nearly two decades - I begin to disassociate when things get bad. I keep watching, but the emotion drains out of me. I half-expect the dropped passes, the near-fumbles, the three and outs. I watch, but my mind wanders. I find this makes the nearly inevitable loss easier to bear. Part of me has already accepted that we will lose, so it doesn't hurt quite as badly.

But today, before the pain-inducing Vanderbilt-South Carolina game came the Alabama-Tennessee game. And watching Alabama is a different story. This wasn't their best game. They didn't score at will, as I would have liked. In fact, Tennessee, the hated University of Tennessee, held the Tide to field goals when I wanted TDs. But, man, is Bama fun to watch. Mark Ingram is simply stunning. I've never seen someone get so many yards after contact. He's quick and he just carried Bama down the field on his shoulders more than once.

And here's where the cheating comes in. While watching Ingram & Co, I clapped, I yelled, I said "Rolllllll Tiiiiide Roll!" with my five year old. And during the painful last half of the last quarter when Tennessee showed signs of an upset, when they actually recovered that onside kick (!), I was beside myself. I yelled, "NO!" at the TV after the aforementioned onside kick. My daughters looked at me like I was a bit insane. My husband looked at me longingly. Because HE yells at the TV - but he does it during Vanderbilt games. That's when he said to me, "You're cheating on me. You're cheating on Vandy. You don't get this excited during their games!" In the heat of the moment, I wasn't sure he was right. And I couldn't stop to analyze it then - the game was on the line! But after Alabama hung on to block UT's field goal attempt and I could think straight again, I could see his point.

I love Vanderbilt. Seeing them win their first bowl game in a quarter of a century earlier this year was thrilling. But when the Vandy game started and my husband was pacing the floor, trying to help players tackle and yelling, I knew he was right. I am loyal to Alabama football. My heart races when I watch those crimson and white players march down the field. My blood boils when a team like Tennessee threatens to thwart what I think might be another national championship season. I am active when I watch an Alabama game and I care all the way through the game. There is no emotional disassociation going on.

So while I live Vanderbilt football, going to every home game, wearing the black and gold, indoctrinating my children to love Vandy and hate UT, I breathe Alabama football. It holds a special place in my heart, and likely always will.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


1 : to set free from restraint, confinement, or servitude

The day after Artie the Monarch Butterfly emerged from his chrysalis, B set him free. She knew he needed to head to Mexico, as all monarchs do. But she wanted some of her friends to get to see him "live and in person," not just via a picture that I had e-mailed for her teacher to share with the class. So I picked up Artie in his butterfly tent and met B after school.

K was the first one to emerge from the building. She was excited to see Artie and immediately began calling friends over to see him. But that was nothing compared to when B walked out. Her face lit up when she saw me holding the butterfly tent and she called to her friends, "Come see Artie!" In this picture, one of B's friends is literally jumping up and down with excitement.

It wasn't long before children younger and older than B were hesitantly coming up to her and asking to see Artie. I gave her some time to show him off and asked a few times, "Has everyone seen him?" The librarian came over to see him. B took him up for the principal and teachers to see. She shared him with friends from last year's class, friends from this year's class and curious onlookers.

And then it was time to let him go. I went over to B, who was surrounded by children. I asked her one last time if she'd shown Artie to everyone that she wanted to. She agreed that she had. I told her I thought it was time to let him go and asked a few children to let me into the circle to help her unzip the top of the tent while holding it aloft.

When I went home to pick Artie up and bring him to school, it was obvious that his wings were ready and he was anxious to get going. While he spent the first 18 to 24 hours perched quietly and moving only occasionally, he was flapping around his tent consistently by the 36 hour mark. I expected him to bolt when Bekah opened the tent, so I had the camera ready.

Bekah unzipped the tent. Artie perched on the edge.

And he stayed there. In fact, the children were moving around more than he was.

So I reached out to him and he went onto my finger. He stayed there, seeming to take things in. And as Bekah moved over to get him onto her finger, he left. He circled up, circled again and was gone.

And Bekah was happy for him. There were no tears shed. She did exactly what Artie needed in the time he was with her. She trusted her instincts and fed him what he needed. She provided him with a safe place to live and cleaned out his home. She procured a bigger home for him, with the help of a kind and loving teacher. She watched and waited, never losing faith, while he stayed in his chrysalis for longer than we expected. She was, in fact, the mother I hope to be.

I want to give my children what they need, but not hover, not worry over the outcome. I want to do what I can to train them, shape them and love them. I want to trust that I know what is best for my daughters. And I want to not cry when I release them, but be thankful for the time I had with them.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


1 : a high degree of gratification : joy; also : extreme satisfaction
2 : something that gives great pleasure (her performance was a delight)

Today was a wonderful day. It was the third day of my daughters' fall break, but the first day of their break that has been completely under our control - no meetings, no appointments, no responsibilities. So I decided we would visit Cheekwood. We've been before, but most often in the summer to see the Fairy Tale houses. After today, I've decided autumn is made for Cheekwood...

The weather was beautiful - a crisp, fall day that was warm in the sun, cool in the shade. The scarecrows were fabulous - scattered throughout the grounds, in a wide range of styles from funny to spooky to artsy. The grounds were gorgeous - and accessible - the girls roamed, ran, explored. And I delighted in it.

Many of my friends, given a day like today, would choose the Zoo as a place to kill three or four hours. Not me, I'll choose Cheekwood every time. We started with scarecrows, meandered to the herb garden, spent some time seeing the current art exhibit, sat in the sun for a picnic, traipsed around the ponds and ended with more scarecrows. It fed my soul to spend time in the sun, amongst all of this beauty with my daughters. And I was filled with delight - in them, in the day, in the experience.

It was a good reminder to take time to enjoy my daughters. I know they are growing and changing nearly every day. I see it with my own eyes. And I don't kid myself that in ten years my daughters will agree to spend a gorgeous day like today at Cheekwood with me. It was wonderful to not only have this time together, but to see it for what it was - a delight.

One of my favorite moments was near the end of our day as I watched the girls explore one of the ponds. A & B picked their way around while K was exploring elsewhere. But when K decided to join them and got stuck, they clambered back over to help her. It felt like I was watching them create their own little Terebithia, where they were the only inhabitants. Truly, a delight.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Today is the first day of fall break. Here's what I hope fall break will bring for us:

Breakfast (and lunch) in our pajamas
Fun Outings
Family Time
Hot chocolate
Art making
Cuddling under blankets
Shared TV (esp. So You Think You Can Dance recordings)
Friend Time
Craft Time
Cooking Together
Library Time
Hot Tea
We're well on our way if today is any indication, as we have done nearly all of these things in one day. It's just what we all needed... and I'm looking forward to having a lot more of it in the next ten days.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


2 a : removal or lightening of something oppressive, painful, or distressing

Ahh, how things can change in twenty-four hours. Yesterday, I was mentally composing a post that could have been called "fear" or "disappointment." But today the post is "relief" because B's butterfly Artie emerged from his chrysalis today. I was not sure this would happen.

This time yesterday, the chrysalis looked dry, dark and decayed. Just this morning, I admitted to B that I was worried about Artie. Our conversation went something like this (inner thoughts italicized):

Me: "B, I'm a little worried about Artie." (How do I tell her Artie might not live to be a butterfly?)

B, as she climbs up on the stool to get a better look: "I think he's supposed to look that way. You can kind of see his antenna through the chrysalis. I'll ask Mrs. R about it at school today." (What does Mom know anyway? He's FINE.)

Me: "Well, OK." (At least I've planted the seed. Now when nothing happens, maybe she won't be as heartbroken.)

Today was day 15 in the chrysalis and the book we read said 5 to 15 days was a normal time frame. While I didn't come out and say it to B, I was contemplating how long we would let it go before offering to bury tiny Artie in the backyard. I was wondering how to explain that it was time to give up hope.

But when I went in the kitchen shortly after 9 this morning, there was a butterfly perched in its tent, beautiful, fully formed and alive. As usual, B was right to not give up hope and I was too quick to assume the worst.

I debated about whether to entitle this post JOY or RELIEF because both emotions flooded me when I saw Artie hanging there out of his cocoon. RELIEF won out because while I would have been disappointed if Artie hadn't made it, B would have been heartbroken. My immediate impulse was to dash to school, get B dismissed and bring her home to see Artie for herself. Quickly ruling that out, I next contemplated calling and asking to speak with her. I finally ended up going to the school and showing her pictures. She was excited, but she wasn't relieved. You see, she hadn't been worried in the first place.

I'm not sure what the lesson in all of this is. Maybe it's that transitions take longer than I want. Maybe it's that just when I think all is lost, I will emerge as something new. Maybe it's that I should trust the process a little more. B knew that we had done all we could do for Artie. She didn't keep a ticking clock in her head like I did. She just waited for her butterfly to come out. And he did. I couldn't be more relieved - that Artie made it and that my daughter's simple faith was rewarded.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


2 : full of activity : bustling

What Saturday, October 10 brought for our family:

9:00 - 11:00 - Ballet practice for A, S driving

9:00 - 10:30 - Theater for B, J driving, K accompanying

9:15 - 9:45 - Haircut for J, K accompanying

9:45 - 10:15 - J shows K some of the sights at Vanderbilt, including old dorms & the mail room

9:15 - 10:45 - Errands for S to Porter Paints, KMart, Fairytales

11:00 - 2:00 - Incorporate a bit of pain and suffering into the day by watching and/or listening to the Vanderbilt/Army football game

12:30 - 3:00 - Ballet performance for A, S accompanying

1:30 - 4:00 - Birthday party for B & K, J accompanying

4:00 - 5:45 - Family down time (shouldn't this comprise most of Saturday???)

6:00 - 8:00 - Family Dance at school

8:00 - 9:00 - J stays to clean-up for Dance, S puts girls to bed

9:01 - J & S collapse

So I'm feeling tired, how about you?

Friday, October 9, 2009


1 a : something material that may be perceived by the senses b : something that when viewed stirs a particular emotion (as pity)

I was an art history major in college and a feminist as well, so I've read many books and written many papers on how women are presented and perceived as objects. But only this morning did it really hit home for me what this means in my own psyche. I'll backtrack momentarily...

I've always been insecure about my body in general and my legs specifically. While I would have been a big hit in the Renaissance, not so much today. I have curves. No matter how much I work out, I will never look like my daughter A, who is both pre-pubescent and a dancer. Yet I see her in a pair of jeans and think, "I want to look like that!"

Since I don't look like her (and didn't even at her age), I rarely wear pants. I'm more comfortable in skirts and dresses and they fit me better. But one day last week, I wore leggings, a flowy top and black boots. The outfit was very comfortable and I was comfortable in it - as long as I didn't look in the mirror and see my thighs staring back at me. I mentioned this to my husband when he complimented me on the way I looked. He responded, "You have great legs. And they feel great wrapped around me!" (Sorry if you're blushing, but this is important to my point.) I honestly didn't give his comment that much thought. I internalized his response as, "You look good, honey. Don't worry about your legs."

This morning the topic came up again and I had a near epiphany as I realized that the disconnect between his statement and my feelings was that I think of my own body as an object. J tried to reassure me by reminding me that my legs are able to do great things (not just in bed, but while running and in daily life). But I don't judge my legs or any other part of my body based on what it can do. I judge it based on how it looks. I don't know if you can comprehend how profoundly sad this is to me.

This body has carried and given birth to three daughters, yet I completely discount anything it is capable of, always concentrating on how it looks. How heartbreaking. I've tried to change my perspective. I've had internal conversations (often while exercising) about how strong I am and how much my body can do. But when you get right down to it, I think my body is only here to be seen.

So how, how, how do I teach my daughters to revel in all their bodies are capable of? How do I help them enjoy the way they look and play with different styles, different hairdos but still keep that in the proper perspective? Am I even capable of teaching them the proper perspective now that I realize my own viewpoint is warped beyond belief?

Thursday, October 8, 2009


3 a : a state of utter confusion b : a confused mass or mixture

My house has been in a state of chaos for the past three weeks. Three weeks ago today, the ceiling in our kitchen nook crashed to the ground. I was upstairs at the time and as I dashed down to see what had just happened, I was thinking, "Did my refrigerator just fall through the floor to the basement?" That's how loud it was. No, the fridge was still standing. It was just covered with plaster and dirt. There were things to be thankful for in the midst of this: my daughters were at school when the ceiling fell in, no one was injured and I was home to clean up the gargantuan mess right away. Still... it was the beginning of a period of chaos.

A contractor came the next day to stabilize the ceiling and then came back a few days later to demolish the rest of the ceiling and hang new drywall there. While he was here, we had him take care of a few other small things around our house. As with many older homes, small jobs turned in to large ones. Some things went off without a hitch (a light fixture with questionable wiring turned out to be just the fixture, not the wiring), others not so much...

In addition to having a kitchen covered with debris, then drywall dust, we had to have a new ceiling put up in the living room after discovering that the plaster was too brittle to be repaired. This required that our living room furniture reside in the dining room for 5 days. By Monday night, when everything was finished, I was exhausted.

As I put A to bed, she said to me, "Mommy, are you stressed?"
"Yes, I am. It's hard for me when our house is a mess, honey."
"Yeah, you like things neat and orderly, don't you?"

She's right. I do like things neat and orderly. Even so, I am not a neat freak. I don't mind a certain amount of clutter - we do actually live here and we have three children who seem to bring home a ream of paper each week. But not being able to eat as a family, having to clean dust from every conceivable surface and having people in my house off and on for a week was terribly exhausting. Even now, I really just want to crawl into bed and hide. But this is the first day I've had to write since the ceiling fell in three weeks ago, so I feel obligated to use my time more wisely. The question is whether I am capable of that.

It's fascinating to me that the definition of chaos is so closely linked to confusion because the external chaos of our home has left my mind a muddled mess. My soul is in turmoil and I feel incapable of rational, much less creative, thought. But if I don't try to get my mind and heart quiet again, chaos will continue to reign. So, I'll close this post, enjoy the quiet house and try to write. And I will not contemplate renovating our kitchen. Because if minor home repairs leave me this depleted, I'll be a puddle on the floor by the time I have a new kitchen...

Thursday, October 1, 2009


:food for monarch caterpillars

The caterpillar that B found only ate one type of leaf: milkweed. How B sensed this, I will never know. But when she brought him home from a yard down the street, she brought a few leaves of milkweed. She placed these leaves in a jar. When he finished them, I suggested a few leaves from the trees in our yard because I didn't want her to continue to scavenge leaves from a neighbor. She acquiesced, but said, "I think he might only eat the leaves he was on when I found him." We quickly found out she was right. Artie wouldn't touch maple or oak leaves. So B went down the street for more milkweed and Artie chowed down - eating two or three leaves daily, which is a lot considering he was smaller than my pinkie.

What I found most interesting about the monarch caterpillar's predilection for milkweed is that the leaf is poisonous to other creatures. Artie knew what he could and couldn't eat. He knew exactly what he needed to consume to turn into a monarch butterfly instead of a monarch caterpillar. It didn't matter to him that it was a weed. He didn't decide he needed a more gourmet diet of arugula, spinach or wilted greens. He knew what he needed to do and did it.

So I've been thinking about what I need that might be poisonous (OK, maybe just distasteful) to others and whether I am swayed by what others need instead of listening to my own mind, my own body, my own soul.

One thing that I need more than many people is solitude. I have done a terrible job of protecting my time and therefore protecting my energy. When I spend a lot of time around other people, I am drained, depleted and exhausted. I know this about myself. But I feel pressure to volunteer at school, at church, at Rejoice. For things both important and unimportant to me. I am a little better at saying NO than I used to be, but my guilt over saying no has increased this year because, for the first time in three years, I am again unemployed. While I am enjoying not working for pay, I feel a self-imposed pressure to exhibit productivity. It was easier to say no to helping during a school science project when I had to work (even at my low-paying, part-time, non-profit job). It's harder to say, "I can't. I need to stay home that day." Or, simply, "I can't."

What else do I need that might not suit other creatures? I need books. Reading revives me, rejuvenates me, feeds me. And if you're spending three hours each day volunteering, there's not much time left to read after dinner, laundry and cleaning.

I also need order, not chaos. This has been hard to come by as we've had a contractor in and out, on an irregular schedule, repairing ceilings, hanging drywall, fixing doorknobs. I want my house straight, if not spotlessly clean. And I want it empty of anyone but me. As I write this, two men are downstairs hanging drywall on my living room ceiling. It needs to be done. I'll be glad when it's done. But I really want the quiet of my own home right now and I'm still several days away from having that.

Finally, I need to write. I almost closed this post without mentioning this need. It is hard to write when I'm over-stimulated, under-read and surrounded by chaos. So I have been leaving this need mostly untended, in spite of the progress that I made last week on two articles. In spite of the fact that I need to share these two articles tomorrow. I tell myself that this need is my least important need, but maybe that's just not true. Maybe I could cope better with these other things if I would write.

I guess the unanswered question in all of this is whether filling these needs will turn me from a caterpillar into a butterfly... or even get me started down that road.