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Virtual Angels

12 Jan

I’m the mom of a 19-year-old.  A 19-year-old that goes to college 5 hours away, involving a drive over two mountain passes and through metro Denver traffic.  He’s a good, cautious driver and patiently puts up with my “be safe, make good choices” talk every time he gets behind the wheel.  He texts me when he leaves, he texts when he arrives.  He never gives me reason to worry, but I just can’t help it.  He left yesterday, knowing that Vail Pass was closed due to a jack-knifed semi and chain law on both Vail and the Tunnel.  (I worry when roads are dry!)  I’m grateful for my network of Facebook friends, some of whom have college drivers of their own, who provide a positive energy, prayer and angel network when my boy is on the road.  I still worry until I get his text, but this network brings more comfort than I know how to express.

zach heads home 1-11-14

“The captain of The Enterprise”

Bleeding Music

10 Jan

I’m a lucky mom.  My son found his passion for music in middle school, and that passion has given his life focus.  He’s currently pursuing a double major: music education and saxophone performance, and has plans to continue on to grad school.  Music is like air to him–he absolutely needs it to be himself.  Music saturates his essence.  I’m endlessly grateful for the way he follows his passion.  I’m grateful for the clear and realistic path he has set, allowing for flexibility but never losing sight of the music.  Skillful in so many ways.

Selmer SA80 SeriesIII

Zach’s Golden Ticket.

Spiced with Love

9 Jan

Everyday home cooking is usually a job for one.  I am that one.  She who chops and cooks and makes a mess and then cleans up.  I don’t mind, because I love to cook.  Last night, Michael was in the mood for pizza and joined in the preparation.  Just a simple vegan pizza with a naan bread crust, but so much better for the wine shared and the joint effort to create it.  It reminded me of our dating years when we often made meals together, drinking wine and laughing.  I’m grateful for a hubby who is comfortable in the kitchen.

pizza

Food made with a loved one always tastes better.

The Colors of January

8 Jan

Spring has tulips and cherry blossoms, Summer has sunflowers and petunias, Fall has goldenredburgundy leaves.  And winter?  Christmasy reds and greens, crystalline white snow and crisp blue skies.

Every January, I clear my house of the cozy green and red of Christmas and replace it with crisp and clean blue and white.  Always displayed on my hutch, is the bridal “china” my Mom insisted I have.  I had my choice of patterns (within monetary reason) and selected one that sang to my Scandinavian side.  One that my Danish Great-Aunt would have loved.  It’s a stoneware rather than china; far more practical and definitely used more often because of it.  Made by Franciscan, the pattern is called Denmark.  I’m so grateful for this reminder of Mom and my heritage.

denmark

The fresh colors of January.

 

“I Never Knew…

6 Jan

…holding someone’s hand

could feel so inviting,

so familiar

and so new at the same time.

Holding your hand, I celebrate it,

I mark it on calendars.”

~Anita Krizzan

I’m so grateful for those times I can sit quietly and hold hands with Michael.  There may be distractions of the TV or Pookie the cat or the phone ringing, but my world is only him and me at those moments.

holding hands

A quiet little intimacy.

 

Long Distance Mom-ing

10 Dec

Being a Mom is the most wonderful of all blessings, and one of the hardest when your “little one” is not so little anymore and not even living in the same town.  I have new-found respect for what my Mom must have gone through when I was 19 and far away in college.  Back then, the only phone was in the hallway of the dorm, shared by every girl on the floor.  How did Mom stand the lack of contact?  Was it a good thing to be blissfully unaware and hopeful that all was well?  I can be in touch with my son via text, cell phone or Facebook messaging instantaneously.  I get to have a peek inside his college life as his friends tag him in pictures and posts.  A comfort to me, maybe not so much for him.

This week is finals week for many college students. My son, being a music major has finals, but also juries–solo performances in front of the entire woodwind faculty of the college.  He is in both the saxophone and oboe studios, so is required to present a piece demonstrating his skills for each.  Much of the time spent in lessons for oboe and sax each semester are devoted to polishing the literature he and his teachers have selected.  Many of the hours of practice time are spent going over and over and over the pieces–practicing until they become a part of him.

zach selmer nov 2013

And then, at 3am the morning of the juries, he wakes up with a horrible earache.  Imagine having a test that requires controlled and forceful breathing with your ear plugged and screaming at you.  Not good.  Not good a all.  Here comes the long distance Mom part.  He posted his frustration with the situation on Facebook, allowing me to know as soon as I opened Facebook this morning.  All ready, many of his friends had advised he go see a doctor.  I did as well, also asking to be kept in the loop of what came of the doctor visit.  Seems all too easy and matter of fact as I write this, but my Mom worries kicked in.  A monstrous desire to be able to instantaneously transport myself to him to give him a hug, wrap him in blankets and make chicken soup.  Who doesn’t want their Mom to come take care of them during times of sickness?!

He’s 5 hours away, so I had to settle for texting as he filled out forms in the waiting room of the clinic.  A quick diagnosis resulted in prescribed antibiotics, and he was sent on his merry way to determine (with input from his instructors) on whether juries are a go or not.  I still haven’t heard how that will shake out.  I feel fortunate that he is someone who is very good at taking care of and advocating for himself.  It helps me worry a bit less.  He also has a great network of caring friends; people I know will help him with whatever he needs–possibly even bringing him chicken soup.

When will the desire to rush in and make things “all better” end?  According to other Moms I’ve talked to, never.  It’s been a long, long time since a kiss was able to fix a boo-boo.  My little boy is a man who is quite capable of taking care of himself.  I’ll always be his Mom, though, and can’t wait for him to drive those 5 hours to be home this weekend so I can take care of him PROPERLY.  Off to the store I go to get the ingredients for chicken noodle soup–it’s better than sitting here worrying and waiting for the next text or Facebook update.

He’ll be fine and things will work out as they should.  How many times have I heard those words in my Mom’s voice?!  All those years of what I took as patronizing, turn out to be the best you can do when you’re long distance Mom-ing.

The Meaning of Christmas (In My Humble Opinion)

9 Dec

Beware.  I’m up on my soapbox.  Generally I reserve this soapbox for my rants about public education, but today I stand up here to stand up for myself and Comfort and Joy, Joy to the World, and A thrill of hope for the weary world.

Yesterday, I wrote a post to remember my Mom and her love of all things Christmas.  It focused mainly on decor and sharing good food with good friends.  This morning, I found two “pingbacks” (notification that another blog has linked to your post) to the post about Mom from a blog devoted to Christianity.  This blog used quite a few excerpts from my post to illustrate a perceived increase in secularism in what the author feels should be a completely Bible-based event.  I wrote a comment on his post, thanking him for at least citing his source, but that I felt that his use of my words belittled how religious and spiritual my Mom truly was, and that using them in that way completely ignored the whole purpose of my post.

Perhaps I am wrong for not going on about her deeply religious side.  She was a devout Catholic, regularly attending church, with many religious artifacts displayed in her home.  Not in a shrine-like way, just incorporated into her surroundings.  A large framed tin of The Virgin of Guadalupe, for example.   I feel more importantly, that Mom always conducted herself in a very Christian way: helping those who need help, listening to someone who just needs to talk, taking food to neighbors who were ill.  She loved her friends and family well.  Aren’t those Christian ideals?

Who decided that in order to be a proper Christian, you must adhere strictly to the Bible and its many interpretations?  When did these interpretations of the Bible start trumping the sort of life Jesus would have approved of?  When did displaying a Christmas tree result in being labeled a heathen?  Yup.  The blog’s author responded to my comment by saying that Mom may have been religious, but was probably affected by family traditions which caused her to celebrate Christmas with all the “heathen ornaments.”  What?!  Judge not…

Good gravy.  I don’t know about you, but when December shows up, and pretty lights, candles, evergreen boughs and even Jolly Old St. Nick appears, I get all warm inside with a feeling of Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.  Isn’t that the true meaning of Christmas?   Yes, it’s the day used to celebrate Jesus’ birthday, but isn’t it more than a birthday party?  Isn’t it the encouragement to be the kind of person Jesus always tried to be (according to the Bible!)?   That feeling of we can all get along and love each other.  The impetus to be kind and share joy.  Am I somehow less Christian because I have Christmas stockings out?  Am I heathen because the trolls Mom loved are sitting on my hutch?

Where is the Christian tolerance and compassion?  How does a secular decoration belittle anyone’s personal faith?  Faith is faith, right? One of the few things you can have that can’t be taken from you.  And Christmas is a season of joy and loving and caring and holding our loved ones close.  All very Christian things to do in my opinion, even if they happen within view of a Christmas tree.

big tree

A Merry Christmas to all of you who celebrate it, and Happy Holidays to the rest.  May all of the Joy of the Season bring you warmth and comfort.

Celebrating Christmas, Celebrating Mom

8 Dec

“And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!”  ~Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol.

To say my Mom loved Christmas and kept it well was an understatement.  She baked jillions of cookies, decorated multiple trees and hosted a holiday open house with tons of different appetizers, cookies, Scandinavian delicacies, and drinks.  She loved to share her decorated home and culinary skills, and particularly loved that people she invited brought others with them and that the parish priest would stay until the very end of the party and take home leftovers.  She was in the middle of planning her holiday party when her recurring cancer landed her in the hospital.  She died Christmas Eve.  I like to think she went to party with the angels for Christmas, and they took her at that moment to make Christmas extra special for her.

People ask if this sad moment has “ruined” Christmas for me.  Not at all.  I’m a bit melancholy, but mostly, I try to decorate, cook and entertain in the way Mom would have.  I celebrate Christmas and celebrate Mom.

Mom had a shed on her New Mexico property she called the Christmas Shed–packed to the rafters with all manner of Christmas decor.  I brought a few things home with me, a tub marked Norwegian Tree, and a few of her treasured trolls.  Mom’s mom was Norwegian, and Mom identified with all thing Norwegian.  The tub had ornaments, linens, and candlesticks painted as a Norwegian man and woman in their traditional finery.  Here’s my Norwegian tree, decorated with Mom’s ornaments and those she had given me over the years, and festooned with strings of Norwegian flags–just like she would do.

Norwegian tree

Mom had a huge collection of trolls.  Trolls are beloved by Scandinavian people and according to Mom, these must be complimented on their beauty and charm.  If you dare speak of them in terms of ugly, homely or scary, they will play pranks on you at night.  These are my three favorites:  The Fairy, The Angel, and The Mom.  Aren’t they beautiful?!

trolls

Here are the candlesticks, complete with the candle wreaths she bought for them.  The friend that made them for her tried to paint them to resemble Mom and Dad.

candle sticks

Mom liked to decorate trees in each room of her house, each tree with its own theme.  While I don’t have trees in every room, I do have themes:

A snowman tree,

snowman tree

A kitchen tree with tiny kitchen utensils and cookie cutters,

kitchen tree

A tinsel tree that reminds me of the big one my grandparents had that had a lighted wheel that cast the tree in different colors as the wheel rotated,

tinsel tree

A silver and gold tree with spun glass ornaments that belonged to my mother-in-law,

silver and gold tree

The big tree with ornaments from my childhood and those my family has collected over the years.  It’s traditional to use an ornament as a decoration on a wrapped gift.

big tree

Some of my favorite ornaments from my childhood are these:  my glass Santa, an elf who sits on a tiny pine cone cushion, and a birdcage whose “bird” spins from the heat rising off a Christmas light.

ornaments

I also set out a couple other trees; a lighted ceramic tree that belonged to my mother-in-law, and a stuffed red tree Mom made for me.

ceramic tree

stuffed tree

My hutch gets decorated with a collection of red, green, and white, including three little choir boys Mom painted when she was a young woman.

hutch

I also set out a pair of Christmas plates, also painted by Mom.  The Santa one has Mom and Dad’s names as well as the names of their friends of the time, on Santa’s list.

Christmas plates

While planning for the holiday party that never happened, Mom called to discuss what sort of tasty bites to serve and asked if I could find Aquavit and bring it when we came for the party.  Aquavit is a traditional Scandinavian spirit, distilled from potatoes and spiced with caraway, dill, cardamom, and anise.  It pairs nicely with fish and is usually served in tiny glasses and meant to be sipped and savored.  This week I found a local liquor store that carries it!  We had friends over last night and toasted to Mom.  Skoal!

aquavit

I miss being able to call Mom when I’ve made a delicious recipe, or to ask for advice, or to share a cup of coffee and just talk.  Going all out with Christmas keeps her memory vibrant and close to my heart.  I hope she enjoys my efforts.

Up On My Education System Soapbox…Continued Thoughts on Chicken Little

12 Mar

Newspapers, blogs and Facebook memes are filled with stories about what’s wrong with the American Education System.  It’s those lazy teachers!  It’s the teacher unions!  The school year is too short!  The school day needs to be longer!  Summer vacation is so long, students forget what they’ve learned!  Schools in poverty areas don’t provide the same level of education as schools in affluent neighborhoods!

Lots and lots of accusations.  Committees form to assess the situation.  Committees form to come up with accountability plans.  Tests are created to hold students accountable, though they tend to be used more for teacher and school accountability.  Committees form to assess the results of the assessments.  Committees form to bring curriculum in line with the assessments. Committees form to standardize instruction of the curriculum to the point where teachers across districts all each the same thing the same way on the same day.

education reform

Tests are given in controlled environments where teachers read instructions, carefully warning students to not mark in the margins of the test booklets, often over a two-week time period where all instruction is ceased. The scores come back the following school year–5 to 6 months after the tests are completed, compiled school scores are published in local newspapers and the community runs around screaming, “The scores are falling!  The scores are falling!”

Loop back to accusations and committees.  Factor in multi-million dollar budget cuts, schools now focused entirely on readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmatic and we’ve stepped back to a time when few kids went to college, some went to trade schools or apprenticeships, and many worked hard labor or agricultural jobs.  The world is no longer that place.  We live in a complex world with complex problems that cannot be solved by learning there is one right answer that can be bubbled in on a test with a number two pencil.  “Make your mark heavy and dark, if you need to change your answer be sure to erase completely.”

Universities worry students aren’t prepared for college-level coursework, and they’re right.  Public schools prepare students for tests, not to be problem solvers; many students are unable or unwilling to think for themselves, let alone wrap their heads around a problem that might have more than one correct solution.  Money is being funneled to the “core” subjects of reading, writing, math and sometimes science, now taught with lock-step precision with no room for exploration of the teachable moment.  Electives are cut, library services are reduced or cut, creativity and problem solving disappears from our children’s education.

The reason I’m on my soapbox today?  My college freshman, who went through the local school system, called last night after struggling through a research assignment.  The librarians were asked to not assist the students from this class–they were on their own with whatever research skills they brought with them.  The professor expects her students come with research skills.  What are our local schools doing to prepare our students for college-level research?  Cutting library services.  Librarians are often reduced to clerks, checking books in and out, completing book orders and paperwork, and proctoring the annual standardized testing.  There is precious little time for librarians to teach research and presentation skills; not that many teachers have time in their prescribed curricula to collaborate with their librarian in the first place.

The big mystery is why studies such as The Colorado Study are being ignored.  Schools with degreed, certified, teacher-librarians presenting a full and comprehensive library program from well-stocked and up-to-date library collections have higher test scores.  Higher test scores.  What all the Chicken Littles are seeking.  Not only would students get the researching skills they need (and not only for college, but for big life decisions like buying a car, buying a home, deciding where to live….), but the communities would have their coveted scores.

Don’t even get me started on test scores vs poverty, homelessness, kids whose parents are in and out of jail….  OR that at the bottom of it all, we’re talking about KIDS here.  Little people.  Precious little people who should be coloring and pretending in pre-school, not already in classes learning to read….  OR that over-analysis of books sucks the joy out of reading…..   OR  trying to teach subjects to kids who are not developmentally ready, just because that subject is on this year’s test….  OR testing kids with learning disabilities who read below grade level with tests AT grade level….

OK.  Breathe.  Gonna step down from my soapbox–for now–and have a cuppa.

IMG00110

Heart Roller Coaster

13 Mar

Tonight I’m writing with a heavy heart, all squinked up and small, just days after my heart felt like the Grinch’s at the end of the story, where it grows 3 sizes in one day.  A Mom’s heart has to be pretty elastic for the many ups and downs of raising a baby to a boy to a man.

The sheer joy of his birth.

The times when he cried and continued to cry after I had fed him, burped him, changed him, rocked him and bounced him.  (So I cried with him.)

His cute little gummy grin.  His first tooth…marking the end of the gummy grin.

The funny, silly way he said things; the way he put words together.

The time he tearfully sobbed, “Momma, you hurt my heart.”

Learning to ride a bike.

Crashing the bike and getting a huge owie–as his dad put it: “he left part of his knee at the end of the driveway.”

Finding out how academically talented he is.

Finding the work he hadn’t turned in, in his locker.

Playing the “you WILL be in music in middle school” card, he picks band, ends up with trumpet, hates the trumpet and wants to quit band.

“Pick a different instrument.”  He falls in love with saxophone.

Learning to drive, getting his license.

Watching him drive out of the driveway the first time on his way to school at 6am.

High school: alto sax, soprano sax, tenor and bari, clarinet, oboe, flute and euphonium.  Marching Band, 3 Concert Bands, top Jazz Band.

Girls.  Nuff said.

Acceptance to a university, oboe and sax auditions, acceptance to the university’s school of music.  A state-wide honor (or honour, using the British spelling he prefers) band, an amazing alto sax feature with Spectrum, the jazz band.

And today.  I found out he had changed dorms, not necessarily for the better.  We had a text discussion over Facebook postings and what growing up is and is not.  Times like this when I feel compelled to let the air out of his exuberance raises little barriers between us.  He chose to stay at his dad’s tonight to let things settle out a bit. 

He’s an awesome kid.  He’s accomplished so much, has a pretty good plan for his future–all the way to a doctorate.  He’s always been so easy.  Days like this, when some sort of guidance must come from me and is not exactly well received, well, they hurt my heart.  I know this is what parenting is at times, and I know I’ve been amazingly lucky.  I also know we love each other the most-mostest, and the barriers will go away.  New ones will happen, but love, and maybe a cup of coffee, will help us keep taking them back down.  So proud to be his Mom.  ❤