All the time, just the same

Sometimes, the hardest part is just beginning.

Just deciding to start and deal with the hurdles as you go. Because you may not even know what they are if you never start.

But being brave all the time is exhausting and sometimes I just can’t do it. Or I think I can’t so I don’t and then I hold all that anxiety inside for too long where it simmers and boils around and then spills out on my husband’s poor unexpecting soul and then.

Then we just have a mess to wipe up off the linoleum.

And then we’re just back where we were anyway, if I would have just kept on being brave all the time, every day, even when it felt like too much work.

Laziness never got anyone anywhere.

I had influenza a week and a half ago and it kicked my psyche into some corner of some room of this new house that I didn’t know existed. I was the only one there (thank God), but, man, was it intoxicating. In that dangerous, crack-heroin sort of way.

For a few hours on a few days, I thought to myself, “I’m never going to get better.”

And I was so feverish sick and my head was so full of crap and the bubble I was existing in so thick, I believed it.

And that didn’t help my mood or my temperament or the way my family felt about me at all.

Or so the crazy thoughts told me in my head.

It was a few days after the bubble burst and I climbed out of that dank corner that the mess spilled out onto the kitchen floor and across the K-Mart table where we dine and the husband reminded me he loves me all the time, just the same, whether I’m living in a corner of self pity and doubt and anxiety or not.

But he has more fun when I’m just me.

So, shit, man, what now?

Well, right now, today, yesterday, too, and even the day before that, I’m trying to chill the fuck out. What’s wrong with my life anyway?

Not one thing.

What’s so great about Omaha anyway?

I don’t know. For the first at least half of my time there, I wanted to leave. To come back here.

Oh, goddess of irony, I will name you Daffodil and Scotch-tape a picture of you in your vintage crew-cut cardigan onto the wall above my dresser. So there you can mock me.

And I can be reminded.

That maybe I don’t need that as-of-yet unopened bottle of Celexa in my medicine cabinet. That there’s no reason I should feel sad about a website for moms that, yes, played a huge role in my life. Back then. Not now.

That my friends who are my friends will always be my friends. That my friends who aren’t my friends won’t.

And I can miss them, or maybe more specifically, I can miss the way my life with them as part of it was back then. But now?

Big deal.

I’m the secular version of blessed in every sense of the word. I have an amazing man who loves not only me but also my kids who are varying degrees of nice to him, depending on the minute. I have a home that we own in a just-as-nice-as-anyplace-else town. We are not poor or sick or hungry or ugly or mean.

Our babies are beautiful as they come.

We have friends and family and cats and pasta and swimsuits and words and coffee and beer and wine and acoustic guitars and sun on our faces and hikes just waiting.

And beauty. In so many things.

We have people who love us. We have people to love.

What else, really, does anyone need?

Not Omaha. Not momaha. Not women who I still care about but who maybe never liked me that much anyway.

Not even the yellow house in Dundee.

Today and yesterday and so many days before that … and tomorrow … and next month … I need what I have.

Drink the sweet syrup of the simplicity of that.

Getting my kid off the couch

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on, a social networking site for women in Colorado.

Let me start with this: My son makes my world go round. He is my first born, my only boy and my fiercest protector.

He is 7 (going on 16) and sometimes he looks at me with those little-boy eyes and I truly believe anything is possible.

You’d like him.

My son is also content to be at rest, to remain at rest, to break a sweat only when forced and to otherwise play peacefully with his G.I. Joe action figures, watch a little television, play some Nintendo DS, complete the day’s required 30 minutes of reading, eat, sleep and … well, repeat.

Ask the kid if he wants to go exploring after school (parental code word for “hiking”), or to the Dinosaur Museum, the library or the rec center and get a response akin to one I’d expect if I’d just asked him to clean his room, take out the trash, do the laundry or eat Brussels sprouts.

Before we moved to Western Colorado last year, this kid was in competitive gymnastics. And he was good. Twice a week, he’d practice with this team for an hour, and in the spring, he had competitions on the weekends.

The kid knew how to do back hip circles on the high bar and routines on the rings and parallel bars. He could hold himself up on the pommel horse and whip his legs around that thing like it was nobody’s business. He knew how to sprint and jump on the vault, all while sticking the landing.

He knew how to earn medals, and how to make his mom proud. (She is still proud, of course).

So when we moved, we tried out the one gym that offers boys gymnastics, a recreational program. Neither of us liked it. We tried out the other gym (where my 3-year-old daughter takes gymnastics and loves it), but they don’t even offer a boys recreational program, only a boys “fitness” class. Huh.

Needless to say, we needed a new activity for the boy.

What about dance, I said? You would have thought I’d suggested he dress up like a girl and go to school that way.

Swimming? Basketball? Wrestling? Piano? Drums (that’s active, right?)?


No way, Jose, the kid said.

Why not? I asked. I pleaded. I got angry. I stayed calm. I reasoned. I threatened. I’m desperate for him to have something, anything, that gets him involved, that gets him active, that gets him off his bedroom floor.

So I signed him up for soccer.

Against his will and with many tears involved (his, not mine).

Inside, I know the reason my son is reluctant to try a new activity is because he’s scared. He’s never played soccer – or basketball or piano or drums or anything (word to the wise here, moms of boys who think gymnastics should be the activity of choice for their kindergartner, maybe consider doubling up with a more traditional sport as well) – so he doesn’t know how. And if he doesn’t know how and the other kids do, my son expects to be embarrassed.

And I hate that. I’m that mom who, if she could, would accompany her child everywhere for the rest of his life just to make sure he’s OK. To make sure he’s not cold or hungry or hurt, that he has a friend, that he remembers to turn in his homework, that he’s not left out at recess. To throw that ball back at that kid who just pommeled hers in dodge ball in P.E.

But this mom signed her son up for soccer anyway, and practices start next month. Here’s hoping for swift learning, a brave heart, a fun coach and kind teammates.

He’s already got supportive parents.

Guest post: It’s my fault what’s happening to my daughter

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from a woman I know, who needed to write and needed to do so without attaching her name to it. She asked me if I’d publish it. While the journalist in me says “no anonymous sources,” this is different. This is her story. And it’s scary and brave and all sorts of other things, and it might resonate with some of you. I know she isn’t alone. So I decided yes, her story should live somewhere and why not here with all of you? I decided maybe it might help someone else. Maybe someone else might help her. So here it is.

The house is quiet, as everyone sleeps soundly.

Everyone but me.

Sleep eludes me, as it does every night. My mind just won’t stop thinking.

About everything.

I feel the anxiety in my chest, tightening its grip with every minute that passes.

Part of my story is this: I was diagnosed years ago with mood disorder NOS (not otherwise specified). Before treatment, I experienced periods of depression and periods of great enthusiasm and energy.

But always sleep eluded me.

Thankfully, now, I feel almost “normal” with antidepressants, a mood stabilizer, anti-anxiety pills and sleep medication. It’s a cocktail I take every day.

Because it works. Because it allows me to live my life.

But as I lay awake this night, every night, the feelings of intense guilt invade my thoughts.

It’s my fault, you see, what’s happening to my daughter.

I believe I have passed on my mood disorder to her, to my 10-year-old baby girl.

My love for her is indescribable. That’s a given, right? A guarantee.

But recently her extreme moods have escalated to the point that I am 99 percent sure she has early onset bipolar disorder.

One side of my beautiful daughter is sweet, extremely intelligent, caring, funny, talented. Loving.

But on the other side of my amazing little girl, her moods are explosive. They change without warning.

One day last week, she became agitated because a tiny speck of carbon from the water filter made its way into her drinking glass.

She came unglued.

A horrible, unspeakable rage erupted from this little girl like you wouldn’t believe. The screaming was piercing and never-ending.

It was MY fault, she said, that the speck of carbon ruined her drinking water.

The water glass, of course, was thrown across the kitchen.

I tried my very best to calm her down – I just want so badly for her to find peace.

But it continued.

She tried to tear the blinds from the window. She raked her fingernails across the leather couch. Books and toys went flying.

I sent her to her room, where the destruction continued. Everything was knocked from her desktop and dresser; her brand new iHome smashed against the wall. Her desk chair thrown across the room.

And always this shrieking, this piercing scream that seems to never end.

Sometimes, these “fits” or rages continue for two hours or more until she can’t scream any longer and her voice is all but gone.

I am always incredulous when, a few moments later, she emerges from her room, seemingly unaffected by what just occurred.

She is even cheerful as she goes about her chores or completes her homework. After this, she may run laps through the house with boundless energy.

Other days, she may come home from school and retreat to her bedroom. I will find her in her bed, in complete darkness.

For hours.

I turn on her light (how can she not want light?). But she always goes back to the darkness. She prefers it somehow.

She has even told me she feels this world would be better off without her.

And so sleep eludes me this night, as it does every night.

I am aching for my daughter, for this little girl who has lost her way and doesn’t know how to find the light.

I am ready to face this long road of intense psychotherapy and medications with her. But it is scary, oh-so terrifying to know she may have to cope with this illness for life.

I just keep assuring her there is nothing she could do to cause me to love her any less. Ever.

Yet sleep eludes me.

The guest author would appreciate comments – of support, encouragement. Of hope.

Why stepping on the scale might be for mad women

Dear Body Weight,

I don’t understand you.

I don’t understand anything about you.

Sometimes, I don’t even like you. I don’t like the way your numbers look when I step on the scale. I don’t like the way the old you teases me on my driver’s license. I don’t like the way I just can’t comprehend the way you work.

Your erratic behavior is beyond me.

Though I realize I look just fine considering, I’ve been working out. For you, for me, for my husband, for those jeans who have grown lonely in my middle dresser drawer. I’ve adopted a pretty smart workout regimen, if you ask me. It’s the most total-body conditioning I’ve done in a long time, years. Body Weight, do you hear me?

My weeks look something like this: Monday – Run, 4 or 5 miles. Tuesday – Bike, 20-30 miles. In spin class. Taught by an instructor who could beat anyone in a fight and look great doing it. Wednesday – Swim, 40-45 minutes. Laps. Swimming laps. With a swim cap on. Do you get what I’m saying? Thursday – Bike. Spin class. Intense. Same as Tuesday. Friday – Run, 4 or 5 miles. Saturday and Sunday are for resting if I need to, running or yoga if I want to.

I’ve been doing that for the past three weeks. And, sure, it’s not the most intense workout regimen in the world. I’m sure I should be lifting weights on a regular basis and spending more time on my core. I know these things.

But… I feel good.

I feel healthy and more energetic. I even feel stronger and a little firmer. I like the exercise. I like the variety. That one day in the pool every week seems to heal everything. Though I’m not a great swimmer and swallow more water than I should admit slogging through those laps, I feel great afterward.

It’s taken time and effort, but I’ve decided the exercise is worth it. My health is worth it.

Yet, when I step on the scale the numbers are all wrong. If I was charting this shit, the line would be climbing in the WRONG DIRECTION.

What the @!*$%* is up?

Why, Body Weight? What did I ever do to you except pay attention? Why are you the biggest number I’ve ever seen on the scale (aside from pregnancy, which doesn’t count)?

I don’t understand you.

Is it possible I’ve put on nearly 10 pounds of muscle? In three weeks?

Is it, Body Weight? Is it?

I didn’t think so either.

Well. Maybe this is thanks to 33. What do you think, Age? Is this your fault?

Love/Hate/Sigh (but onward anyway),


I can only imagine

There is this couple, back home, who used to be my friends.

They used to be our friends really, but when my marriage split up, they went with him.

So it goes.

One of the (many) lessons I’ve learned in the last four years is that no friendship is guaranteed and that they are much more fleeting than I’d like them to be.

It is what it is.

A different old friend once told me to figure out what you can expect from every person in your life. And then expect no more.

That way, she said, you won’t be disappointed.

That wisdom has stuck with me (though I’m sad to say the friendship has not).

So this couple back home … we spent quite a bit of time together. Dinners, play dates … we even went on a much-needed weekend getaway once. They weren’t the best friends I’d ever had, but we got along and I cared about them.

After my divorce, I lost touch, but I heard the news anyway: The woman, my old friend, had cancer.

I couldn’t stop thinking about that, about her, about the surgery she had to try to save her life, the surgery that would forever alter her body, her self-esteem, her confidence, her who-she-is .. or that’s how it played out in my head.

I wanted to help, to do something, to make that all go away. For them. I wanted to bring them a dinner.

But I didn’t. I stayed away because they had asked to not be friends anymore. They had taken sides, and it wasn’t mine. That didn’t mean I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about them, hoping they were doing OK.

I heard later that she was better, that her cancer was in remission. I imagined how that sort of relief must feel, how that sort of thankfulness must roll around on the tongue, in the heart.

I went back to living my own life, filing that family away into where ever we put people we no longer know but one time cared about.

A few days ago, I heard her cancer had returned. Oh, no, I said. What does that mean for them? I asked. It means lots of chemo, lots of money, my ex-husband wrote in an e-mail.

Lots of worry, lots of pain, lots of upheaval and awfulness and why-me-why-again, too, I’m sure.

I can only imagine. And even now, though we’re no longer friends, I can’t stop hoping they’re OK.

A woman I’ve never met and don’t really know is also battling cancer right now. She writes a blog for a website I run for my job. She has two sons; they’re little. And this week she wrote about the way it feels to know you won’t be able to make any more babies because the chemo she’s about to undergo kills that part of her body, that part of her soul.

She’s brave. She’s not taking any moment for granted and she’s realizing she’s not guaranteed even one more breath. She’s encouraging me to do that, too. Us. Everyone.

Plans are only to make us feel better, she says. They’re really not worth much of anything. At all.

I hate that anyone has to know that.

I miss my friends back home every day. Not the couple who long ago were my friends, but my true, do-anything-for-me-including-going-to-my-divorce-hearing-so-I-don’t-have-to-do-that-alone friends. The friends who picked me up, the ones who still do.

I have two girlfriends here, in my new home, and while it’s not the same (yet) as my friends back home, I love them for their place in my life right now.

One of those friends has cancer in her life, too. Her mom.

She’s had it for six years, and nothing is the same. My friend’s world was turned upside down, and while she’s adjusted to a new normal, it’s a new normal. On a crazy tilt that sometimes must feel like it will never end. It’s a normal nobody asked for, nobody wanted, nobody deserves.

And it’s not fair and it’s not right and to those people who believe in God, it’s his will. And somehow that makes it better for them, easier to cope, and I understand needing something to put your faith in, your trust in, your hopes, your worries, your anger.

But I don’t really get it.

And I’m scared.

Health is such a precious thing.

What can we do? What can any of us do?

Older than we ever thought we’d be

Today is my little sister’s birthday.

She is not so little anymore, which makes me really not so little.

Today, she is 29, and I’m old. Older than I’ve ever been. A mom of a 7-1/2-year-old and a 3-1/2-year-old, a newlywed again, a rookie at my company again, a newbie in this western town we now call home, a new homeowner again

Life is funny like that. The new beginnings that just keep coming. Even when we’re old. Older than we ever thought we’d be back when we were kids and contemplated things like adulthood in terms of how many kids we’d have and what kind of car we’d drive. Possibly what we’d be when we grew up. My daughter plans to make ice cream, by the way. And be a mom. She’s going to have 10 kids.

Yes, I encouraged her to reconsider.

My daughter also answers simply, sweetly, “I know,” when someone, anyone, tells her she’s beautiful, or that she’s pretty, or cute or funny or awesome or any of those adjectives we use to describe precious little girls like her.

And I want to know every time, how do we keep that confidence alive? How do we protect her from the world’s bullies, the models and the cheerleaders and the everyday wear and tear that molds us into grown-ups with office jobs and routines and mortgages and meal plans? If we’re lucky.

Anyway, I’m old and my daughter is perfect and my little sis today turned one year away from 30 years on this planet.

It seems not that long ago I braided her hair the morning our parents spent too long fighting. Long after breakfast and my little-girl little sister hadn’t had her hair brushed. So second-grade me decided to be responsible.

I hear that trait can be irritating. Boring. We’re called serious and rule-followers and no fun. We do things like go to college as expected. We don’t just go. We get straight A’s. We graduate in 4 years. We say no to drugs (Zimas didn’t count), we apply to be an RA even though that’s the last thing any of us actually want to do for the free room and board and because it looks good on a resume, we study abroad and we get newspaper internships that require us to wear ties and skirts and heels and cover awful stories no one else wants. Really. We called parents of dead people. Often. Once, I was sent out to the middle of a tornado to deliver a digital camera to a real reporter. But we did those things because we were supposed to.

And maybe it was all worth it.

Maybe not.

Either way, we’re here now, in this life, one way or the other. And it’s better than it ever was before. Sometimes, I wonder if the paths all lead to the same ending regardless. Sometimes, I think we really do write our own stories.

In this story, my story, the world is warm. We’re old, yeah. But not really. We still have a long ways to go, thank God. I want on this ride for as long as I get.

The horizon now is long, and somehow I see it more clearly than ever.

This is the path, the road to real-life Oz, the rock star in his hot air balloon away from Omaha.

The rainbow is as big as I ever imagined.

This thing my mom discovered long ago: online shopping

This is sponsored content from BlogHer and P&G.

I remember the year my mom did all of her Christmas shopping online.

I was in college, so it was long ago (longer ago than I care to pinpoint here. Ahem). But it must have been so long ago, in fact, that I was surprised by the notion of someone purchasing every single item on her Christmas list that year without leaving her home.

My mom, who isn’t a huge fan of crowds or shopping malls or other places that are busy (really, who can blame her?), got all sorts of free shipping deals that year and was, well, happy.

Of course, I’ve shopped online over the years since then, but I’ve never done the bulk of my shopping online. I’ve never ordered things like diapers, batteries or makeup brands I could buy at the nearest big box store. I order things like personalized Christmas cards or curtains or … buttons (yes, I just ordered about 40 buttons. From Hong Kong. Long story).

BUT now that I live in a small town that doesn’t have a big-box store down any four-lane major street AND I know about P&G’s eStore?

Well, now, I may just start taking advantage of this thing my mom discovered long ago: the beauty of online shopping.

Check out these deals, from the P&G eStore:

– 15 percent off on a first-time order from a new customer, using promo code: A9Z-MN5-KY3-ISA

– Free shipping on orders over $25. ALL THE TIME.

– Free samples with every order. Again, always. (Boo-yah).

And here are some specific products on sale at the eStore now:

– Crest Whitestrips. While I don’t use them often, I have used them for special occasions, and I’m a big fan. Whiter teeth with the ease of a gooey little strip? Yes, please!

– CoverGirl LashBlast 24HR Mascara. Sometimes, I want to use mascara from a makeup counter or from Mary Kay or Avon or, you know, those sorts of things. But I can’t break up with my CoverGirl LashBlast. So it’s in my life to stay. This is a good price.

– Duracell batteries. You know you’re going to need them. I’m OK with checking them off my list by ordering online.

There are more household and beauty products at the eStore, too. Give the site a quick check if you have time!

And happy almost Christmas!


At least that’s how I remember it

I read a book when I was a kid called “Homecoming.” The main character’s name was Dicey and she was just a kid, but a grown-up kid and the book was long and paperback and had reeds and water on the front cover.

Or at least that’s how I remember it.

I’m pretty sure fourth-grade me probably didn’t get the entire message that book’s author intended. Grown-up me can’t even really remember what that book I read so long ago was about. But it was called “Homecoming” for a reason and it was about that character Dicey’s struggle to find that direction, amidst all the other stuff in her little-girl life.

I feel that way, some days. That the stuff I never asked for just swirls around in my head, creating a haze I can’t quite scrape away. That the path is right there, in front of me, but some days, someone forgot to clear the weeds away and the thistle and the thorns and it’s just rained a whole bunch so the ground is soggy and the water seeps in through the holes in the rubber of my canvas K-Mart shoes.

And my toes are cold.

But my hair is getting long, so long, though it doesn’t look particularly good, sort of like that third-grade school picture after I’d grown out my bangs.

These days, today’s sort of day, my feet are still dry but my eyes are, too. My sister just shared a link on Facebook to a blog post about betrayal. The worst kind, the author says, is the one where the person you love decides to stop loving you back. Or doesn’t decide actually but just stops caring enough to invest in the relationship and stops loving you by default. Insightful, I said. And terrifying. Yes, to both, my little sister said.

My family drove home for the holiday last week. It was a beautiful homecoming in so many ways, an easy one, a slip-right-back-into-what-life-was-like-there-without-missing-a-beat sort of one. I reveled in the friendships I’d left behind that still existed in the same, pure way they had back then, back then in March when I left them without knowing who’d tend to them while I was gone. Turns out some friendships, if planted correctly the first time, just grow on their own. I am lucky for that.

So back home, I saw those old friends. I drove those old streets. I even peeked at the yellow house in Dundee. I looked through the front window at night and was comforted that the walls, inside, were still yellow.

We went to the bar I thought I loved. The rock star played and he was brilliantly beautiful as always; the love for him in that room was wide and warm. The people were fun and different and the same, all too the same, and… well, the feelings I have about that place, about that night, are part of the tornadic dust still gunking up whatever part of the mind is in charge of figuring shit like that out.

We stayed for a week. I felt warm and cocooned and loved and even more confident in my own skin, back home. I refused to think about leaving until the day before we couldn’t avoid leaving. We left and I didn’t cry. The rock star who I love so much that when I read novels about husbands dying or cheating or both, I start to (irrationally) worry about losing him, looked at me in the car and said, “No tears?”

I agreed it was odd.

But I was trying, see, really trying to convince myself to not feel so much, to not feel everything so passionately, so intensely. Not everything matters, I tell myself, not everything you attach emotion to even exists, I say. In my head.

So leaving home to head home wasn’t hard, at least not right then. Not even now, that we’re home, in our new home, in our home that’s just ours, this little house that if I let my mind run wild needs so much work but if I let content seep in is just fine already, it’s not hard.


Something, I don’t know what yet, in my mind, inside somewhere, is still simmering. Things are shifting down through tiny holes like the sand in the metal sifter I used in the sandbox long ago as a kid in Oklahoma, those June bugs banging against the back patio light as I played past bedtime.

I’m thinking and reading and trying to be the girl I want to be, all the time. I’m trying to remember every single second how beautiful life is, even when it’s not.

Even when it is. Which it is, for us, just about all the time. We are lucky. In love. In life. In blessings and otherwise. Lucky.

Ballots that will count for nothing

Today is a presidential election, a day so ingrained as important in my mind that I get excited just thinking about it.

You’d think a girl who gets so into a presidential race – any presidential race – would have gotten her act together sooner and made sure she was registered to vote.

But she didn’t.

She tried. She tried to register to vote in Colorado online weeks ago, but because she didn’t have a Colorado ID she couldn’t. She and the rock star figured they might have to vote by absentee ballot this year, since they are both registered in Nebraska.

So last week, she requested an absentee ballot from the Douglas County Election Commission. She e-mailed. She was told she had to fill out the official request form. She did. She e-mailed it back. She was told they need an actual signature, not an electronic one. So the rock star went to a copy place and got the forms printed. He brought them home for her to sign. She did and he did and the next day, she took them back to the copy place to have them faxed to Omaha.

That was Tuesday.

Yesterday, the absentee ballots arrived.

They were late, but the girl who gets so excited about the right to vote and presidential elections, the girl who proudly took her 3-year-old son and her in-her-belly daughter with her four years ago to the polls — like her own mother did way back then — because she wanted him (them) to feel this excitement, too, figured she’d go back to the copy place today and fax in the ballots. Election Day. No problem.

Turns out you can’t fax them. The absentee ballots that just arrived yesterday afternoon have to be back to the Douglas County Election Commission by 8 p.m. Today. Tonight. Election Day. In Omaha. Today.

Not postmarked today. Not faxed today. The actual ballots have to be there today.


The girl and the rock star considered driving to Nebraska. Pulling the kids out of school and jumping in the car and putting pedal to metal to make it home in time to vote.

But whether they’d actually make it was iffy. Whether it was a responsible choice was iffy-er.

So here they are. In Western Colorado with absentee ballots that will count for nothing, with votes granted to every U.S. citizen that they can’t cast.

The girl called the Obama campaign. She told them she wanted to vote for the president. Every vote counts after all, right? Isn’t that the message people on both sides of the aisle ingrain into our psyches? Isn’t that the lesson we all learned in fourth grade when Michael Dukakis ran against George Bush? Vote. Don’t throw it away. Make your voice count. Make your opinion be heard. It’s a privilege, use it. All that stuff.

The Obama campaign told her there’s nothing she can do. Nothing. Register to vote tomorrow, they said. (She actually did register to vote last Tuesday when she spent four hours at the DMV getting a Colorado driver’s license. But it was too late. Colorado’s deadline to register to vote is 29 days before election day, Oct. 9. That is the day she and the rock star closed on their house. They could not have gotten Colorado IDs before then, you see, because living with friends is technically “being homeless.” No utility bills or lease agreements to prove a permanent address means no ID.)

I understand there are rules to follow. In just about every aspect of life, every part of society, there are rules and regulations and ways to go about doing things. We all learn this as kids, right? Don’t follow the rules? Go to time out. Get suspended from school. Have privileges revoked.

I guess those childhood lessons all hold true in the real, grown-up world, too.

Don’t have a real home? Don’t register to vote in time because you can’t until you have a real home? Well, you, tax-paying, rule-abiding U.S. citizen, don’t get to vote this year.

Sorry! Better luck next time! Thanks for playing!

Yes, I’m bitter about this. I’m sick to my stomach about this. I realize we should have requested the absentee ballots sooner. I wish we had.

But we didn’t, and now it’s now and it is what it is and … all those things. But the fact I just turned 33 years old and will not be voting in a close race for the president of the United States for the first time in my life makes me feel all sorts of things I don’t want to feel: angry, depressed, apathetic, frustrated, hopeless, helpless.

This morning, after learning the election commission back home wouldn’t accept our absentee ballots via fax, I threw my ballot away.

I took the kids to school. Then I came home and called the Mesa County Democratic Party. I left a message: Please help me vote today. The rock star stopped in at an Obama campaign office on our little main street. He asked them: Please help us vote today.

No luck.

I posted on Facebook. I considered suggestions (head to the airport, see if anyone’s going to Omaha; head to a truck stop, see if anyone’s headed east; pay the price and FedEx the ballots). I gave up. I started writing. I tried to accomplish other tasks.

No luck.

A little bit ago, I got my ballot out of the trash.

I can’t throw hope away.

It may be fruitless. It may be silly. But I’m filling out the ballot. I’m voting for president of the United States.

It may not count, but my ballot’s getting to Omaha. On time or not.

I can’t not try.

Sort of a big deal

His teacher handed me the note at our conference last week, saying it was a surprise for Rye.

Well, 7-year-old, nothing-gets-past-him Rye was with me, with us, and when our little family got to the car, he wanted to open the envelope.

He did, and I read.

“Dear parents, your child will be honored at a special assembly next Thursday, Nov. 1. Please join us to celebrate your child’s accomplishment. Please do NOT tell your child …”


Well, having that at the top of the note might have been helpful.

At any rate, we were excited our son was receiving an award, no matter what it was for, which still remained a mystery. I marked our calendar.

Today was Thursday.

Today I was crunched for time, overwhelmed with getting both kids fed, dressed, groomed and to school on time, as well as my morning full-time (paying) job work done before being back at Rye’s school by 9:45 a.m. for the awards assembly. I managed to semi-groom myself, too (I spent 12 minutes – that included a shower. Not even kidding).

The rock star was waiting on the street outside his art gallery and I slowed the car to pick him up.

We walked into the elementary school gym late by five minutes. Kids’ names were being called off and they stood from their position on the floor to be honored. I had no idea what they were being recognized for.

Rye turned around to wave at us. We smiled and waved back, bemused at the goings-on more than anything else.

His name was called. He stood up. He sat back down.

A few minutes later, the principal, who was doing the name calling, said something about having another shot next quarter at perfect attendance if your name hadn’t been called this time.

Oh, perfect attendance, I thought. Well, at least he was recognized for something! Anne Lamott says 80 percent of life is just showing up…

I thought the assembly might be over, but the school principal switched to a different award.

Excellence in P.E.

After a few other students were honored, Rye’s name was called! This time, he got to walk to the front of the gym and be honored with the 10 or so other students who received the Excellence in P.E. award.

Wow, I thought. Cool. I was proud. There’s something about seeing your baby up on stage with an award in his hand.

Rye sat down and the principal moved on to awards in other categories: Music, Computers, Library.

I glanced at the clock, figuring the assembly had to be over then, happy our son had been honored twice(!).

But it wasn’t over.

They saved the best for last.

Every quarter, each teacher gets to pick ONE student from her classroom to receive the Super Citizen Award. This is the student who embodies the ideals of the school; they try hard, they work hard, they listen, they show respect, they’re a good friend, a model student.

The principal talked about the attributes of each student using pronouns before announcing the winner by name.

I watched one mom and her two younger children clap and wave and react how any mom would when her child wins this sort of award. And I smiled. I was happy for that family.

A small handful of other students were honored.

The principal announced the winner in Rye’s class last. This student “is a wonderful example of positive thinking and actions,” the principal said. “He is kind, helpful and always has a nice word for a friend. He has quickly become a positive member of our classroom and school.”

That sounds like my kid, I thought. I kept listening.

This student’s “commitment to follow Shelledy expectations shows he is an honest person,” the principal said. “He is a model for other students to follow. He always completes his work. He listens during directions so he knows what to do, and then gets right to work on a task. He always tries his hardest and his work reflects his dedication to learning.”

Is Rye dedicated to learning? I thought. I hope so.

And then.

“This student is new to our school but has quickly become a bobcat. He is proud when he gets a PAWS and enjoys our school. Congratulations, Rye Stickney.”

I turned to the rock star, mumbled something unintelligible and then quickly looked back toward the front of the gym, where my first baby was walking to the front of the room, where he was getting an award called “Super Citizen.”

For a few minutes, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to turn the water works off.

A dad I’d met at the class Halloween party the day before came up to congratulate us. He said, “Wow, this is a big deal. Some kids go their whole time at Shelledy without ever getting this award. You should be really proud.”

I was. I am. So proud.

So can’t-stop-smiling proud.