mfc

I know how she sees me.

She is ashamed.  She is frustrated.  She wishes me gone.

It wasn’t always like this.

I can still remember the first time we met.  It was a rainy fall evening, and she had zero intention of bringing anything home that night.  She was only there to “check things out”.

She even brought her dad knowing he would slow her spontaneity…and know better what she needs.

I know my color was a turnoff at first.  She wanted something less “average”, something that wouldn’t blend in with everyone else.

But after taking me out once, she was sold.

And then so was I.

She had never made such a big decision in such a short time…especially with her dad around.  He was the king of “let’s just think about this for awhile first.”

That was eight and a half years ago.

I took her places.

I was reliable.  I am reliable.

We celebrated so many joys.  Fist pumping together when she got her Masters, her job teaching college, each pregnancy.

I held her when she needed a private place to cry.

I know she thought about ending it with me when she was lost in depression.  I saw her eye those trees as we flew down the highway at 80 miles per hour.

I like to think I helped her keep going.

I’ve been with her through a lot.  I was with her every time she got pulled over…and only once did it result in a ticket.

I have felt her hand sweat with panic.

I have felt her body shake with grief.

I have heard her voice ring out with joy.

It felt like it would last forever.

But eight and a half years is a long time.

She is growing out of me.

I am showing signs of age that can’t be ignored. I am rusty and slowing down.  I can’t be trusted as much anymore.

She needs room to grow and spread out.

She needs something safe.

I have seen her through the part of her life that was about speed and getting things done.  Now she is moving on.  She is growing her family. She is settling down.  She has bigger and more stuff that goes where she goes.

I am not enough anymore.

I know my time is limited.  It’s just a matter of time and money before I am left for something bigger and newer.

Sliding out of reverse into drive.
This wheel will turn right, then straight.
Off in the sunset she’ll ride
She can remember a time, denied.
Stood by the side of the road
Spilled like wine now
She’s out on her own and line high.*


Write on Edge: RemembeRED

This week’s prompt was to personify an object that has “bore witness” to your life.
“Personification” is the act of giving human traits to something non-human.

*Lyrics from “MFC” by Pearl Jam

the anchor and the helms wheel

I asked him on our way if he was nervous or scared.  Surprisingly–to himself–he was not.

He sees flashes of his dad in pictures of himself, in the laugh of his son, in the smiles of his aunts and uncles, in the gait of his brother.

The design he had emailed back and forth on for months–even years–with his best friend and graphic design artist rested in the space beneath the radio in the dash.

He can feel his father on the breeze off the lake, in the waves lapping against the beach, in the embrace of his grandmother.

I had joked with him earlier if he needed to shave his leg himself  and if he was ready for the fun of stubble on his calf as the hair grew back.

There is an emptiness in the dark of night when he wonders what it would be like to have his dad around to help with basement remodels and yard projects and son-rearing.

He is remarkably calm and even jovial as he cracks jokes with the artist and gets settled on the bench.

He has no idea how much he is his dad right now.  Facing pain with a smile and a joke.  Making those around him comfortable in the presence of what will be HIS pain.

He is deep in thought as his wife and the artist chat and joke and discuss the process. It’s good that she came.  It’s good that she is there with him for this.

Even in the pain he can feel his dad.  Each week, in the same arm, a needle was stuck.  But it was not infusing ink under his dad’s skin.  It was poison that was being injected.

Sooner than later–after winces, but no sound–it was over.

His dad is his guide.  Even in spirit.

His anchor and his helms wheel.

His Pops.

This week’s prompt was to tell a story–fiction or non–about a tattoo in 300 words or less.  This is a true story from my imaginationFor a picture, go here.

final moments

I sway slowly…waiting.

A tiny, fur-covered figure–a fraction of what he once was–is swaddled in a newborn’s receiving blanket.

“first moments” the tag on the blanket reads.

the irony burns my eyes and the letters blur together.

small snores escape his parted mouth.

I don’t even notice my face is wet until my brother leans in and touches each cheek with a tissue.

thank you for so many years…

thank you for sticking by me while I labored with Eddie…

thank you for staying by my side while I cramped and miscarried.

thank you…

and then…

nothing.

too ugly

One of the things about parenting that I do not look forward to are the middle school years.  Especially because I really hope my son is kind to the awkward girls.  Because we all know it’s hell as a girl to go through the judgey middle school years.

For me middle school was pretty terrible all around, but I do have to admit there were bright spots.

Art class with my best friend, Tonya, for instance.  The teacher let us listen to the radio during class, and we got to sketch things terribly and giggle uncontrollably at our horrible art skills.

Band with my best friend, Tonya, because we made the band director cry.  What?

Applied Technology class with my best friend, Tonya, because our balsa wood bridge couldn’t hold the bucket, our bottle submarine wouldn’t hover, our sailboat sunk, and we filed our nails on the electric sander, but still got A’s. (We love you, Mr. Poest).

But my best friend wasn’t in all my classes.  In fact, she was only in my elective classes, so I had to suffer get through the core classes on my own, and I did my best to make new friends.

I can remember walking into my seventh grade science class and not knowing anybody on the first day, and I was actually thankful that my teacher, one of the high school football coaches, put us in assigned seats that he declared would be ours for the entire school year.  Which meant that the person at our lab table would be our lab partner for the entire school year.  I was nervous and relieved at the same time.  I was glad I wouldn’t have to suffer through no one picking me, but I was anxious that I would be put with someone too nerdy or too cool.  What would I do?

My permanent seat was all the way in the back corner next to the door and my lab partner was Steve.  Steve looked like a high school football player already because that was his goal in life.  I was sort of excited  that I got a cute guy as my lab partner, but I knew I wasn’t one of the popular girls, so I would have to prove myself.

In front of us sat Jeremy, the nerdiest kid in the world, and Jeanna, someone who smoked and had a high school boyfriend.  If we ever had to work in groups of four, they were our automatic partners.  We were the four most unlikely group in the seventh grade.  We were like the Breakfast Club, but in science class instead of Saturday School.

We actually became quite the group…pretty close.  None of us socialized outside of class, but in class we always worked together and talked to each other about stuff other than science.  So that is why toward spring, I thought I could tell Steve that I thought he was cute.

So I did.  In science class.  In front of Jeanna and Jeremy.

I partly blame Jeanna because she told me that she thought he totally liked me.  And stuff.

Anyway, he laughs a little like I am telling him a joke.  Then he puts his hand on my shoulder and says, “Aw Kate.  You are just too ugly to ever get a boyfriend.  But you are so funny.  You’re a great friend!”

And he went back to work.

Like nothing happened.

And my face burned.  I wanted to just disappear.

But instead I thought of myself as ugly for years.  YEARS.  Twenty years and counting.

One statement.  In middle school.  That wasn’t even true.

I don’t want Eddie to EVER say anything like that. To anyone.  Ever.

How do I prevent that?  How do I teach him to be kind to all even when he is insecure about himself?

How do I show him that there is no such thing as “too ugly”?

This week’s prompt was to write about an embarrassing moment.

*************

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Our cousin, Alyson, is running in the Chicago Marathon for the American Cancer Society!  If you would like to donate, please go here.  She will be running in honor of our aunt (her mother), our Grandma Sluiter, and in memory of Cort’s dad.

converted…sort of

As we pulled up to his mom’s house for our first Thanksgiving as a couple he dropped a bomb on me:

“I should warn you.  We are a family of huggers.”

I just rolled my eyes.

“No, really, Kate.  We hug hello AND goodbye.  My mom will hug you.  My sister and brother will hug you. My grandparents will hug you.  Cousins and uncles and aunts will hug you.  Just be ready for it.”

My hands started to sweat.

I was already worrying about how to hug.

Were they “your arms over, mine under” huggers?  Maybe “you go up left, down right, I’ll go up right, down left” huggers.  Maybe they were one-arm huggers.  Was there a cheek kiss involved?  Was this a quick hug or a hard hug or a bear hug or a pat-pat hug?  How did this work?

I was so unprepared.

And nervous.

People I was just meeting would be in my space…touching me.

Couldn’t we just shake hands?  I was good at that.  I have a great, firm handshake that shows I am likeable, yet confident.  I can do hand shakes.

Hugs?

My family doesn’t hug.

I am not sure why.  We are very close.  My brothers punch my arms or cow bite my legs frequently, but we don’t really hug.

My dad likes to poke at me and pinch me and for as long as I can remember I am always yelling, “daaaaad!  UGG!  Get away!”  And he just laughs and tells me it’s his job.

My mom isn’t a big hugger either.  Oh, my Grandma used to hug our faces off, but my aunts and uncles and cousins just don’t throw the hugs around.

And my friends don’t do a lot of hugging.

My friends from high school are mostly dudes.  Dudes don’t just hug.

My friends from college learned long ago that I am not the touchy-feely kind of friend and either force hugs on me, or give me my space.

My space.

It was about to be invaded as I met a bunch of people for the first time.

“Great.  This should be interesting,” I tell Cort as we got out of the truck and headed for for the front door.

He chuckled. “Relax.  Let it happen.  Hugs are good.”

Right.

Yes.  That first time was awkward.

And then meeting the other side of the family?  Also huggers.  Awkward.

There was a lot of awkward for awhile.

But recently?  I realized that it’s not so awkward anymore.

I’m not going in for the “wrong” kind of hug.

In fact, the other day I found myself going in for the hug and not just hoping one didn’t find it’s way to me.

And it was nice.

Not a big deal.

I am glad because I can’t imagine Eddie telling someone, “my family just doesn’t hug.”

I’d rather he be warning people, “caution:  my family will hug your face off.”

Ok, maybe not that much  hugging.

I do still need  my space after all.

*************

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only the first night

First things first.

I have a guest post today over at The Kir Corner.  She is one of my most enthusiastic, loving cheerleaders supporters here in Sluiter Nation, and when she asked if I would share one of my proudest Mom Moments at her place?  I simply could not say no.

I will warn you, however, that I chose to go with something very recent and maybe not that exceptional for most moms. In fact, I am pretty sure it is totally run of the mill for most mamas of toddlers out there.  But for me?  And how stupid my PPD has been lately with this med thing?  It’s a proud moment indeed.

So go read that moment before I take you back in time to this moment….

*************

I cuddled down into my sleeping bag that had been laid out neatly next to my cousin’s.  She was already softly sleeping, but I was yet vigilant.

I tried to close my eyes, but sleep didn’t come, so I stared up at the close green canvas.

I inhaled the dank, musty, comforting smell of my grandma’s tent camper as I listened to twigs pop and animals scurry.

The campfire had died down a couple hours ago, but its scent had permeated my hair, my jammies, and my pillow.

I rolled over carefully, knowing that any sharp movement would move the entire camper and draw out protests from my cousin.

As I slid my knees up to my chest, my bare feet felt the familiar friction of something.

We did everything we could to keep it out of the camper:  shoes and sandals off outside on the mat, a towel to to dust any stubborn grains, even a special water jug just for rinsing.  But somehow, there it was.

Sand in the bottom of my sleeping bag.

I wondered where they came from.

Most of the day was spent at the beach running across the hot sand to the lake to cool our scorched toes. Even in the water of the Great Lake sand had found it’s way into my bathing suit.

We had carried shovels and pails and strainers and boats and rafts and towels back with us, all covered in sand despite our best efforts to rinse and shake out.

However that evening after dinner we had all climbed the Dune.  Maybe this sand came from there.

It was always a race to the top.  All seven first cousins and an almost countless number of second cousins and other Camping Crew Kids that may or may not have been related to us sped up the mountain.

My aunt and Grandma were among the Dune climbers.

My Aunt Sandy would yell at us to be careful of the little kids, to not go into the undergrowth because of poison ivy, and good gracious this was a lot of work!

Grandma would encourage and hoot and holler as we kids made it to the top one by one.

Once to the top, the adults would have a sit down to rest while we all explored or just marveled at the Great Lake that stretched below us.

It wouldn’t be long before someone would make the call and begin the downward plummet back to the bottom.

Soon everyone would be hurling down the mountain, our legs getting carried away and turning to rubber.

Some of us would fall and roll in a spray of sand.

My aunt would pick us up, tell us to hold still, and attempt to rub the sand out of our hair, eyes, and crevices before we would all march exhaustively back to the camper or down the road to the General Store for ice cream.

Or maybe the sand at the end of my sleeping bag marched in from the campsite sand.

We would ride our bikes, play catch, and then bury our feet in the dirt by the fire as we made Hobo Pies and S’mores and listened to Grandma and her brother’s yodel and sing.

And maybe I had been too tired to get it all cleaned off before climbing into the bunk next to my cousin.

So now there was sand in my sleeping bag.

And it was only the first night.

red with pride

It was a typical Sunday evening in Sluiter Nation.

Cort had made a “take and bake” pizza from our local Meijer deli  for our dinner, and we were in the clean up process.

Plates were being cleared and rinsed, Eddie was being wiped up, and in the middle of it all the phone rang.

The house phone.

The house phone never rings unless it’s one of our moms or our grandparents.

Or a telemarketer.

“I’ll grab it,” I said.  I was expecting a call, but I thought it would be on my cell.

The caller id showed a cell number and area code that I did not recognize.

“Hello?”

“Katie?”

“Yes…”

And then a pile of giggles.

I was on speaker phone in a car and two bloggers whom I had never met were dying of excited giggles.

I quickly indicated to Cort that it was for me and I wandered into our bedroom to take the call without distraction.

I knew this call was coming, but I had no idea what it was about.

The butterflies in my stomach were raging.

Can I call you this weekend?  I have something I would like to ask you.

I gave out my phone number without a second thought.  I trusted her and respected her.

Yes, she is a role model to me as a blogger, but I also look up to her as a woman and a mother, so when she asked if she could call me?  I put aside my hatred of the phone.

I smiled at their giddiness to be on the phone with me.  I wasn’t expecting both of them.  And I immediately knew what it had to do with, but had no idea what the question could possibly be.

“We’ve called to ambush you!”

More giggles.

I was dumbfounded, but trying not to sound dumb.

“Yay!  I love an ambush!  What’s up?”

My voice sounded weird to me.  I was trying to be cool.

I am so not cool when I am trying to be.

Both of them started talking at once.

You don’t have to make a decision right now…we want you to think about it…talk it over with Cort…we just want to put this out there…we want to make some changes…do new things…you’re so energetic….your writing is so lovely…you are exactly what we need…but we know you are so very busy with your million blogs, being a mom, and teaching…but you are exactly what we need…you are so lovely.

All I heard was “We love you.”

I have struggled with owning the title writer for quite some time.

I have hit publish and then checked in on my posts with my hands over my face, just barely peaking between my fingers. What would people say?  Would they even comment?

In that instant, I sat up tall on my bed and looked at myself in the mirror while they kept gushing.

A smile broke out on my face and I interrupted them.

“Yes.  Just…yes. I don’t need to talk about it with anyone. I am so honored…and proud. Yes.”

We kept chatting for another 20 minutes about ideas and when the partnership would take place, but I was hardly listening.

I must have sounded very simple to them, and I am sure they hung up the phone wondering if they made the best choice.

But the fact of the matter was that I had been blown away.

In a simple phone conversation, many of my insecurities were swept under my bed.

I am proud of my writing and proud of where it is going.

I am proud to be part of the leadership at The Red Dress Club.

Thank you Cheryl and Nichole.  You will never know what that phone call meant to me.


the right wrong

It’s a mistake to think things can’t get worse because they always can.

The day can be normal, and with a quick, routine glance at the computer, life changes.

I had gotten a brief email earlier stating the minimum:  He had been laid off.  Unexpectedly.

Yes, the company was having some financial troubles, but who wasn’t?

Yes, we were expecting there to be layoffs, but not BOTH salesmen–certainly not someone who went from sweeping the floors in the shop to being the go-to guy for inside sales.

We were in shock.

My mind was reeling with questions and worst case scenarios as I drove home in the autumn sunshine.  The day seemed so happy and light, but I was slowly sinking into my catastrophic thinking.

The next day he was supposed to collect his stuff.

And then apply for unemployment.

Unemployment.

The word felt like sour rusty metal in our mouths.

It was for the rest of the country.  Not us.

Family business meant security.

If anyone was going to lose her job, it was me.  Our district had been making cuts left and right, and I had already held one of those pink slips.

Pink paper is heavier than other colors, and the weight of that slip nearly broke him.

My husband is strong.

I watched him hold himself upright with dry eyes at his dad’s funeral just days after having abdominal surgery.

He had held the pieces of me after I broke from two miscarriages.

In that moment, my steadfast partner lost his sparkle.  He was starting to fade.

From that exact moment that he had to look at me, and not just type out the situation to me, he began to lose something.

I suddenly stepped into a role that was unfamiliar to me.

We will be ok, I heard myself saying.

Even though on the inside I had completely lost my shit.

Even though there was a buzzing behind my eyes of worry and anxiety.

Everything will be fine, babe.  Really.

Sometimes you just say things and hope they are true.

For seventeen months we were blinded by budgets and money scrapping and never saying no to extra opportunities.

And the whole time Eddie was given the gift of a stay at home parent.

He was given his daddy.

It’s a mistake to think that everything is wrong.

Because sometimes the most important things are very, very right.

wasting an afternoon

rivulets wind through the sand.

we dig deeper, create more channels.

the water melts the sand and creates a smooth lining for each meandering brook.

our small hands plunge into the dirty sand and wildly attempt to keep up with the cold water.

we build structures with that which was once an obstruction to a now-flowing branch.

the sand piles get higher and more intricate as we drizzle the wet mud to make spires and columns.

We begin smoothing the sand around the structures to create driveways and roads.

Leaves are picked and placed just so to represent landscaping.

As we work, the walls of our channels weaken from the constant flow of water and we need to pause in our city expansion to rebuild.

Basins and bays are created at the sides of the sandbox as the constant flow of water washes over the sand and floods against the wooden edge.

Twigs and leaves are sloshed along the rapids.

Slowly our massive structures give way to the lap of the water eating at their bases.

Our trucks and boats begin to wash over the sides of our play area.

We can’t contain the mess, so we begin to shove our masterpieces into gullies and smack the mud into the water.

The slapping of the mud spatters us with the carnage of our civilization and we laugh.

Our motives are finally questioned when a shout comes from the house to quit wasting water and clean-up.

We toss the hose from the sandbox and, leaving our swamp behind, rush to turn off that which birthed and destroyed an entire village in one afternoon.

This post was written in response to the picture below.

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