Sunny Side Up

August 23, 2017 at 4:14 am (Uncategorized)

Well, the Great American Eclipse of 2017 is over, and I hope everyone’s eyeballs lived to peep another day. We didn’t have totality here in Batsville. I did have several friends who traveled to parts south to see the total eclipse (cue the Bonnie Tyler, and just when you thought you’d ejected that particular earworm!), and others on Facebook who said that seeing the Full Monty, so to speak, was really spectacular, and an item to put on your bucket list. (Argentina 2019! Who’s with me!)

Here in Milwaukee, we knew we would have about 84% coverage. Just 16% or so of the sun would be visible. I wondered what that was going to look like. 16% isn’t very much. If your chances are 16%, you don’t have good chances. A 16% grade would be a disaster for most people. If, say, your spouse eats 84% of the ice cream, leaving you only 16%, you might be pretty irritated. All of which is to say that with 84% of the sun obscured by the moon, and only 16% visible, I was sure it would get noticeably dark outside. Like, at the very least, we’d be able to tell that there was an eclipse going on.

As it turned out, I had to work on Monday, and I didn’t have eclipse glasses, and it was overcast, and frankly Eclipse 2017 was shaping up to be kind of a disappointment, but then a wonderful colleague had the foresight (ha!) to bring eclipse glasses, and we were able to sneak off outside, and miraculously the clouds parted just enough to see. Several of us took turns looking through the glasses (wow, have things come a long way since the pinhole viewer – good job, science!) up at the sky, at the SUN, and it was beautiful, and amazing, and so super cool.

And I’ve been mulling over this thought since Monday. Plenty of people up here thought the eclipse was a big yawn, or really, didn’t even notice it was happening. And yes, it was cloudy, and yes, most people aren’t capital N nerds like me, but I don’t think either reason is really why. I think it’s because just 16% of the sun is so powerful, it still felt like a regular day. Even though 84% to 16% are terrible odds, that 16% is still enough to win.

Did you get that? Light wins. Bet on light. Be on light’s side. Darkness doesn’t stand a chance, no matter how good it looks on paper.

Light wins! And just a little bit is all you need. If you have any light at all, it’s not actually dark anymore. So even when it seems dark, even when the odds seem stacked against you, remember that all you need is just a little light. Shine on, friends. Shine on.


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It’s in the (Hockey) Bag

February 14, 2016 at 4:02 pm (Uncategorized)

Valentine’s Day, 2016

Dear Moose,

Your playdown game will start in just under 3 hours. I know your whole team is both excited and nervous for this important game against Fond du Lac. If you win, you’re headed to State! If not, well, everyone will be disappointed.

And that’s ok! It’s ok to be sad when you don’t win. I’m so proud of what a good sport you’ve become. I can remember making you return the game ball when you were a Bull in PeeWees. (Believe me, I cried just as much as you did…you just didn’t see me). But learning to be a good sport and handle defeat was a crucial lesson to learn, and you have learned it. I am so, so, so proud of you.


Which brings me to the point of this letter. Of course I hope you win. Of course I hope I get to watch Squirt Silver play in the State tournament. This has been an amazing season of hockey, and it has been an absolute joy to see you grow in your knowledge and love of the game. But no matter what happens, nothing can take away from this great season. No result today can make this be a less awesome group of kids, coaches and families. You will always carry the memory of this season with you. I will too.


When we were in law school, Daddy and I had a professor named Girardeau Spann. He was a wonderful teacher, probably my favorite at Georgetown. In his class, there was one test for the whole semester. Your whole grade was based on that one test. We were all terrified before taking it. But here’s what Professor Spann said, in just about his exact words: “Listen, if you are a turkey before you take this test, you will be a turkey afterwards, no matter what your grade is. And if you are a good person, you’ll still be a good person, even if you fail.” His point was that even though it would be absolutely devastating to get an F in Constitutional Law, it wouldn’t affect who you were on the inside. Henry, this game won’t either. You are a loving, compassionate, considerate, smart, hard-working, funny and talented 10-year-old. I love you with my whole heart, and I thank my lucky stars every single day that I get to be your mom.


Play hard, have fun, don’t get hurt. Go Silver.

love always,

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Now We Are Six

September 17, 2013 at 2:25 pm (Kids, Uncategorized) (, , , )


Now We Are Six – A.A. Milne
When I was one I had just begun
When I was two I was nearly new

When I was three I was hardly me
When I was four I was not much more

When I was five I was just alive
But now I am six, I’m as clever as clever;

So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.


How can Lucy be six? Six isn’t little kid anymore. Six is just kid, kid. Six needs two hands to show her age. Six reads chapter books. Six plays on a soccer team. Six takes viola lessons. Six eats lunch at school. Maybe Six makes the bed? I miss you Five, but I love you even more, Six.

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The Vietnam War and Critical Thinking for Kids

June 24, 2013 at 4:39 pm (Kids, Politics, Uncategorized) (, , , )

Setting: The parking lot in front of a Vietnamese restaurant, with posters in the window advertising colorful mixed drinks.

Dramatis Personae:

Emma: Forty-ish mother of three. Possible commie; certified elitist, liberal
Riley: precocious ten-year-old. Reading obsessed.
Henry: precocious eight-year-old. Baseball obsessed.
Lucy: near silent five-year-old. Obsessions as yet undetermined.

Scene 1

Henry: Hey look! A new smoothie place!

Emma: No that’s the Vietnamese restaurant. I haven’t eaten there yet, but we should try it.

Henry: Vietnam! There was a war there that lasted for 19 years.

Riley: Yeah, we didn’t win.

Henry: What was it about?

Emma starts to answer, despite not having ever had a history class ever that made it all the way to the Vietnam War: Well…

Henry: OH!!! I know. Freedom!

Emma, recognizing that a smarter person might avoid these deep waters entirely, but dipping a toe in anyway: Can you explain that answer a little bit more?

Henry tacit

Riley, with the assist: Part of the country wanted a different form of government. Communism, I think. We went over there to stop it, but we didn’t.

Henry: Oh yeah! Communism is really bad.

Emma, clearly possessed by the spirit of Socrates: What’s communism?

Henry: It’s when the government can tell you what to do.

Emma: Can’t our government tell us what to do?

Henry: Yes, but it’s bad when they do.

Emma, wondering when her son became a Republican and going ahead and opening the can of worms: I don’t know about that Henry. But we were talking about communism. Listen. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who came up with the theory that communism was based on? They looked around and saw rich people with a lot and poor people with a little, and they thought it wasn’t fair.

Riley, Henry and Lucy: That ISN’T fair!

Emma, thrilled that the kids appear to be paying attention in church, and really getting rolling: Some people don’t think that the government should be in charge of distributing wealth, and they think that communism stifles ambition. And we can talk about that. But maybe another question is, why should one country get to decide what kind of of government another country has?

The thinking from the backseat is palpable.

Emma, en fuego now: Here’s the most important thing, you guys. Listen up. I can tell you to go to school. I can tell you to do your homework. I can tell you to practice your instruments.

Henry: we get it!

Emma, enjoying the soapbox: I can tell you to go to church. I can tell you to sit down for dinner. I can tell you to go to bed.

Henry: WE GET IT!

Emma: But I can’t tell you what to think. People will try and try and try to tell you what to think, but you have those good, big brains in those enormous heads for a reason. And you have to listen and learn and make up your own minds. It is just so super-duper important that you use your good brains to decide for yourself. I can’t even tell you what to think. I can share my opinion with you if you ask me, but you have to have to have to make up your own minds about things. So when you learn something in school, fine, you maybe have to put it on a test, but I want you to really think about it, and realize maybe it’s not the full story.

End Scene 1

I was thinking about this conversation on my way home from work the same day, and feeling bad that I don’t make things easier for my kids, when I had a revelation: that’s not my job. It isn’t my job to do the heavy lifting for them, unless we’re talking about actual, not metaphorical, heavy lifting, in which case it totally is my job, especially for the five-year-old. I want them to grow up to be critical thinkers, so it is in fact my job to challenge them. They can do the heavy lifting themselves.

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Porch Time

June 14, 2013 at 2:12 pm (Uncategorized)

This one is from deep, deep in the archives. Seriously, it’s twenty years old. And other than the fact that I am now one of those “matrons” rushing around, the horror! my opinion hasn’t changed in the slightest.

In summer, every neighborhood has one perfect porch, one place to which the whole flock of friends migrates. Perhaps it is the coolest, being conveniently shaded on three sides by artfully planted trees. Perhaps it is the most comfortable, boasting two easy chairs, a sofa, AND a hammock. Or perhaps it is the most central, the point where all the radii converge and no one is more than five minutes away. Most likely it is a combination thereof, with an indefinable x-factor thrown in to confuse the issue. It has something to do with whose porch it is, although one is never quite certain to whom the perfect porch belongs. Somewhere in the menagerie of sun-browned skin, sweaty limbs holding sweatier beer bottles, and plastic debris from a carton of flavor-ice popsicles, lurks a host or at least someone who answers the phone, but it is enough that the porch be provided, and questions of ownership are relatively unimportant, as are questions of aesthetics. Some of the most perfect porches I have known were much less appetizing than the Better Homes and Gardens model across the way, yet that one porch on the block always attracts a gathering of friends, no matter how homely it is.

Porch utopia has something to do with the way lazy talk, and lazier silence, float on the fan-made breeze; the way people drop by to say, “hi,” and six hours later bashfully shuffle down the steps, mockingly shouting to one another, “what a waste of a day/afternoon/evening,” all the while aware that they will be back tomorrow. This is no gathering of stiff-assed matrons who wait to be offered tea before politely declining and rushing off to the next destination on their list of things to do. This is summer in a college town, and none of us has anything better to do, or any place better to be, than the front porch.

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Honey, I shrunk!

May 6, 2013 at 7:22 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

I went to the doctor this morning for a physical and I was shocked to find that I had shrunk over an inch since the last time I was measured.

“Five eight-and-a-half,” said the nurse as I stepped off the scale, oblivious to my look of horror.

“Gravity’s a bitch,” shrugged my doctor, when I complained. (I love my doctor). “You have to start taking vitamin D and calcium. You’re still tall.”

But I’m not, not really. I’ve described myself as just under 5’10” since I unexpectedly grew two inches my first year at college. “That can’t happen,” said my 5’2″ mother at the time. “Five nine-and-three-quarters,” said the nurse at the doctor’s office.

I agonized over my height when I first shot up in high school, relegated to the back row in choir, towering over my friends in ballet class, cast as Charlemagne in Pippen. I would have gladly shrunk an inch then. “Laurie, come out from behind that Amazon,” said my ballet teacher. “Maybe try jazz,” said another, as I was well over six feet en pointe.

Something funny has happened since those long ago days. I started to like being tall. I could care less that I’m an inch or so taller than my husband. I wear heels as often as my wretched feet let me (thanks again, ballet). My oldest daughter, one of the shortest in her class, envies my height.

Be careful what you wish for. And I guess I’ll just buy higher heels.

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A Mini-manifesto on Aging

July 12, 2011 at 4:57 am (Uncategorized)

Disclaimer:  this isn’t a post about religion, and it’s only tangentially related to my kids, but I have to get something off my 36A chest.  So if you’re reading for my incredibly perceptive (though sparse) musings on the Catholic church, or my incredibly witty (though equally sparse) anecdotes about my kids, you can skip this one.  Or maybe also if you don’t like the word “boob.”

I turned 39 at the end of May, so if you’re my age or older you can perhaps understand where I’m going with this.  When I look in the mirror (and it’s funny, I can go for days seemingly without really seeing myself in the mirror…something my younger self would find unfathomable…) I see a few white hairs on my head.  They’re a different texture than the rest of my hair, and they kind of stick out like horns, which might or might not be a propos, depending on the day.  They’re super noticeable to me because of my dark hair, but my friends tell me I’m paranoid.  I see the beginnings of some pretty deep wrinkles between my eyes, the legacy of a couple of decades worth of an inability to hold on to a pair of sunglasses.  I see a lot of laugh lines, and some zits too, which seems unfair.

If I’m being really bold and looking at myself in my birthday suit, I see some pretty saggy boobs, thanks to three years of breast feeding.  Big deal, they were never that great to begin with.  I see a belly that has birthed three children.  I’m pretty fit, but I don’t think I can exercise that history away.  I see some varicose veins.  I see my dreadful feet.  Despite categorizing my flaws so brutally, all in all, I think I look pretty good.  My husband thinks so anyway.

This is what almost 40 looks like, at least on me, but when I’m watching TV or a movie, actresses that I know are my age or older don’t look like me.  They’ve had “work done.”  Their foreheads are perfectly smooth, their hair is perfectly coifed and never graying, their boobs are preternaturally perky.  Fine, I get it, these women are in a profession where their ability to get work is vitally connected to their looks (although presumably their employability is also vitally connected to their ability to change their expression, but that’s neither here nor there), but in our celebrity obsessed culture, we’re starting to believe that we should all look forever young…hence the Botox and the boob jobs and the rest of it.

I’m trying really hard to be less judgmental (unless you don’t use your turn signals, in which case I actually think you’re a bad person) but part of me really rebels against this quest for eternal youth.  I’m concerned what message it sends to our daughters.  I want my girls to be grateful for the miracles of their bodies, not worried about looking like they’re 20 or 25 or even 35 forever.  I have to share a little secret with you…no one gets out of this alive.  The lucky among us are going to get old…and wrinkly…and saggy…with aches and pains and all the challenges that aging brings.

So you know, you do whatever you want to do, but I’m drawing a line in the sand.  I’m not going to buy better boobs, I’m not going to inject this into my forehead and that into my lips and I’m not even going to dye my hair.  I don’t know if there is any such thing as “aging gracefully” but I’m going to…at the very least…admit that I’m aging.  I hope to do a lot more of it, in fact.

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For Elizabeth Edwards

December 8, 2010 at 3:11 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

I met Elizabeth Edwards on a frigid January morning outside Brady Street Pharmacy in Milwaukee, WI in 2004. My mom and I had walked over from my folks’ condo a few blocks away, hoping to hear her husband’s stump speech in person, but we had gotten a late start thanks to an uncooperative one-year-old, and weren’t able to find a space inside to sit down.
I carried said one-year-old against my chest, resplendent in a peacock blue patterned snowsuit, wrapped around me in a sling, her face burrowed in my coat, out of the icy air. The three of us waited outside on the corner of Brady and Astor hoping to at least catch a glimpse of the candidate. I was thrilled to see Elizabeth get of the car. Even then I liked her better than her husband. I walked over, introduced myself and welcomed her to my hometown.
She was sensational…much more glamorous than print pictures would lead you to believe…smart, funny and warm. Oh she was so charismatic. In a better world, I think she would have been running for president rather than John.
We chatted about our children and the challenges of being a working mom. I can remember her toying with baby Riley’s little mittened hand. I can remember thinking she must be a human popsicle with no hat on in this weather, and either she’s not wearing one because she’s from the South and doesn’t know from cold, or because hats give you hat head and the pictures wouldn’t be so cute with hat head. For a few minutes on a freezing day she turned the full force of her warm personality on me and I became a fan for life.
I am terribly sad to learn of Elizabeth Edwards’ death today, but even as she herself reminded us yesterday, the days of all our lives are numbered. We must be grateful for those hours which are allotted to us, and by “the simple act of living with hope” make them more meaningful and precious.
I’ll leave you with words that could be her epitaph, words she herself wrote, that close her second book:

‎”I do know that when [my children] are older and telling their own children about their grandmother, they will be able to say that she stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her way –and it surely has not–she adjusted her sails.”

Eternal rest, grant unto Elizabeth Edwards, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the Mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

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The Mary month of May…

May 5, 2010 at 2:14 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

Today was the May crowning at school. What’s that, you ask? The kids brought in flowers and in lieu of mass (priests are on retreat) we said the rosary and crowned statues of the Virgin and Child. Of course, when I pulled my rosary out of my bag, my two-year-old asked in the shrillest of tones, “Mommy what’s that?” thus demonstrating both what a lousy Catholic and what a lousy Catholic mom I am.

It’s not even that I don’t like the rosary. I always have one with me actually. Lots of different cultures use prayer beads…mine just happens to have a crucifix on it. It’s immensely comforting when I’m anxious (airplane) or impatient (doctor’s office). I think I have kind of a pidgin rosary thing going on…that is, I’m not clear on how to pray the Glorious vs. the Sorrowful vs. the Joyful Mysteries, but I am grateful for the calming and meditative effect of saying a pile of “Hail Marys.” In fact I could probably do with saying them quite a bit more often…and then Lucy wouldn’t be wondering what that thing that looked like a necklace was.

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Still here

May 4, 2010 at 2:40 am (Uncategorized) (, )

I haven’t posted for a while, largely because the contents of the posts wouldn’t be too edifying. Let’s take a look at what the last month or so would have looked like:

“March 28. Sucks being Catholic

April 10. Still no fun.

April 22. Pretty miserable about the Church.”

(I just made all those dates up, so don’t try to corollate them to anything…oh, and Dad, Mom, if you’re reading I’m sorry I said “sucks.”)

Nevertheless I’ve been plugging away, taking comfort from mass, trying to pray, trying to read, trying to find God in the details.

I’ve had some help.

A friend sent me a great link that I want to remember, so I’m dropping it off here. Check out “A Good Catholic School Story here.

Also, my family saw the second graders make their First Communion on Saturday. The girls were dressed to the nines in their white dresses and veils and the boys were dapper little dudes as well. And they were so pleased with themselves, so excited and so focused. It was tremendous.

So there are positives out there…

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