Although I am not over 50, I love the TV Show "Sunday Morning." A few months ago they had a video about weeds: Our War Against Weeds. There is a link below if you have about eight minutes.
"What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered." - Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Last summer, we had a drought. Our lawn dried up, dead and brown. But through the cracks of cement, tall and resilient weeds thrived. Many weeds, like thistles, can be hacked down to ground level but still recover and produce even more vegetation than before.
We can learn a lot from a weed. A weed is a survivor. A weed actually does better when everything else is failing. A weed can adapt and become resistant to it's enemy the weedkiller, Round-Up. I think I'm more a weed than a flower. And many of the people I admire most are also weeds.
- Judy and Laurie Corkery. Can you imagine being married with six and nine children respectively and losing your spouse? A flower would have been crushed. But these amazing people found each other and even decided to have another child. My Chris.
- Lee Albertson. A minister. Three kids. His wife dies of cancer at age 46. He did not give up. In fact he put his life on hold for many years after to make sure we were all taken care of. We all graduated from college and can thank him for giving us such a good start in life.
Sometimes I get really mad. I forget that life isn't fair. I want it all my way. But then I remember, that I'm a weed too. Weeds will always find each other. Happy mother's day to all the weeds in my life.
- Stephanie Pershing. Chronically ill for more than two decades. She told me once that she didn't want her illness to define her identity. She is brave, outspoken, a wonderful wife and mother. She lives every day to the fullest. When her family wants to take a trip, they go. We can all learn from her example.
- Amanda Weichers. Her son nearly died as a toddler during a seizure. She and Andy are amazing parents to Beau, who was diagnosed with Partial Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum (P-ACC) as well as Epilepsy. They also started a non-profit organization and raise about $10,000 every year to help kids like Beau. And they welcomed a beautiful baby girl Delaney last July.
- All my Price Lab buddies. The school is now being torn down. There is a fence around it. It can feel devastating. But the children and parents move on in its honor. We remember the amazing place that existed in our backyard and now lives on in our hearts.
Hacking them down
Makes them grow stronger
7,056 miles. That's how many miles I've driven Jude to therapy in the last year. It's 56 miles to Witwer Children's Therapy center in Hiawatha. That's 112 miles round trip. We do this every monday for a reason: The services and people there are worth the drive everytime.
When we first started going, Jude couldn't physically hold the iPad to entertain himself during the ride, let alone run the programs. I had to hook it onto the back of my headrest. Usually I'd pull off on a ramp to change the show if it abruptly ended. I'm happy to report that now Jude can hold it and he can run it--freely changing videos and switching between Thomas the Train and Wreck It Ralph. He wears headphones. But he can't fix them if they fall off. So we use a sport headband to keep them on. We get some strange looks in drive-thru windows but whatever it takes, right?
So why do we go to therapy? Jude has a hard time talking and we do 30 minutes of speech therapy. Then we go across the hall to occupational therapy (OT). Why would a kid need occupational therapy? Because Jude's "job" is to play and OT helps him do this. It involves strengthening his upper body, working on near-to-far movements of the eyes, developing fine and gross motor skills, sensory process development (especially for food and texture aversions), improving self care (putting on and taking off clothes) and Integrated Listening System therapy.
Last summer we traded in our Caravan for a Prius. We get almost 50 miles per gallon (versus 15 in the van). It has saved us a ton on fuel and I really like driving it. But there are unique qualities to Prius drivers. So I bring you ...
You might drive a Prius:
1. If you initially think the nozzle is broken at the gas station when it clicks off at $28 dollars
2. If you need a 3 block gap before you pull out in front of anyone
3. If you pass someone and wonder what's wrong with their full-sized car
4. (the flipside) if you get passed by another Prius and smugly think you're getting better gas mileage than them
5. If you've left your car running in the driveway for more than 3 hours and thought it was off (resetting all previous gas mileage smugness)
These are all true. I still love my Prius. And I love my Jude. No matter how many miles we have left to travel. I'll always be your travel buddy.
Poem to follow shortly ... Time to go pick up my travel buddy from school.
I make a meal for my family almost every night. And almost every night they eat it.
Confession: I don’t like cooking.
Another confession: I almost never use the oven.
What I do like are gimmicky products that help me cook without using said oven.
I love my Micro-Cooker, Round Covered Baker, Pizza Pizazz. I also love my bread maker, popcorn air popper and Stir Daddy popcorn popper. Sadly my George Foreman grill has died. But it’s replaced with a Cuisinart Panini Press (which is simply a classy version of a Foreman grill).
Truly, I’m not happy preparing a meal in my kitchen unless my counter is covered in gadgets plugged in to every outlet, and possibly breaking a circuit. Here's a quick reference guide to my three favorites.
Where did this all start? I have to give credit to my dad. Now, he wasn’t as much into products as he was into creative solutions to meal preparation. I don’t remember my dad cooking much before my mom got sick. But after she passed away, he quickly found ways to feed Luke and I (Stephanie was off to college by then, so she missed out).
Things my dad may have invented but never got paid for:
- Take and Bake Pizza. My dad would stop at Casey’s in Dike, Iowa and ask them to make him a pizza, “But only cook it half way through.” He wanted to bring it home and finish cooking it our oven so it was hot and fresh.
- Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. My dad would make donuts out of the little rolls of biscuits and pop the center out using a twist off pop cap. They were delicious and the house smelled like grease for days.
- Pizza Pockets. My dad once entered a Pillsbury contest after mastering the skill of placing a little ham and cheese inside a flaky biscuit before baking it. We were both shocked that he didn’t win a prize.
So I think my enthusiasm for “cooking” is inspired by him. One time Lucy and I were watching Dan Wardell (our household’s superhero from Iowa Public Television) doing a cooking demonstration. Lucy said, “That’s not how mom does it. She just puts it all in the microwave.” I’ve often said, I wish my house had two or three microwaves so everything could be ready at the same time.
I think this love of gadget cooking is also contagious. Chris recently came home with the Toastabags. Sadly, they didn't fit in our toaster. So we will have to find a new toaster. I will let you know how they turn out.
The unfortunate part about my cooking is that I don’t think anything I cook is tasty. It never tastes good unless someone else cooks it. Chris has come up with a creative solution. I will do the food and gadget preparation. Then he will cook it. This may be my best invention yet.
Here is to all the dad’s who are in the kitchen, with and without their spouses to help. Thanks, dad, for always feeding and inspiring us.
Dear Scott Wolf (aka Bailey Salinger from Party of 5),
I really thought you'd marry me one day. Really. I thought I'd be walking through the mall. You'd be there. Our eyes would meet. And off to Hollywood we'd go together.
Well, I don't know much about your life, but I am the luckiest girl that our paths never crossed. That's because I married the best guy. Period. His name is Chris Corkery. I sometimes call him Kiki. He's my best friend.
Before marrying Chris, we discussed my list of six criteria that were non-negotiable. Every girl should have her own list. My Marriage Pre-Qualification List:
- I need an equal partner.
- I need someone that wants to spend time with me.
- I need someone who will dream with me.
- I need someone who likes to have fun and do exciting things.
- I need someone who has similar beliefs as me.
- I need someone who is willing to help me with stuff.
Chris fit every one. And I'm amazed at almost 10 years later, I can still say they hold true.
This is us on our wedding day. Lucy said, "You got married in a field?!"
Do you know what I see now? 1. Wow, that's a good looking couple. 2. Wow, were we so young and dumb.
I think we were so happy and naive thinking, "This is going to be a blast forever!" And it has been a blast. And also terrifying.
Here would be my Pre-Qualification List today:
- I need someone who is willing to rush home from work when I find my 17-year-old Pomeranian, Keisha, passed away. And someone who also knows it's a big deal.
- I need someone to stand by my side during an emergency c-section and to see his son, grey and not breathing, after he was born.
- I need someone who will wake up at 6:00 a.m. with me to take our toddler to his third MRI in three years.
- I need someone who will listen to doctors explain that our child will never see the world like his sister.
- I need someone who will fly across the country with me to meet doctors and have hard conversations about Jude's long-term potential.
- I need someone who is willing to help me use to the bathroom while recovering from a 7-hour surgery.
- I need someone who is willing to strip my drain tubes at 2 am.
- I need someone who tells me I'm beautiful every day, even when I feel old and tired.
- I need someone who says, "Yes" more often than "No" to my crazy ideas.
- I need someone who likes to have fun, go on dates, travel and laugh no matter what.
Chris still fits every one. Once we were watching the TV show Dexter. Dexter asks a couple (a couple he is about to murder of course) what makes them happy together. They said, "We like the same things." And I do think at its core, that is true of most happy marriages.
Lucy asked me how old will she be when she gets married. I tell her every time - 30. She also thinks she is going to marry Jude. I told her that if she's 30 and still wants to marry Jude, then we will worry about it.
I hope that Lucy and Jude make their own Pre-Qualification lists and that they don't settle for less. I hope they find their "Chris" and have more good times than bad.
They say behind every good man is a great woman. I'd like to say that behind every great woman is an even greater man. And it's not always Scott Wolf.
Always putting others first
Kari Kidrowski was one of my elementary BFFs. We both attended Dunkerton Elementary School. One of the biggest rights of passage back then was the 5th and 6th grade science fair. Everyone had to team up with one or two other kids, pick a topic and present our speech to the junior or senior high kids. So Kari and I paired up to do some research on our topic: Mold.
Kari’s mom is a rock star. She took us to Anderson Erickson Dairy (on her own time) to see how they used cultures to make things like yogurt and cottage cheese. Best of all, Kari’s mom let us grow mold on stuff in jars in her refrigerator. We did it for weeks.
It was very disgusting and very fun. The big day came, and to our surprise Kari and I were the first 5th graders to ever WIN the 5th and 6th grade science fair.
At work recently, we took a personality test to identify our strengths. My top three:
1. Communication – You find it easy to put your thoughts into words.
2. Woo – You love the challenge of meeting new people and winning them over.
3. Competition – You strive to win first place and revel in contests.
I believe #3 all started with the 5th Grade Science fair. The following year, Kari and I had a new area of research. Here’s a photo. The location of Kari’s head makes our G-rated topic look a little more R-rated.
The topic was Glass.
Some time later my mom (another rock star) made a giant crawdad out of a bottle of bleach for another school project for my sister. Oh, if only we had social media in the 80’s - if I had that photo now it would definitely be on one of my Pinterest boards.
My hope for the future:
1. I am the kind of mom who lets my kids grow mold in my fridge for a good cause.
2. I am able to make a bleach bottle into a crawdad if needed.
3. I’m still able to laugh at photos of myself no matter how old I get and that I have many friends to laugh with me.
Thank you Colleen for sharing this photo. L to R: Colleen Magee-Buhler, Me and Stephanie Albertson Pershing.
So much mold
Thinking, talking, winning
Rock Star Helpful Mothers
A few months ago, we got to attend a show written and directed by our talented brother-in-law Jimmy DeVita
. It was called “The Gift of the Magi.” He took a two-page story written by O. Henry about a young married couple and how they deal with a challenge of buying secret Christmas gifts for each other with very little money, and he adapted it into a two-hour musical.
The climax of the show is when the husband is really depressed, realizing he may not afford to get his wife a Christmas gift. A fiddler cheers him up and sings a heartfelt song with the lyrics “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” Jimmy explained it later that it was a complicated scene to write. They didn’t want to imply that God was getting in the way of him buying his wife a gift. But rather, he could just as easily be in a worse situation.
The phrase was originally credited to a preacher, John Bradford, who uttered the words when seeing criminals being led to their death. But the source has never been confirmed.
I was taken aback by the use of this phrase in the show. I heard it a few years ago in a speech, and it just stuck with me—It could always be worse, and it can happen to anyone. To me, it's a reminder to be grateful for what you have in life because it can change in a blink of an eye.
A few days later, we invited Chris’ parents over to our house. Chris was playing a game of Cribbage with his dad. Laurie won several games in a row. And then he said, “But it all could have gone another way. It’s how the cards are cut. One cut differently and Chris would have won.” I love Laurie's humble approach. Because it means the opposite of my quote is also true. When things go well, it's not always because we are the better players in life. Sometimes it just happens.
There, but for the grace of God, go I.
Learning its Beauty
We all Deserve it
Chris and I got to see the “Life of Pi” movie in 3D recently. It’s like a painting coming to life. Beautiful colors and graphics that seem unbelievable. And the story itself is a truly unbelievable tale of a shipwrecked passenger stuck on a lifeboat with a Tiger. I’ve read the book and both are spectacular. And the movie really captures it. If you haven’t read it or seen it – Spoiler Alert.
At the end, he survives this incredible adventure. And no one really believes him. So he tells them a simpler story instead. But, he says, if the outcome is the same in both stories, which story do you prefer?
It got me thinking about heaven. I completely believe in an afterlife. But I’ve never pictured the typical scene where people are reunited with loved ones. I’ve never really believed that I will see my mom again. Kind of depressing. Maybe I’ll die and sense her spirit or a feeling of love in the afterlife, but I never pictured her greeting me, hugging me or loving me again.
But after I saw “Life of Pi” I thought, why not? If it gives me comfort to think that I’ll be greeted in heaven by mom, then that’s what I should believe. It’s the better story. And it doesn’t change any of the outcome. Whether the hereafter is like a movie or not, it will be what it will be. I hope she’s in her bathrobe on a couch, with a book in one hand, a cup of hot coffee nearby, smoking a Parliament.
I don’t know if it’s losing my mom so early, having a child with special needs or having been diagnosed with breast cancer. But I see things a little differently now. The bright moments of life are so much brighter. And the dark colors of life are so much darker.
I see young, fresh parents with so much to gain and so much to lose. I see teenage daughters who can’t stand their moms, but don’t know what a gift they have. I see parents whose biggest wish is for their child to be able to move their hands. I see families brought together and torn apart by tragedy.
But you know–we all keep moving. And try to think of a better story. Because if the ending is the same, the better story is the one I want to believe.
Close at heart
Hoping to see her
I got to see the movie, Les Misérables, on Christmas Day with my wonderful mother-in-law, Judy. It was my first time seeing the show in any format. I learned some lessons that I thought my loyal blog-readers may enjoy. Please note: Spoilers Ahead
My 5 Life Lessons:
1 Always listen to my husband. He suggested that we buy our tickets online several hours before the show started. When we arrived, the line to the movie was out the door. We would have never made it if I hadn’t listened to him.
2 Life is tragic. Period. It seems the longer I live, the more I see this theme. If you’ve seen this show, you know the countless people that experience tremendous tragedy. Especially poor Fantine. She loses her job, sells her hair, her teeth and worse to support her child. “There was a time when the world was a song, and the song was exciting. There was a time. Then it all went wrong.” I am still shocked that Jude is not perfectly healthy. When you deliver a baby, and all is well, you thank God and think it’s over. We didn’t figure out that Jude had anything really medically wrong with him until he started having myoclonic seizures at 15 months. I never saw it coming. And while I’m lucky I still have my hair, I feel Fantine’s sense of loss of that dream.
3 Forgiveness is an amazing, life-changing gift. Hugh Jackman plays Jean Valjean. And if I had spent 19 years in jail for stealing bread, I’d be bitter too. When he is released and steals from a church, the priest has a chance to prosecute him. But he does something amazing. He says what he stole was a gift, and then gave him more. This may seem like stating something obvious, but it really dawned on me that this level of forgiveness was amazing. The priest could act on behalf of God. He could do something so powerful and rare. And it changed Jean Valjean’s soul.
4 Revenge, while tempting, does more harm to you than your foe. Russell Crowe played Javert, always on the go trying to find Jean Valjean. It was his life’s mission. And in the end, Jean Valjean’s act of kindness ultimately killed Javert. I have a very hard time forgiving people, especially those closest to me, who let me down. But this movie made me realize that I have the power and gift of forgiveness. Again, pretty obvious, but it touched my heart.
5 My mother-in-law is proud, strong-willed and more independent than I thought possible. She has survived so much loss and so much love. She is brave and kind. The movie theater was so packed that we didn’t get to sit together. But I did buy her a bottle of water that some nice strangers helped pass it down the row to her. Unfortunately, she couldn’t get the bottle open. So she held that bottle of water for three hours and did not ask for help as to not bother any of the strangers around her. I love her strength and independence. She doesn’t want to miss a thing, and rarely asks for help. It reminds me of someone else I know in my family.
The movie was amazing. The theater was completely full, and completely silent until the end when all you could hear were little sobs as people tried to hide their tears. It really was a great Christmas movie. I think about Mary, feeling a bit like Fantine. I’m sure hers was not the life she imagined. Cold, alone, pregnant. And the incredible forgiveness we get, and even better, can give. Christmas miracles indeed.
Chris and I can watch just about any kid's PBS show with one exception, the Jack and the Beanstalk episode of Super Why. In the story, they can't get Baby Joy, Whyatt's little sister, to stop crying. She cries and cries. Nothing seems to help. Except changing the channel.
It reminds us both too much of Jude crying. He cried and cried as a baby. And he still cries and whines for us today. What brings it on? Anything new, anything frustrating and any sort of transition (from playing to going in the car, from going in the car to going inside to go potty, from watching a show to eating dinner). It's all met with a whiny cry, lots of sobs, tears and foggy glasses. And that's just Chris (smile).
We hear that Jude reserves this behavior primarily for us, his parents. Teachers usually comments what a happy, playful child he his. He loves to give hugs and is all smiles at school. It's certainly a blessing that he doesn't have a behavior disorder at school. He just has a Jude disorder at home.
We have discovered one therapy that helps. It's called Integrated Listening Systems (iLS)
. There are several programs within it, but the one we love best is called "calming". Jude listens to 15-30 minutes of it while he's playing or focusing on a task. And it completely evens out his emotions for the next several days. Perhaps I should use it next. If anything, the music will block out all the crying, right? :)
Here is a short video about the technology:
If I could have a magic wand, I'd make Jude happy. I would make transitions (and life) easier for him. We wonder about the Jude we envisioned in our family. He'd be the male version of Lucy. He'd smile and flirt with the ladies. He'd spell his name loudly when someone asked. He'd sleep in a bed with a pillow and lots of blankets. He'd take off his own clothes and run around naked. He'd like to go for ice cream or to a movie. He'd talk about Santa and what he wants for Christmas. He'd help us set the table. He'd want a sticker chart and a puppy.
These are things that lots of typical kids do. While Jude is not a typical kid, he does come with many of his own kinds of blessings. When he laughs, it's contagious. He is sensitive and sympathetic to anyone who is upset. He is persistent and brave. He loves to go bowling, even though he can't see far enough to know how many pins he's knocked down. He pushes the ball and laughs anyway.
There are other kinds of tears that Jude brings us. Tears of joy. There is a special sense of pride in accomplishments that don't come very easily. Like having a vision impairment and still learning letters, numbers and colors. That is the gift we are learning to appreciate. Those times when Jude succeeds in spite of his challenges are worth all the tears from him and us along the way.
Poem of the day:
Foggy little glasses
Always wishing them away
I was all ready to write a rant about my life. It seemed appropriate since the title of this site starts with the words, “So Mad…” However, as I began writing about how bad I think I have it, it occurred to me that everyone is dealing with his or her own types of bad stuff.
I then read that Nov. 13-20 is World Kindness Week. It got me thinking about kindness, so I watched this fun video:
So, I decided to write my top 10 Dos that could help make this world a better place and maybe help us all to get along. Perfect timing and none of this is political, I promise.
1. Do slow down
. This is in general day-to-day life and also while driving. If you see someone walking, especially with a child, slow down and let them go first.
2. Do hold the door open
for people—all people. When I was pregnant, I was treated as if I were a princess by many strangers. But once my kids were on the outside of me, I was treated as if I were a menace. Pretend everyone is pregnant (smile).
3. Do smile at people
. Look them in the eye too. If nothing else, it will make them wonder what you are up to.
4. Do be nice
to all people in the service industry including restaurant servers, grocery workers and bus drivers. Chances are, they are working very hard at a very low hourly rate. And they are probably dealing with a lot of other things, besides your immediate want or need.
5. Do teach your kids that the most important trait is to be kind and generous
. It’s more important to be kind and generous than it is to be smart, funny, rich or famous.
6. Do give people a break
. We all deserve it. I remember a few years ago I was running a few minutes late to a client meeting. I called ahead to let him know. The client said, “Take your time and be safe. Don’t rush. We’ll be here.” He didn’t pull a power card. I have always used his line ever since if someone is running late to see me. Really, what difference does it make?
7. Do send nice e-mails
. Never use all capital letters and exclamation points if you are upset. Don’t “demand” or “require.” Quench that fire if someone else has sent you a snippy e-mail. Use words like: Please, Thank you, I understand, I will try, I’m sorry, I misunderstood. Pretend your mother will read your e-mail and see if you still want to send it.
8. Do have empathy
. People need it all the time. And they don’t need help finding the bright side of a bad situation. After my mother died, I had a peer write in a card to me, “At least you still have your boyfriend.” If you don’t know what to say, just say you are sorry for what they are going through. That always works.
9. Do say hello
to someone (especially a child) with special needs or a medical condition. Look them in the eye. Ask his/her name and what they like to do. Even if they are nonverbal, they and their parents will appreciate you treating them like any other person.
10. Do have faith
that we can make this world a better place. This is not a dress rehearsal. We only get one shot at life, and apathy or cynicism will only waste our time here. So I’m going to try harder to make it better and I hope you will too.
I’m sure I’m missing some really great Do’s. Feel free to send them to me, so that I can add them to my life list.
PS. We did take Jude to an amazing (and very kind) doctor in Baltimore. If you want to know about it, here is a link to his medical blog. http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/judecorkery
I think I write all this detail down so that I will remember it more than anything. So, fair warning, it’s pretty long.
Here is to life and my attempt to leave the world better than I found it. To my beautiful children, kind and strong in unique ways. To my generous husband who always puts us first. To my wonderful, thoughtful and giving friends and family who have made me feel loved more than I ever thought possible. Thank you.
That is taught
From one to another