Thursday, February 6, 2014

Where are you?


Cue the Sarah McLachlan music.

It’s hard to lose a friend.  Half a friend is “end,” or maybe just “fri;” either way, meh.  When you grow up with someone, spend your days discussing dolls, then boys, then adulthood, you always assume they’ll be around forever to see everything happen. 

But things happen.  People happen.  Circumstances happen.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the people you love fall in love because it feels like they don’t need you anymore.  Your best isn’t good enough anymore, and although you’re happy for them (eventually), your role as the shoulder, the support, the one who laughs at their jokes, the one who tells them to buy this but don’t buy that, the one who will get up at 5:00am to go to the gym with them when you’d rather sleep, and on and on, isn’t necessary anymore.  You hope that although they have a new life that they’ll remember that you’re the one who was there to support them through everything they are trying to move past.  So how do you support someone who is your best friend when now it’s at a distance?  It’s rough. 

I feel let down because I’ve had a boyfriend, then a fiancé, then a husband, and I feel like I never “disappeared” no matter what my love life was doing.  I’m not perfect and I’m guessing I wasn’t the best, best friend there ever was, but I fought the good fight and I did what I thought it was to be there for someone.  I want to support and love and encourage,e but I want to be called, responded to, encouraged, uplifted. 

So now I’m a one-sided friendship.  I want to be a best friend.  I want to laugh and snort at things that only she understands.  I want to be told that I shouldn’t buy another polo shirt because I have ten in my closet and it’s “time to try something new.”  I love my husband and he is truly my best friend, but I need my best girlfriend to go look at that gaudy jewelry that I’ll never be able to afford, to sit over a latte for hours and vent, to secretly gush over horribly cheesy movies we pretend to hate.  I miss that.

I thought I’d have someone there for me at my side when I had my kids.  I thought she’d be there to hold my hand along with my husband when I gave birth.  I thought she’d love my kids almost as much as I do.  But they hardly even know her.  And when our worlds collide and we actually do see each other, I feel warm, friendly, overjoyed, talkative.  She feels awkward, shifty, with little eye contact.  I don’t understand.  Is it me?  Is it my life?  Is it my kids?  Is it my faith?  Our lives are different, but aren’t we the same on some level?  Aren’t we still the women who grew up, moved away, grew up again, and spend day after day talking about who knows what, crying over our random miseries, and eating a thousand California rolls?  Where are you?

I often think I can move on.  My life is happy, my husband is loving, my kids are joyful and kind and we’re so proud of them, and I do have a handful of really good friends.  But then I get to thinking and I know I still have a hole where something is missing.  My friend, my confidant, my gossip buddy, my arachnophobic pink-wine loving bestie who called me to kill bugs, to cry, to laugh, when proud, when ashamed, and was the only one to ever get me to wear makeup.  Well, I’m back in polo shirts and no makeup, so where are you?!

You’ll never read this.  My fear of confrontation hopes you won’t.  But things have to get worse before they get better.  Someone once told me it’s better to fight than to be indifferent, because when you’re fighting you still care.  I don’t think we ever had a fight that led to this distance, this silence, this strange avoidance.  It’s just like nothing ever happened but life pushed us apart.  I’ll be honest, it sucks.   

I just hope that one day if you need me as a friend again you’ll see that I never gave up.  I still called, I still texted, I still messaged you on Facebook; I never gave up asking to go do things, get coffee, go out to eat, go to the movies, anything.  And I won’t.  I may be beating a dead horse, but I’ll never give up trying to claw my way back to being your best friend again.  We’re not done having kids and I hope you can be around to see at least one of them come into this world and be like an auntie to them.  I’m going to keep trying, and I apologize if it’s obnoxious.  To me, it’s worth it. 


Turn the sappy music off, please.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

12th Man, Woman, and Babies

To start...ahem...go Seahawks. 

The Super Bowl is that special day when we eat what we want, watch TV for hours with friends, drink early in the day, and go to bed with a bottle of Tums. Everyone is a football fan, if only for a few hours.  A few bets are tossed back and forth, mainly money, but a few gentlemen's bets, some "slave-for-a-day" plans, and so on. 

This year was quite different for our "big small town" of Seattle.  We felt that our beloved Seahawks finally got what they deserved, were given credit for their abilities, and were shown love for exactly who they are--a team full of integrity.  Sure, most other cities felt the same about their teams, but this year was our year.  Everyone said we would lose (well, everyone except the porcupine on YouTube who picked us right away).  Whether it was by 3 points or a complete blowout, I'm not sure we were picked by anyone (except us, that is) to win.  Sorry, boys.

Rewind.

Super Bowl Sunday
As a family, we know the Seahawks are rather good.  They win, win again, and just keep on winning.  They'll lose a game every so often, just to keep it interesting, but then they go back to winning. But for some reason we didn't really think about the idea of them entering the Super Bowl when we decided to tighten our belts and cancel our cable.  Comcast was charging us up the wazoo each month and we couldn't stand it anymore.  What was once a $65 bill, turned to $75, then $85, and we were fed up.  We canceled our service, went with CenturyLink (it was a sign!) and decided to survive on Netflix and Hulu.  We may have counted our chickens a little too soon.

Come Super Bowl Sunday we had very little in the way of plans.  Joey had to work,so I took the kids to church and we did our best to reverently pray for a Seahawks win.  There were a few rowdy greeters dressed head-to-foot in Broncos gear, but I'm guessing they're a little quieter these days.  Charlotte spent her first Sunday in Sunday school and lasted the whole time without me getting paged.  She told me they learned about "Bad people throwing rocks.  Then Jesus came and Santa Claus, too."  I'm guessing there were some bearded characters in the story... 

Anyhoo, after church we headed home and I put the kids down for a nap.  We had no plans, no high-calorie snacks, and I was just thankful for the next two hours to put my feet up a little.  I popped on some Real Housewives while the rest of the world flipped on the game, and then I began to Google the Seahawks game.  Refresh, refresh, refresh.  To be honest, I was incredibly interested in watching, but really didn't have any way without cable.  Refresh, refresh, refresh.  This will suffice, I thought.  Nope.  12 seconds in we had already scored.  Then came more, and more, and more.  I have to see this! Wouldn’t you know that my kids kept on sleeping!

I finally heard Charlotte bumping around and I ran upstairs with two pairs of little shoes, their coats, and flew downstairs with both kids, half asleep. We jumped in the car and headed straight for Safeway.  What's a better place to be?  They have a big flat screen TV with soft chairs, tables, a fireplace, and we're SURROUNDED by food!  We got there just as halftime began and I settled the kids down with some applesauce and a corndog for Charlotte.

And there we stayed for the entirety of that incredible game.  We bumped shoulders with people we had never met before--some homeless, some war vets, some families, and some of Safeway's employees--today we were all friends.  Joey met up with us after work (he works at another Safeway up in Woodinville), and we were all able to watch the last quarter as a family, surrounded by tasty junk food, loud cheering, and happy babies. 

We drove home to the cheers and fireworks of our neighborhood.  I don't know a single person who drove by or was standing on the sidewalk, but we all waved, honked, laughed, and metaphorically raised our glasses.  It's been a long time since we lived in a small town, but Super Bowl Sunday felt much like "home."

Fast Forward

Victory Parade
My mom once told me that if history is being made, for better or for worse, do your best to be a part of it.  At the time it was the WTO rally, but today it was the victory homecoming parade for our champion Seahawks.  We made a plan to ride the 41 bus down to Westlake Center, which we knew would be a cold morning. The temps dipped into the low 20s with a much lower wind chill shooting down 4th Avenue.  We bundled the kids up in pajamas, moccasins, fleece pants, sweatshirts, parkas, mittens, hats, blankets, until they were layered with in an inch of their lives.  We left the house at 9:45am with the stroller, baby backpack, diaper bag, lunches, and bus money, and walked out to the bus stop.  It was packed.  Normally our stop is basically abandoned, being one stop before the popular Hubbard Homestead Park stop.  Not today.  We stood among about 30 other passengers, waiting and waiting.  Finally the 41 popped over the hill; as it drew nearer we could see it was completely full.  It didn't even stop.  We waited again.  Then came another 41.  Packed again.  There would be no bus ride today.  Sorry, Charlotte.

We grabbed the kids and headed back to the house.  Joey figured driving would be our best shot, so we packed everything in the car and headed downtown.  He took Roosevelt all the way down to Eastlake, avoiding the traffic, so we thought we had it made.  Um, no.  Seattle all at once looked like an anthill.  Crowds poured toward the center of town.  We still managed to get around for a while via the smaller streets, but as we crept towards Westlake Center, it became clear that parking wouldn't be easy.  Life stopped as we inched under the Monorail and the crowds enveloped our car.  I began to feel claustrophobic, like I was in some sort of car wash.  There were thousands and thousands of people filling the streets all around us.  Bicycles squeezed past the motionless vehicles, stuck bumper-to-bumper.  I could hear honking, I could hear the music as the parade began, and all of a sudden I wasn't sure how much I wanted to be there.  Maybe I'm not a fan after all, I thought.  No, that wasn't it.  I'm certainly a fan, but this was beyond pushing it as far as my comfort zone is concerned. 

Joey was determined to keep trying.  We went up and down every street, in alleys, backed up, inched forward, and sat in the jam watching the 12th Man flag fly through the sky back and forth, back and forth.  On a positive note, we had food, we were warm, and it was sort of nice just to have to sit for a while and be comfortable.  And the kids were golden.  Max slept through everything and Charlotte read her books and sang along with the radio.  She told me later she didn't like all the people, and the parade music "make worried me."  But at the time, she said nothing and kept herself happy and busy.

At some point things began to look grim.  Not sure if it was because it was now 12 o'clock (an hour after the parade began), or because we were now in "Little Saigon," but it looked as though we had lost this battle.  On the side of adventure, however, we had seen every inch of downtown Seattle from our home in Northgate (okay, not exactly downtown) to the International District, to the Rainier District, and beyond.  We had driven in and out of every parking garage, hospital, apartment complex, etc., that we could find, and came to the conclusion that there is just not enough parking in downtown Seattle for 750,000 people.  Who knew? 

We scooted back to the freeway, which was nice and open, and took the kids up to Whole Foods for a quiet, easy lunch.  There were no crowds, driving was a breeze, and everyone was home by naptime.  To be honest, I think I preferred this.

In Conclusion
You may think we were nuts for trying to get to the parade today.  And maybe you're right.  I was certainly naïve if nothing else.  I figured that because it was a weekday and most people were at work, that the parade wouldn't be that crowded.  Yep, I know--stupid.  But it was fun anyway.  We didn't get to see the parade, but we saw nearly a million fans walking by.  There was a hum of excitement and sheer joy in the air, and nobody seemed to mind the cold weather.  Besides, I don’t think anyone around here minds the cold when the sun is out.  And it was gorgeous today.  So I'm glad we went.  I'm glad we drove around, burned gas, got stuck, backed out of driveways, and skidded in and out of traffic.  We spent that time together as a family--no one was at work, no one was sick, no one was sleeping, no one was crying--we had all that time to just talk about whatever was on our mind (mainly the Seahawks).


So that is our 12th Man experience.  Maybe we live that part of our life on the sidelines, but we'll always take the bull by the horns and make the best with what we have.  

Thursday, January 23, 2014

In Conclusion...

Holy frijole, here is the story of how our car was stolen, we got it back, and the crazy, mixed-up events that followed.

Sometime between 8:00pm on 1/19/14 and 5:30am on 1/20/14 our car was stolen right out of our driveway.  The doors were locked, the alarm never went off; it was totally gone.  I know it’s a material thing, but to be honest, we were devastated.  We’re a one-car family with two kids and Joey works far away, so taking the only car we had was a huge hardship.  Beyond that, our car is almost like the family pet--we’re so comfortable in it, it has our books and toys and music, and on the back was that good old Power Motors sticker. 

Fast forward to 1:45pm on 1/22/14. 

Joey’s dad had just dropped his pickup off for us to use and had crossed the Kingston/Edmonds ferry to go back to Port Angeles.  I was reading to the kids when the call came in.  “This is the Seattle Police Department calling for Eleanor Leonard to say that we have located your car.”  There was sort of this panicked, excited silence that occurred for a moment.  I didn’t know what to do because I didn’t know whether I was really happy or walking into something that could potentially be even more devastating. 

“Joey, they found the car.”  Who knows what my voice sounded like?  Joey jumped up and said, “What?!”  So then there was a mad scramble to figure out how to get to the car.  We had to either find someone to watch the kids so that we could both go down in the pickup, or find someone to drive Joey down there.  We called every single person we could think of, and everyone was either sick, at work, or not picking up their phone.  Finally we got ahold of Dan Dial who drove Joey down to Capitol Hill where our car was parked. 

I stayed home with the kids, waiting for a phone call.  I was reading to them but I can’t think what we were reading.  My mind was a total blank.  Finally Joey gave me a call and it went something like this:

“I’m at the car and it doesn’t look damaged.  But it’s totally full of crap--electronics and stuff.”

I told him to give the police a call because we weren’t supposed to touch anything that wasn’t ours in the car--that’s what our insurance agent had told us.  So Joey called and an officer from the East Precinct was sent over.  In the meantime, a woman came out of the apartment building next to where the car was parked and said, “What are you doing with that car?”  Joey told her that it was his and had been stolen.  Her response was something like, “Really?  I thought that was my boyfriend’s car; he’s been driving it around.”  Some people have all the brains.  But I digress.

When the police officer arrived, Joey showed him everything in our car.  It was filled to the ceiling with bags, tools, dog beds, whatever.  He told the officer about the woman and where she lived, and that it was her boyfriend who had our car.  The officer sounded tired and said something to the effect of, “If I don’t see the guy behind the wheel, I can’t charge him with a crime.”  He told Joey that it was his (Joey’s) responsibility to get rid of the stuff.  Sounded odd, but we figured he knew what he was talking about.

Joey brought the car home, and thankfully it runs great.  Nothing was stripped, the ignition isn’t messed up, only the Power Motors sticker was unsuccessfully tampered with.  Good old Power Motors.  But when I started to pull things out of the car, I was amazed at what I found.  There were piles of personal information, including tax forms with social security numbers, credit cards, licenses, bank statements, insurance information, health cards, disabled veterans IDs, handicapped placards, hospital security badges, phone bills, anything you could think of.  Then I found about 15 backpacks full of textbooks, tests, registration information, you name it.  There were bags and bags of clothing, including fur high heels, lots of pumps, letterman’s jackets, bomber jackets, leather gloves, jeans, and even underwear.  There were purses and wallets.  There were a million brand new tools, tool belts, an ax, screwdrivers, a blow torch (apparently different than a flame thrower--who knew?), several switchblades, flashlights, many garage door openers, several key rings with probably over 100 keys, and many tools I don’t know the name for.  There were electronics, including a big screen TV (tube, not flat), a VCR, a DVD player, phones, phone accessories, cords, jacks, speakers, faceplates, etc.  There was a dog bed, glitzy bras, and plenty of drugs and paraphernalia.  I found a new role of aluminum foil, and several used pieces that had apparently been used for smoking either heroin or meth in our car (super).  There was white powder up by the gear shift, small empty baggies, bottles of marijuana, used and unused joints in the door handles, and crack pipes. 

We got the car cleaned out, put everything in the dumpster, and bought brand new car seats (they threw away anything baby related--books, seats, Max’s mirror, toys--because apparently it might make them look suspicious while they smoked their heroin).  But after everything was said and done, we still felt like the whole situation was messed up.  With this much evidence (one city dumpster that was spilling over), why couldn’t they catch this guy?  I started calling people from the identifying information and telling them to check their bank accounts and credit history, and they were all grateful.  One man, whose tax information I had, said that his house had actually been broken into a couple months ago and his identity had been stolen.  I called hospitals and everyone I could who had a missing badge and told them I had it.  But why was it our responsibility to do all this?  It seemed really fishy.  And weren’t we being a target for the same people to come back and get their stuff, and possibly our car again, too?  I felt really unsafe.

So we decided to call the police up again and talk to them about the situation.  They sent an officer over from the North Precinct who came in and asked us a bunch of questions.  We showed him some of the stolen items, the identifying information, etc., and his jaw dropped.  He couldn’t believe that we were told to deal with this ourselves, that the woman was never questioned, and that the police officer just left.  He told us it was a major violation.  Then he called his supervisor over to the house (now 11:00pm) and they discussed it in detail.  We started digging through the trash to put together the strips of people’s information that I had shredded.  Then they brought over a police van and we dug through the dumpster and pulled out every piece of evidence. 

After this was all said and done, they said that there would be a major investigation into the original police officer’s conduct.  He apparently was not doing his job today.  He should have gathered the evidence, interviewed the woman, and then gone inside the building to find the suspect.  Instead he said it was out of his hands because the crime wasn’t being committed in front of him.  So he sent us on our way to clean up drugs, stolen items, and people’s personal information. 

So the result of all this is that there may be a lot of happy people.  There have been many reports of stolen items, identities being stolen, stolen cars, and break-ins, and because this criminal was dumb enough to leave everything he owned in our car and park it out front of his own apartment, he’s most likely going to get charged with many crimes.  This will link together a lot of unsolved cases, which the police officers seemed pretty pleased about. 

So we have our happy ending after all, though we’re still a little shaken.  We need to scrub the car with soap and water on the inside before we’ll feel comfortable about what went on in there, but it will be our car once again after a few days.  Our kids are safe, our family is safe, we have our car back, and a criminal will probably be going to jail.  Not bad.


Thanks to all our friends and family who stepped up to help us these past few days.  We couldn’t have done this without you!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Dear car thief: I don't hate you

January 21, 2014

Dear Car Thief,

Sometime early yesterday morning you stole our car from our home in Northgate.  It wasn’t a new car, it wasn’t an amazing car, but it was our car.  It was almost 10 years old, but for us it was really nice and it had four brand new tires.  Before you took it, did you notice the two car seats in the back--one for an infant, and one for a toddler?  Yes, those are our kids.  Did you see their books?  Did you see their toys?  Did you see the little animal pads that went around their seatbelts to keep their necks safe and free from scratches?  We’re really careful with our kids because we love them.

When you broke into the driver’s side door, did you notice the Grocery Union sticker in the window?  Did that make you think that maybe we aren’t rich and that someone in our family works really hard to support us?  Did you see the Safeway hat inside on the floor, the empty muffin wrapper, the bottle of Ibuprofen in the glove box?  Did that make you think about how hard the person who drives our car works?

Did you notice (you probably didn’t) the Power Motors sticker on the back of the car?  Did you know that was our grandpa and great-grandpa’s car dealership that was in our family for generations?  Did you know that our family, our cousins, our uncles and aunts, our parents, all grew up running around the “garage,” playing around the cars, getting dirty, and learning how to change the oil?  Did you know this was the last car from that dealership to be in our family before it closed?  No, you probably didn’t know that.  That sticker was important.

Maybe you think you’ve hurt us.  Probably not--I’m sure you don’t think much about it at all.  I don’t even know if you’re still in our car or if you’ve dumped it somewhere.  But you haven’t hurt us.  Shook us up, yes.  But we’re stronger than that.  A car is just a car, and we are a family.  We have food in our bellies, a roof over our heads, and warm beds to sleep in at night.  I hope you have the same, though I wonder.  We’ll get another car; that’s why we pay car insurance every month--something we struggle to cover.

Ironically we had just ordered an iPod transmitter for our car because our last system got stolen a couple weeks ago.  Was that you, too? 

I was so angry with you.  We were exhausted because the kids are sick, my husband couldn’t get to work, it was 5:30am.  But I was angry because you scared our little girl.  She’s 2 and she told me she was worried about the “bad man who takes our car.”  But maybe you’re a female; I don’t know.  But I thought, How dare you scare our children?  How dare you make them feel afraid and sad?  What right do you have to mess with little children’s feelings?  But you know what?  We will heal, and our little girl prayed for you last night, that you would change and become “good not bad anymore.”

The bottom line is, I don’t hate you.  I don’t know if we’ll ever see our car again.  If we don’t, we’ll make it work.  There are other cars, and we have a family that loves us and is helping us in the meantime.  We have friends who love us and have offered us whatever we need until we can get this mess straightened out.  And maybe we will get our car back.  But will it be “our” car anymore?  Or will it smell like smoke, or drugs, or whatever went on inside it?  Will we ever feel comfortable putting our kids back in the car seats (if they come back, too), knowing that anything could have gone on in our car?  Did you have more people in our car?  Did you commit more crimes in our car?  Did other people like you see our kids’ seats, their books, their toys?  I’m not going to lie, that really creeps me out. 

But, no, I don’t hate you.  I’m making the choice to love you instead.  I’m angry with you, but I’ve been angry before and it will pass.  I feel sorry for you because your life has to be pretty bad if this is what you choose to do with it.  I don’t know if you’re addicted to drugs, I don’t know if you’re homeless and just need the money, I don’t know what your situation is, but I’m guessing that our life is probably a lot safer, cozier, and happier, and so for that I’m sorry for you.  I don’t want anybody to have grown up in a house where they’re taught to commit crimes to survive.  I hope you had a good childhood, but I’m guessing it wasn’t the best. 

So here’s what you can do today.  Change.  If you have kids, change for them.  Your kids are going to be the adults that live in the world with my kids--either stealing their cars, or curing their illnesses, teaching their kids, building their houses, whatever.  You have the opportunity to make this stop.  You’re a person who’s made mistakes, just like me, just like everyone.  Maybe your mistakes are a little more obvious, but no worse than anything else that people do behind closed doors.  Take today to change your life and become who you were meant to be. 

I don’t know if you believe in God, but I do.  He’s pretty awesome and He loves you, no matter what you do.  But I imagine He’s pretty upset with the choices you’ve made, just as any good parent would be.  So change.  Change for yourself, change for your kids, change for your family, change for your future.  You can have a cozy home, a safe family, friends who love you and want the best for you; it’s up to you.  If I knew you, I’d say “Here’s the door, come in, have supper with us.”  But again, it’s up to you.  Do you love the life you have now?  Is it what you wanted when you were five and you had dreams about your future?  If not, it’s not too late. 

So we love you and forgive you.  Now it’s time to step up.  You were meant for something better.  I wish you all the best.

Sincerely,

Ellie Leonard

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Grand McPhee

One night, she wild and stormy be
He docked his ship, the “Grand McPhee”
And went ashore for brew and song
To sing and drink and dance along.
But old and slow he stopped for air
And in the light he saw her there
Dancing tip toed round and round.
Bowing softly to the ground,
He caught her eye, its ocean blue.
His heart so stopped and this he knew:
My love, a dancer she must be
One day, we’ll sail the Grand McPhee.
Not fear nor worry shook his stand,
He waltzed inside and asked her hand.
She looked into his grizzled face,
“No,” said she, to his disgrace.
“Many suitors spar for me
“I want no life upon the sea.
“One is rich with land and gold
“His worth is more than fish you’ve sold.
“One is strong with arms so wide
"He carries logs brought in by tide.
“One is young and fair of face
“He brings me gifts of Queen Anne’s Lace.
“But you, old man, pocket of sieve,
“You, for me, have naught to give.”
And as the storm had ceased to be
He blinked a tear, and back to sea.
As Spring, she sprung, the suitors came
And called out loudly, all the same:
“Dancer, will you marry me?
“Just think how lucky you will be!
“The envy of each and every lass,
“I am the best, all others pass.”
So came the young and fair of face
In truth, he brought his Queen Anne’s Lace.
But “No,” she said, “It cannot be.
“Not face nor flowers can protect me”
And as he left, in came the brawn
With muscles large and musk of fawn.
“Beauty be damned! That man is all wrong!
“You must marry me, I am giant and strong!”
Said she, “Yes, you’re strong and protection is good,
“But your muscles and grandeur cannot buy me food.”
As he left with a grumble, a coach came along
Filled with satchels of money, suitor, and song.
“Dancer, I’m wealthy, with land and gold, to boot!”
“Marry me, for I am best.  In truth, I am a hoot!”
But sadly still she shook her head
For “money can’t buy love,” she said.
And in the night she stood alone
Without a suitor or marriage sewn.
As clouds rolled in from off the sea
She danced once more and thought of He.
The lightning struck and thunder shook.
He, once again, put down his hook.
There she twirled and dipped and spun
But he still, for her, fine gifts had none.
Brave as before, he again took her hand,
His weathered old palms, rubbed smooth by the sand.
“Not rich?” she asked, and “No,” said he.
“My riches lie within the sea.”
“Not strong?” asked she, hand on her hip.
“The strength I need to steer my ship.”
“I see you’ve aged, I count the lines.”
“In my shadow, your beauty shines.”
Softened by his simple quips,
She placed a kiss upon his lips.
Peaceful as he left for sea
He called out from the Grand McPhee:
“I’ll marry you when next we meet
“With wine and song and fish to eat.
“We’ll dance and sail into the sun
“And laugh and sing ‘til day is done.”
Storm clouds caused the skies to dim
Angry waves swelled and swallowed him,
Never to return to his dancing sweet
Where first they met upon the street.
She gazed out from the cliffs in fear,
Blinded by a single tear.
She threw herself into the sea,
And was buried with the Grand McPhee.

Birthday

I’ve known you for so long
I’ve never met you.
You sway and roll as I sing
But you’ll never let me sleep.
I wake, you sleep
I sleep, you wake
And now the pain begins.
Midwife Mary strokes my hair
A trance takes me far from home,
Warm water bathes my moans
And I writhe and sway a working rhythm.
My tongue is parched, I ask for juice
At home in my bed, a familiar smell,
Quilt sewn with loving hands of old
Wraps me in familiarity.
He paces, worried, wanting to take
The pain and labor upon himself.
But a mother’s work is deep within
And the rhythm floats on in colors.
Soft music plays
Or rock and roll,
Whatever helps me push the plow
Of labor pains in which I am drowning.
But Mary pulls me back again.
She brings my focus on the happiness
The pictures, the music, the pressure from my back.
And looking straight into my soul
“Now push” she says and I comply.
It’s easy, it feels better, I can.
The hours pass, but I don’t know
Through sweat and blood the world has gone.
My tank on empty, “I can’t” I cry
But Mary says I can.
A smile, encouraging
Again, she says to push.
Mother holds my hand,
He holds your head,
And frightened, pulls you into the world.
And all is gone except your face
A love ignited more than all.
My baby here within the circle of my grasp
On this your first day of life.

Homeschool Manifesto


My mother chose to homeschool me, with Dad as her support.  He taught 10th grade biology at the local high school, but still felt I’d be better off at home.  A lot of stigma goes along with homeschooling.  Everywhere you look, a “homeschool kid” is perceived to look, talk, and act a certain way.  You know the type: long hair, long skirt, bad at sports, doomed to be a cat-lady.  Well, I’ve never been much of a cat person, and prefer dogs, myself. 
With a degree in English, Mom favored reading and writing above all else.  By eleven years-old I had flipped through the Great Books, all of Shakespeare’s plays, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens (who I utterly detest), Louisa May Alcott, and most other classic authors.  When I could find a place to hide, I also had a stash of Larry McMurtry novels, and plenty other “grown-up” books from which I learned most of how the human body works.  Mom also taught me history and languages, while Dad filled in with science and math.  I took things at my own pace, and soon found myself ahead of my friends.  When the student-to-teacher ratio is 1:1, it’s pretty hard to get behind.
My hair might have been somewhat long, but certainly not long enough to sit on, and it wasn’t “big” in front as you might assume.  I didn’t own a single denim skirt, and mainly ran around in jeans and t-shirts.  I was well aware of the fads—what was in, what wasn’t—and I begged for designer clothes just the same as any other kid.  And that one name-brand shirt I got for Christmas, I wore to shreds—desperately trying to keep up with the Joneses.  If you saw me in the grocery store, I certainly didn’t fit that “homeschool mold.”  I didn’t wear tie-dye, I didn’t pull my socks up over my leggings, and I knew the importance of deodorant.  To see me, I could be anybody, and at eleven years-old that was really important.  As puberty creeps up, no one wants to stick out.
A homeschooler is often classified as a kid with two left feet that shuns sports or physical activity.  After all, schooling at home impedes the ability to grow muscles, play team sports, and run without tripping on your shoelaces.  But I loved sports.  As the only girl in town to play in a boys-only baseball league, I had a lot of pride as well as a lot to prove.  My team might as well have been the “Bad News Bears.”  We were the team that had all the kids that didn’t make it through try-outs, and had to provide our own uniforms (namely sweatpants) and gear.  My dad coached us every day in rain or shine until we won a couple games here and there.  I’m not afraid to say that I was the best on the team, because I wanted it more than anyone else.  I had to work harder to achieve the respect they earned just by showing up.  I sat behind home plate and caught ball after ball, but I never could seem to see through the rusty old mask.  Each year I tried out for our town’s “major league,” but it didn’t really matter because I knew they wouldn’t let me through. 
As a homeschooler, I might have been doomed to play the clarinet in the local concert band, but that wasn’t for me.  Sure, I followed the homeschool crowd and took up the piano, but in the sixth grade I begged my dad to let me play the drums.  Being raised for so long in a conservative home, I was ready to rock out.  Dad bought me a pair of sticks and a drum pad, and in the fall I signed up for band at the local middle school.  Every day I walked in with my Beatles t-shirt (one of many) and played “Mission Impossible,” “Copa Cabana,” “Mr. Sandman,” etc.  Playing the drums made me feel almost “cool,” though being homeschooled set me apart.  But playing the drums also taught me something much more important than the music, itself.  It taught me that boys, and more importantly hormones, were all around me.
As much as I tried to deny it growing up, I was falling in love with boys.  Lots of boys.  Any boys.  It’s a heartbreaking, exhilarating time of life, and horribly confusing.  I started going to band for the music—the “street cred,” if you will—and continued going for that sweaty, heart-stopping moment when the boy of my dreams said “hey.”  Each day he patted my back, or poked me, or told me a joke, and I nearly died.  Certainly he had several girlfriends, but I figured we had plenty of time to sort all that out before we got married.  And though he was my “one and only,” I still found the need to drool over a few teen magazines before bed each night and hang posters on every square inch of my walls. Beautiful teenage boys surrounded me at all times, and I don’t really remember much because I think my brain stopped working at some point and started back up a few years later.
The biggest stigma that goes along with being homeschooled is that of social introversion.  As a homeschooler, it was assumed that I had no friends, lived in the woods with my twelve brothers and sisters, and stitched doilies all day.  I have one sister, and there is one apple tree in our back yard, but that’s it.  Growing up, I had plenty of friends for sleepovers, birthday parties, group date nights, and the occasional “par-tay.”  After school I went to ballet class with all of my friends, and danced until dark.  I danced because I loved dancing.  I wanted to be the very best and go on to bigger and better things, but dancing played a small role in why I took ballet.  Class didn’t start until 5:30, but we all showed up at about 3:30 to talk about boys, school, movies, make-up, who had started “Aunt Flow,” who kissed whom, and on and on.  We wore our leotards and tights proudly to the grocery store around the corner, where we bought take-out Chinese food, bacon burgers, and french fries.  Then, until class, we’d do cartwheels on the front lawn, whistle at the firemen from down the block, and live in our made-up world of just how fabulous we were.  On any given day, one girl would be your best friend, and the next she was your enemy.  Generally this depended on who dated whom, who wore what, who got the solo, who’s parents let them watch the latest rated-R zombie flick, who got their bellybutton pierced, and most importantly: bra size.  But these girls, loved or hated, were my friends and, like a flock of geese, we went everywhere together, loudly.  
Some of the important things about homeschooling are that you discover the world outside of books.  I could read Lewis and Clark’s journals about their travels to find the Northwest Passage, but words on a page hold only so much meaning.  As a homeschooler, I could jump in the car and actually go see the things about which I read.  I read Washington State History, and then I saw Washington State History.  I read about the Kings of Scotland and then I actually visited their castles and was able to see where great battles took place.  I didn’t read science so much as I got out and saw it.  I potted plants at the National Park Service and learned about herbs and noxious weeds.  I stood on the beaches of La Push and peered out at the gray whales feeding offshore.  I had jars of tadpole eggs that I monitored each day and recorded any changes in my little notebook.  During my health unit, I actually met with a local midwife and flipped through her photo albums as she told me amazing stories of the births she had attended.  I attended arts festivals, wooden boat festivals, tulip festivals, and holiday festivals, all while my friends sat behind their desks.
I wrote about everything I saw as a homeschooler.  Each Friday, I had an essay due on any given topic.  Sometimes this might be on Hamlet and the symbolism of “Poor Yorick,” or other times it could be a short story based on history.  The over-arching theme of each year changed, too, from the Pioneers to the Renaissance period, to Ancient Rome.  This meant that although I still kept up with all the normal subjects, all of my projects, art, writing, and field trips would be based on the theme of the year.  During the Renaissance period, I had to learn to oil paint, re-create frescos, and study all the patrons of writing and art, while memorizing monologues from Shakespeare.  In order to learn more, my family took a trip to Ashland, Oregon to attend the Shakespeare Festival. 
Out of all the subjects I studied, I loved languages the best.  To clarify:  I loved French.  However, Mom said that in order to be a true scholar, one must know Latin.  To me—and the rest of the world—Latin is a dead language.  No one is even sure of how to pronounce the words.  But Mom tried her best.  We had Latin class every week with other homeschooled kids, and studied translations out of “Ecce Romani” and the Cambridge Latin course.  We kids couldn’t stand Latin, but that didn’t matter to “the mothers.”  We were forced to join the “Junior Classical League,” which meant attending conventions with other school-aged kids from all over the Northwest.  Some parts of the Latin convention were okay, I guess.  There was a gladiator battle, and a game show called “Certamen.”  But we didn’t really stand a chance in either of these arenas.  Our “school” had five students—everyone else seemed to have about sixty or so.  But every year Mom would drive us to the JCL to compete.  I have to say, there were plenty of greasy, hygienically-challenged nerds that attended, but they went to public school.  We were still fighting to be “normal.” 
In high school, I dated boys, went to proms, and even ended up with a royalty crown.  I worked for the radio, hung out with friends, went to concerts, and sang in the school choir. 
In a nutshell: I was a homeschooler.  At home I studied French, Latin, penmanship, classic literature, Saxon math, hands-on science, English, ancient history, Modern American history, European history, piano, drums, writing, and speeches.  I participated in baseball, ballet, soccer, Girl Scouts, Key Club, Light Opera, and Community Theater.  I published two poems and I achieved high scores on my placement tests.  The school board presented me with a cake that said “Congratulations National Merit Commended Scholar.”  I had boyfriends and was “dumped.”  And some I dumped myself.  I made good choices and a few bad choices.  I applied for colleges and traveled the world.  And while my friends sat behind their desks—waiting for roll call, waiting for their papers to be passed back, waiting for the last person in class to finish—I was reading, and learning to cook, and going out for a run. 
I don’t pretend to know why homeschooling has a bad reputation.  I am a product of homeschool.  I’m not damaged, closed minded, molested, fundamentalist, or the least bit crazy.  I am not a stereotype, label, or stigma.  I write, I read, I enjoy my friends, my family, my husband, my daughter.  I have goals and I will meet them.  And I still love sports. 

It is you who have a problem with me
As a homeschooler, I don’t have a problem with myself.

I am a homeschooler.