Snow Moon….

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

-Joni Mitchell “Circle Game”

For such a short month, we sure manage to pack a lot into February.

Last week, Lola the neighbor lab and her small humans returned the suet she’d “borrowed” so the birds are back to feasting with a renewed sense of purpose. Dozens of sturdy little birds the color of tree bark with rose-colored foreheads and chests have spent many afternoons visiting my tree and the dead brown thistles and yarrow up on the hill.  They bully my demure chickadees and push them out of the way instead of taking turns. As I thanked Lola’s children and reassured them that I wasn’t the type to hold a grudge,  she eyed my frozen yard gnome next to the front door, no doubt plotting her next heist.  I’ve accepted the fact that Lola thinks she lives on a commune with me.  She doesn’t “get” boundaries.  I guess that this is the best kind of dog to be if one happens to be a dog.

The full Snow Moon illuminated the woods for several night earlier this month, painting the landscape baby blue and casting long shadows. Springtime and cabin time seems a lifetime away in February.  I think about all the projects that I hope to accomplish once the snow melts, adding items to the endless To Do list that runs through my head when I can’t sleep.  I’m hoping that this will be the summer that I finally spend more time up there not only working, but playing. We’ll see.

We spent last weekend with old friends who have a cabin in the woods near Hayward.  On Saturday, the man I live with skied his twenty-second Birkie while the man she lives with participated in the peaceful,  more solitary sport of catching crappies.  Meanwhile, my dear friend and I visited over long cups of good, strong coffee and talked. About our kids, mainly.  They adopted their wee, dark-haired daughter a couple of years after both of ours joined our family and let me tell you, for couples who wait, adoption is super glue. The shared memories of those sweet babies with the plump starfish hands that we waited to mother bind us together. When we are together, the years fall away like snow because we remember it all.   How good to have people in life with whom it is possible to be real and raw, honest and true.  Friends who say,  I remember, and I get it.  All of it.  I get you.  Me too, friend.  Me, too.

Life is a circle, like a dreamcatcher or a moon.  And February may be cold,  but today I am warm.







Bathtubs in the yard….

“We’re all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness—and call it love—true love.”
Robert Fulghum, True Love


It is February, a mostly gray month dedicated to love.  For some reason, I have been thinking about those yucky, pastel “conversation hearts” candies in the flat, red boxes we used to get from our friends in elementary school on Valentine’s Day.   Remember those chalky wintergreen candies?   There is nothing like a pink candy heart with hubba hubba! printed on it to initiate the gag reflex in anyone over age ten, right?

My grandfather never let the holiday go by without presenting all seven of his grandchildren small heart-shaped boxes of Russell Stover chocolates purchased at the Drug Store. He was diabetic for most of his life, and I think he lived vicariously through us every February 14th as he watched us open our shiny foil hearts full of chocolate and get busy.  He has been gone a long time, but I still miss him and think of him a lot around Valentine’s Day. He was my biggest fan and my very first Valentine.

I have been married for a really long time.  He continues to be the “half full” to my “half empty” when I find the world too complicated and gray.  We find the humor in the Jared jewelry  and tandem bathtub ads on TV and dream up new ways to embarrass our grown children.   Sometimes, we eat Sunday night dinner in front of the TV and watch “60 Minutes” together the way we did when we were newlyweds in the years before we felt morally obligated to teach two children table manners. We both try hard not to be impossible to live with and the life we share is comfortable and mostly sane.  In this cold world, we keep each other warm.  We share the same history and the same children and a past full of memories that span the fifty shades between just plain awful and fabulous that couples who’ve been married a long time do.  We’ve attended a lot of marriages that started with a bang and the tinkling of glasses and hope. We’ve seen a lot of marriages end in the whimpering, drawn out way that love between good people usually does, too.

So here’s what I know.  Nobody will ever write a smarmy love song about us or ask us to star in any commercials that include bathtubs or sunsets.  But our system, whatever it is, works. Why would we mess with it now?

Especially in the grayness of February.

A million tiny pieces….

The bright blue dumpster filled to overflowing with empty cardboard boxes was the size of a semi-trailer.   It was just one dumpster behind one brick apartment complex in one Twin Cities suburb full of thousands of students attending colleges in the area.  The sight of so many empty microwave, computer, and television boxes made this mom of a college student feel more than a little sick to her stomach.  So much stuff, I muttered to nobody in particular, as I tossed another empty carton to the top of the heap. The units in the complex were specifically designed with single twenty-somethings in mind. It, like so many other buildings for college students these days,  offered amenities like computer labs, a movie theater, and a fitness center complete with giant flat-screen T.V.s.   The fact that the building was only at about half occupancy just one week before the beginning of fall semester is important to the story and so is the blue dumpster behind it.

She lived there just one academic year and graduated the following spring. At this point in the story, it is fair to say that she, like so many of her classmates, has lived a pretty well-loved life.  She’d be the first one to admit it.  She is part of the first generation of people who grew up believing that everybody on the team gets a medal. For Heaven’s sake, why wouldn’t they?  Their coaches and parents were handing them out left and right from the time they started kindergarten.   Their entire childhood was one big Oprah Give-Away episode…

YOU get a medal!  And YOU get a medal!!!  And YOU get a medal!!!!!!!

But anyway, back to the dumpster. Well.. almost.

She is a teacher now, and many of our conversations inevitably lead to what she’s learning herself. We talk a lot about the disparities that exist in many districts between the children who come to school well-fed and well-rested  and those who just don’t.  Earlier this winter, during a particularly cold week, we talked about why some schools close while others don’t and how school closings impact those in urban areas where homelessness is a harsh reality for too many children who spend their daylight hours in school and their nights in homeless shelters.  And that’s if they’re lucky.

This is tough stuff.  Tough. Stuff.  I’m hoping that the harsh realities she and her friends who chose teaching face don’t extinguish the enthusiasm they feel right now about my profession, and  I hope they get the support they need to serve all of their students. Not just the ones who come to school with a full stomach and a bedroom at home filled with stuff, but also the ones who can only dream about such luxuries.  I  know from experience that teaching will break your heart into a million tiny pieces if you let it.

I don’t have the answers, and don’t pretend to know how to fix a problem like homelessness.  But I keep thinking about that blue dumpster.

And what it says about us all.

For more information on the issue of homelessness in Minnesota, please visit: