Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Notes

Today I received a thank-you note in response to a note I sent. (Insert giggle here, because that's super-Minnesotan, right?) I do want to let you in on a little secret, though: I write notes to people often, and I encourage you to do that, too.

I guess there's kind of a theme with recent posts-- people want to feel noticed, appreciated, cherished. So, if you notice, appreciate and cherish someone, you should say so. I am not sure how it started, and I am sure I could be more consistent. But, I will tell you what I do, and maybe it will make you think of something you would like to try.

At the start of each week, I spend an hour in quiet prayer. Often, I just sit there. I try to be still and open. I have a prayer journal with sections for "body," "mind," "heart," and "soul," where I write down prayer requests from other people and also ideas I get just from sitting quietly. During this time, individuals also come to mind. Sometimes, it's obvious, like someone has been sick or I noticed someone looking distressed or there's a birthday or anniversary on the calendar. Sometimes, a friend or family member comes to mind, and I don't know why.

I keep blank notecards and just jot a few lines telling that person I am thinking of him or her, congratulating on a job well done, wishing the person well in a new endeavor, or whatever. Then, I drop it in the mail. I also send emails and texts, but there's something special about a letter, especially still today. Try it. This will make you feel good, too.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Down Syndrome Awareness Day


Today is March 21 (3-21) World Down Syndrome Day, also called Down Syndrome Awareness Day and other variations on a theme.  Today is also my niece Rosalind's birthday, but, she does not have Down syndrome, and, so, even though Lindy is amazing, this post is not about her.  But, it is about Lindy, because it is about all of us.  It may seem odd that I would be writing about Down syndrome-- indeed, I feel a bit silly if I think about it too much-- because I do not have Down syndrome; none of my children has Down syndrome; none of my siblings has Down syndrome; I am not a doctor or a teacher or a therapist or any kind of professional who regularly works with people who have Down syndrome.  What I am is a human being who cares about other human beings, and who knows without doubt that we are all here to help one another, to recognize each other's gifts, to love.

Here, first, just watch this.  And, you probably already know what Down syndrome (or Trisomy 21) is, but, just in case, here's a good resource.

Down syndrome has been on my heart for many years, as something to acknowledge, to explore, to respect, to celebrate.  I don't know that I can really explain why, but, the older I get, the fewer whys I can explain.  When I was growing up, I knew exactly one person who had Down syndrome.  Guy went to our church and he worked at a local store.  He was friendly and helpful and he smiled a lot.  He was overweight and he wore metal-rimmed glasses.  Everyone knew Guy.  That's as much as I could tell you.  As an adult, I know many people who have Down syndrome.  I can think of a half-dozen families in our small-town church community who have children with Down syndrome.  (Whenever possible, I try to choose a pew behind one of these families, because I enjoy sneaking extra smiles while I get my Jesus.)  That doesn't mean I know anything about what it's like to have Down syndrome, or to raise someone who has Down syndrome.  I don't, and I don't pretend that I do.  Again, I think the best course of action is to be open and appreciative, and to let the experts speak for themselves:

Here are some things people with Down syndrome are tired of hearing.

This is why people with Down syndrome dislike the label "special needs."

I have read the statistics that approximately 90 percent of babies diagnosed in utero as having Down syndrome are aborted.  I have also read the declaration by officials in Iceland that the country has eradicated Down syndrome (again, by not permitting anyone with Down syndrome to be born.)  I am reminded of the quote by Blessed Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, "It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish."  And, really, how is it that someone wishes to live that would be hindered or harmed by having a child with Down syndrome?

I had something of a revelation recently on this front, and it comes from one of my favorite musicals "Violet."  The libretto makes no mention of Down syndrome, but holds true for that as for anyone who for any reason feels set apart.  "Violet" is a different kind of a show, with no set changes and minimal costumes, set to a bluegrass-gospel score.  In "Violet," the main character (who shares the work's name) is a young woman whose face is disfigured in a childhood accident.  So, after years of feeling downtrodden and "less than," she sets off on a bus trip across the South to meet a television evangelist to be healed.  A lot of things happen, including plenty of people warning her that the preacher is bunk, but, when Violet meets him and shares her woes of life with this garish scar, the preacher basically tells her: You don't need me.  Your wound has healed.  Yes, the scar is what's left, but you need to find a way to make peace with that.  You're already healed.

That is my hope and my prayer on this Down Syndrome Awareness Day and every day: May we recognize all people as equally perfect and precious.  May we not place limits on others, because doing so limits ourselves.  May we celebrate our differences and learn from one another.  May all people open their hearts to respect life from conception to natural death.  Amen.

Actual Ice-Out?

I hate to second-guess Mother Nature, but she sure has been fickle this year... We've had unnaturally warm days, followed by ridiculously cold days, and it's been confusing for everyone.  Well, according to the calendar, spring has sprung!  And, according to our shoreline, the ICE IS OUT!  I cannot be certain without official reports from the other sides of the lake, but that sheet shifted on out of here, and, at least for the purpose of Krinkeland record-keeping, I'm calling it!


Monday, March 20, 2017

The Burden and the Gift


After a long, full evening of church youth activities, she walked into the house looking just sort of defeated.  This was not a look I was accustomed to seeing on our generally upbeat, unflappable firstborn.  "How did it go tonight?" I asked.  "Horrible.  It was just awful," Amanda sighed.  "What do you mean?  What happened?" I inquired.  She went on to give me something of a rundown.

Lifted (the high school youth group event) had gone "fine, kind of boring" which was not an uncommon review for this girl.  Last summer, she took on a teen leadership role in the church, which came with an extensive application and training process and can be quite demanding of her time, energy and skills.  I was supportive of this (Dad, too, when he was around to discuss) because I feel strongly that anything or anyone that connects a teen to his/her faith life is a wonderful thing.  I experienced this in my own youth-- a dynamic youth director, spirit-filled gatherings with other young faithful, a compassionate pastor, the opportunity to shine in the church choir, a patient faith formation leader, the peace of perpetual Eucharistic adoration-- whatever leads a young person into a deeper relationship with God should be supported.

Amanda's frustration came from the meeting that happened before the youth group gathering.  The teen leaders are working on their annual Lenten drama, a living stations of the cross presentation, and Amanda is the director.  According to the daughter, this is a role she did not seek out but was instead appointed.  She is a strong young woman of broad and considerable talent, so I can see how this would happen.  Yet, she is also a freshman, newly turned 15, and, thus, among the youngest in the group.

"Mom, they asked me to do this and so I'm doing it," Amanda said.  "I thought about it and I have some ideas, but it is a disaster.  They wouldn't listen to me.  They shot down my ideas.  They kept saying, 'That's not the way we did it last year.' Mom, they WERE EATING CHIPS ON STAGE."

(I'll pause a moment to let that sink in... because she did.)

I let my daughter vent.  I am working on my listening skills.  I know that most often all people need is to be HEARD.  When it comes to parenting, I am an idiot novice on many, many fronts, but I do hear my children.  (Their father would say I hear them too much, because then he later has to hear me go on and on about who's doing or not doing what and what we should learn from that and how we should act...)

Amanda's frustration spilled over onto her cheeks.  "I don't even know why I'm crying," she swiped at her eyes with the backs of her hands.  "It's not like it's that big of a deal."  I nodded, and patted, and patted, and nodded.

"Darling," I said, "I am going to tell you something that might be of use in this kind of situation.  Then, again, it might not, but it's what I have:

"When I first had you, when I was a new mom, it felt as though I was constantly receiving unsolicited, conflicting, annoying advice on how to parent you.  I would take you out, and a stranger would comment, 'You should put a hat on that baby-- she's going to catch a cold,' and, then, the next stranger would chime in, 'Take that hat off that baby-- she's going to overheat.'  It really bugged me when the advice came from people close to me.  I understood they were trying to help, but it felt like such unwarranted criticism. 'Have you tried putting her over your knee to burp her?' 'I never liked those one-piece outfits with snaps.' 'Shouldn't she be on solid food by now?' 'Let her cry it out.' 'When are you going to take that baby to a chiropractor?' 'Are you sure it's safe for the dog to be around your baby?' 

"Exhaustion and hormones were surely factors, but I just felt as though I was under attack.  Daddy didn't want to hear about it.  Nothing bothers Daddy.  'Just ignore them,' he would shrug.  But I couldn't.

"Finally, I had an epiphany.  I am not sure how it came about, but it has helped me parent all of you and it has helped me to be at once more open to others' opinions and more confident in my own abilities.  In any situation where there was a potential for criticism or conflicting views, I would ask the other person, 'What would you do in this situation?'  At least as it applied to parenting, the result was always one of two outcomes: (a) the person would offer a solution I had not considered that could actually solve the problem or (b) I would discover the other person really didn't know any more than I did.  Either way, I felt better."

We sat some more.

"Thanks, Mom, I think," Amanda said.  I replied, "Yes, Dear, I know that is not at all a solution and does not make you feel better, but I do think it will help you to find your common ground.  I have faith you are all in the same boat and will find a way to work together toward the goal."

She sighed, got up, and lumbered toward the doorway, ready to shower and then sit with her thoughts.  "Oh, Amanda," I stopped her, "One more thing: All leaders face opposition.  Brace yourself, embrace others, and find a way to cope and accomplish.  This is your burden and your gift."




Monday, March 13, 2017

Don't Panic


I accompanied Amanda and a couple of her friends to the Panic at the Disco concert last night at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. The concert tickets were a Christmas gift. My attendance was not part of the plan, but, after Dad got called away on business and our backup plan Uncle Ted got sick, the chaperone-chauffeur job fell to me. This kind of activity is generally not my cup of tea, because it includes many of the things I dislike: crowds, painfully loud noise, staying up late. And another incredibly troublesome factor: driving in a snowstorm. But, what can you do?


Apart from the horrendous driving conditions, it turned out to be a very enjoyable night. Yes, the girls loved the concert... and I did, also. I also loved listening to them talk about their experiences thus far in high school and the similar  and diverging paths they are taking. Plus, there was the music. I've been thinking, through my exhausted haze, about the shared experience of music.


Amanda really enjoys concerts, musicals, live performance art, in general. She has, on a number of occasions, received event tickets as gifts. We always set the budget and offer: Would you like two tickets of prime seating, close to the stage or would you rather sit further back or higher up and bring more people. Amanda always chooses more, lower-quality (-price) seats. Now, I cannot say I would make the same choice... but I understand why she chooses that.


There is an amazing, collective joy from sharing music with friends. A unique thrill comes from knowing you are seeing/hearing/feeling something that can never exactly be replicated. The friends will always have this memory. I feel lucky to have given it to them.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Taste Takes Time

Most mornings, I drive Amanda and Elisabeth to their respective schools. Sometimes, they have meetings or are seeking homework help. Most of the time, though, it's just because they are spoiled. (And also because I have long held the belief that nothing good happens on the school bus.) We use that brief time to double-check duties and to align schedules for the rest of the day. We usually listen to music. My music.

As the year progresses, however, the two are becoming more vocal about their dislike of my choices of tunes. Libby doesn't want to hear "Hamilton." Nobody wants me to sing. Now, they are attempting to veto all kinds of artists from my ride-to-school playlist, including:

Billy Joel
Prince
any Christian artist
Marvin Gaye
Harry Connick, Jr.
Eva Cassidy
James Taylor
Idina Mendel
Simon and Garfunkel
Air Supply
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
Darius Rucker
Poison

Come on. Am I demanding they quit reading Harry Potter for the umpteenth time? There's your bus stop, girls!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Philosophy

"I'm more like a donut. You know, the older you get, the more you have to learn, the more responsibilities you have, the more you have to be, you know, mature. But I'm not there yet. I'm only seven. And, so, I can tell my teacher who I work well with... but I'm more of a donut. Just sweet."


Friday, March 3, 2017

A New Year for Our Girl


Today, Amanda Noel is 15 years old, another milestone in this amazing, young life.  Our firstborn gives more love than she receives, teaches more than she learns, shares, laughs, forgives without measure.  The past year has been one of great change and growth for Amanda, much of it positive but certainly not all of it.  Amanda, Dad and I have just returned from a daughter-chosen Asian-food-and-movie birthday date night.  We feel blessed for every opportunity to share in her joy and bask in her beauty.  It's a great time to be our girl, and we know the coming year is going to be a glorious one!  Happy, happy birthday to the one who made me MOM.  You are the greatest GIFT.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Freshman Notes

Amanda had a choir concert tonight. One would think by March of freshman year, I would be used to the fact that she's in high school, but, nope. Here's one song, "Chariot":

https://youtu.be/dsmTEXScxMk

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Naming Rights

?!This is an honest-to-goodness conversation between the 13-year-old and me:

E: "Mom, tell me about the conversation you and Dad had when you told each other your middle names."
M: "Uh..."
E: "You know, like, how long had you known him?  Did you tell each other right away? What else were you discussing in that talk?"
M: "Ummm... I don't remember?"
E: "WHAT?! How can you NOT REMEMBER something like that?"
M: "Well, Honey, I mean, we do know each other's middle names... I'm just not sure when or how it happened.  It's not that important."
E: "NOT IMPORTANT?! I can't BELIEVE you! Don't you even LOVE each other?!"

Where did I go wrong?

Monday, February 27, 2017

X Marks the Way Out

When I took Benjamin for a haircut today, he asked to borrow my phone.  I spied over his shoulder as Ben Googled "cool 10 year old boy haircut."  Stifling a giggle, I asked my son whether he was going for a new look.  He proceeded to ask for a mohawk (NO) and a faux-hawk (also, NO) and then swiped through a series of ridiculously grown-up looks.  When I vetoed them all, Ben accused, "Mom, you are always trying to make me into a goody-two-shoes!"  I had some points in reply, including: (1) SO?! and (2) What do you mean by "try" and "make me into?"

We continued the discussion with the stylist and Benjamin left the salon looking perfectly adorable.  (I did not take a picture.)  While waiting, I came across this parenting article and drunk it in.  Now, this does not yet-- I hope-- apply to my goody-two-shoes 10-year-old, because he does not have a phone and does not have access to potentially compromising social situations-- but it sure did make me think about the two older girls.  I plan to instill such a policy immediately... and getting any grandparents and aunties and uncles in on it.  It takes a village and we love ours!


Saturday, February 25, 2017

CrossFitter

This girl competed in the the CrossFit Open competition 17.1 today, at our local box. She crushed it! I'm so proud when a kid puts herself out there... and it's so exciting to see her succeed!





Friday, February 17, 2017

Lion King Jr.


This was opening night for the SOAR Academy production of "The Lion King Jr." What fun! The kids loved being on stage with their cousins and performing for so many sweet family members and friends. I cannot wait to see what the rest of the weekend brings. You can see it, too... get tickets here: www.soararts.com.








Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Thin Ice

30s-40s this week. Weird winter. Told kids to stay off the ice. Didn't even chase the dog today. This is our lake:

http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2017/02/14/thin-ice-warnings/