Be Safe. Don’t Die.

img_1806Be Safe. Don’t Die.

I was half way out the door when I heard, “Be safe. Don’t die.” It was Crystel’s voice. I cringed. She was 12-years-old. I thought of turning around to tell her not to say that. That it would be ‘nicer’ to say, “I love you.”

I paused. She was sincere. I didn’t say anything.

Instead, I asked myself backing out of the driveway, “Why am I uncomfortable? That it’s true? That at any moment I could die, be in a car accident, be shot in an airport, or fall on the Minnesota ice?”

Be safe, don’t die, has all the realness one can ask for in an adieu. It means, “I want to see you again. It means, don’t leave me. It means, I want you to come home.”

Jody remembers that it was after Crystel saw the movie, “If I Stay,” that she started saying, “Be Safe, Don’t Die.”

img_1808It was as if she understood that death happens. That people could leave their home and their life could forever be altered.

In the movie, life changes in an instant for Mia after a car accident puts her in a coma. During an out-of-body experience, she must decide whether to wake up and live a life far different than she had imagined. The choice is hers if she can go on.

Crystel is 14 now. She’s still telling me and her other family members to be safe and not to die. I find this comforting. She wants me around. She doesn’t want me to disappear from her earth. “Be safe. Don’t die,” has all the fondness of an “I love you.”

Now, Jody and I also tell her, “Be safe. Don’t die.” Our way of telling her that we love her.

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Summer’s Over

Late August in Minnesota has a distinct feeling . . . and sound. By day, the cicadas are buzzing. At night, the crickets are a symphony. Sunrise is at 6:30 a.m., sunset is at 8:00 p.m., and I can feel the dark months coming, stealing the edges of each day.

For the kids, summer is already over. Each year I’m grateful I’m no longer a student or a teacher. For me, Labor Day is like New Year’s – a time to start a new habit and settle into a new pattern.

I miss the early mornings when the air is still cool and the grass and flowers are still dewy before the heat of the day blankets us. I miss the balmy summer nights when little breezes stir to keep the porch from being oppressively hot.

But autumn has its compensations—

Idyllic days with blue skies and perfect 78-degree temperatures.blue skies & garden

 

 

 

 

 

State Fair excess (Sweet Martha’s melty chocolate chip cookies, corn and blue cheese fritters—crispy, greasy and delicious).

Sweet martha's

 

 

 

 

Farmer’s market bounty: eggplants, peppers, heirloom tomatoes, zucchini, and sweet corn. And apples are already ripening!

Eggplant&Peppers

Cool nights when you can sleep under a light blanket with the windows open.

What do you love/hate about autumn?

Two for the Price of One

blog 2 002Antonio and Crystel are at that in-between age.

For example, Crystel completed a babysitting class and yet Jody and I have arranged for the 11-year-olds to have a nanny part-time this summer.

Crystel and her friend Allie’s babysitting advertisement states that they are responsible, trained, and caring. It is true that they are all three, but it is also true that Jody and I aren’t ready for Antonio and Crystel to be on their own for 8 hours a day.

 

They need supervision at the same time that they can supervise others.

I love witnessing—at arm’s length—their growing confidence and ability to manage themselves in this world—but not so far that my tentacles can’t grasp and reel them in.

Antonio with his new bike

Antonio with his new bike

Even before the snow was gone Antonio was riding his bike 3.44 miles to school. “You must like the freedom,” I said to him last night. “Yep,” he said.

During our latest bout of rain I watched him grow increasingly anxious waiting for it to stop so he could have his independence back. Finally, he quit waiting. He rode his bike in the rain.

I didn’t mind letting him. A kid should know what it’s like to ride in the rain so in the future he can choose whether or not to do it.

Also, I have this belief that if Jody and I provide experiences for the children that will make their hearts race perhaps they won’t need to search out excitement through drugs and alcohol. That could be ‘pie in the sky’ thinking. But, I’d rather take them to Guatemala and have them jump off of a cliff, zipline, kayak on their own, drive a boat, and ride a horse than be safe on our cul-de-sac.

"I've biked in snow, rain, and hotness."

“I’ve biked in snow, rain, and hotness.”

Speaking from experience, I know that my behavior growing up was most risky when I was busting out of the restrictions that were placed on me. It was when I was by myself, free of my parents’ rules that I acted responsibly.

Of course, Antonio has rules to follow when he’s riding his bike–such as wearing his helmet, letting us know where he is (we provide him a cell phone for this purpose), following the street lights and crossing at intersections. Do I believe that he does all of these things all of the time? Unfortunately, I am sure that he does not. That’s when the mother tentacles spring into action.

Crystel is excited about babysitting with her friend Allie. I like that she’s doing it with a friend. I always stressed to Antonio and Crystel to stick together walking home from the bus and to take the same route each day. Two heads are better than one, I’d tell them and two children together are less vulnerable than one.

This in-between age means that often they are not together.

This age brings many dilemmas for parents—deciding on when to say yes or no isn’t always easy or clear. It is also an uncomfortable time for the 11-year olds, especially if they forgot to erase all the messages on the cell phone, didn’t realize that Mom could see the You-tube history or their moms have come looking for them because they weren’t home at the time that was agreed upon.

They might think we want them to be nervous on purpose. No, when the time comes, we just want them to leave the reach of our tentacles fully intact with a sense of adventure and a joyful spirit.

Crystel and Allie. Message me to take advantage of their 2 for 1 offer.

Crystel and Allie. Message me to take advantage of their 2 for 1 offer.

 

The Loft Mentor Series: Navigating the River Together

Mark Anthony Rolo

Mark Anthony Rolo

I had competed to be a Loft Mentor Series participant for many years, but now that I had been selected as a 2013-2014 Mentor Series Winner, a ‘so what’ attitude misted over me. I hate to even admit it because it sounds as if I didn’t care that I’d won. I did care. That’s why I paddled like heck against the wind and upstream to reach my destination. Now, that I had won, I pulled my paddles into the canoe, and drifted into the eddy.

Winning hadn’t changed me. My circumstances hadn’t changed. And, I had no idea if I would change during the Mentor Series. Nothing was promised.

All I knew is that I didn’t have to paddle anymore. That was unbelievable to me.

A potluck would be my introduction into the Mentor Series. I didn’t know any of the winners personally and I knew only one of the mentors, Mary Rockcastle.

Mary greeted the others and me as if she were an ambassador to the program. She has a knack for making a person feel good. If her gig as Hamline’s MFA writing program director doesn’t work out, she could be an emissary. She’s comfortable discussing a wide range of topics from colonoscopies to colloquiums. How can you not feel at home? Whatever nervousness I had in joining this potluck dissipated quickly.

Mark Anthony Rolo, nonfiction mentor, and Vanessa Ramos, Loft program manager, were the last to arrive.

Vanessa’s smile and effervescent personality is visceral. I was drawn toward her.

Waiting for Mark was nerve wracking. He was the person I would be working with for a year. I had read his book, felt as if I knew his past, which wasn’t that different from mine. But what if I didn’t like him? Do you like every writer you meet?

Mark isn’t hard to miss. He looks like his book jacket cover. He’s big. And, his dog is big.

What is it that some people possess that as soon as they walk into a room you feel at ease? It is almost as if their energy is forging the way and their physical self comes after. Mark has that characteristic.

Right away, I could tell Mark was accessible.

Mark Anthony Rolo and Rock

Mark Anthony Rolo and Rock

He didn’t put on airs that he was different from anyone in the room, and he had done his homework. He knew what piece of writing belonged to each of us. I made a quick note to myself to get my paddles in the water because I was about to be left in the eddy while he and others traveled on. I hadn’t read anyone’s work.

All of a sudden, I knew what the Mentor Series was about. It was about learning, supporting, and paddling to the next marker. People who could help me get there surrounded me. I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t going against the wind. I wasn’t going upstream. Instead, I was embraced by other canoeists and we could navigate the river together.