Monday, November 30, 2009

The Advent in Me

I love Advent.

It's the start of the Church year, and it's the time of year that I always equate with STORIES.  Luke, the Gospel writer, is my favorite story teller, and it's his voice that brings Advent.

One of my favorite authors, Fr Andrew Greeley, writes that it's the stories that make him love being Catholic.  He writes:

It is, of course, the story of Mary the Mother of Jesus who represents the mother love of God, the truth that while God loves us in many different ways, She also loves us the way a mother who holds a new born child in her arms loves that child. Any religious heritage with such a story is well nigh irresistible to its members. If the love of the mother for her child to whom she has given life and is about to nurse is a valid metaphor for what creation and life and death are about, then that is very good news indeed, perhaps too good to be true, but true nonetheless.

And Advent is about Mary.

Mary who said "yes" to God, even though saying so might have resulted in her death. 

Mary who gave birth to the Savior of the world -- and she did so knowing His life would not be easy.

Mary who interceded for the bridal couple, and urged her Son to perform the first miracle of His ministry, the changing of water to wine in Cana.

Mary who stood at the foot of the cross and watched her beloved Son suffer and die.

Mary who witnessed His resurrection.

Mary, for me and many others, is the link to Christ's life and death.  She provides the human connection to the Divine.  Her misery I can understand.  Her love I can absorb.  Her sacrifice I can recognize.

And so tonight, like every other during Advent, I will end my day with this prayer:
Hail Mary, full of Grace.  The Lord is with you.  Blessed are you among women and blest is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.
Research it; it's scriptural.  Pray it; it's comfort-giving.  Live it; it's Truth.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Happy Birthday, Joe

100 Things I Love About You
On Your 41st Birthday

1. You are gentle when it matters.
2. You love me the best way anyone could.
3. You encourage people to be better.
4. You genuinely love teenagers.
5. You have the best smile; it consumes your entire face.   

6. You are the perfect father for our kids.
7. You get things done!
8. You don't swear, and you don't like people who do.
9. You put people before tasks.
10. You have a strong sense of justice.

11. You are smart.
12. You enjoy having a beautiful lawn with all the work that entails.
13. You play just as intensely now as you did when you were 17.
14. You have an excellent work ethic.
15. You are not judgmental.

16. You trust.
17. You are a good son.
18. You never treated my mother the way she deserved to be treated.
19. You are friends with my sister.
20. You learned good things from my dad.

21. You support your family but balance that with playtime.
22. You love the Boundary Waters.
23. You love it more when I'm there with you.
24. You love Mexico, even though you never wanted to go there.
25. You like having new adventures with me and our boys.

26. You have high standards.
27. You are a good example for others.
28. You really, really love playing baseball.
29. You understand baseball better than anyone I've ever met.
30. You like to win, but you don't pout when you lose.

31. You know all the things I don't know.
32. You don't expect everyone to know what you know.
33. You are a great teacher/coach because you are patient.
34. You usually give the best presents in the world.
35. You don't mind that we can never see eye to eye unless I stand on a step.

36. You never say bad things about people you love.
37. You rarely lie.
38. You think about things I say.
39. You rarely give advice, but when you do, it's sound and reliable advice.
40. You make good friends.

41. You have a spot that's messy, and you're protective of it.
42. You otherwise like things in order.
43. You indulge in your love of all things sweet.
44. You are silly.
45.  You are strong.

46. You thrive under pressure.
47. You almost have a poker face, except for the muscle that ticks when you clench your teeth.
48. You mean what you say.
49. You do what you promise.
50. You apologize when you are wrong.

51. You teach me something new every day.
52. You are my resting place.
53. You make the bed and do the laundry.
54. You refold the clothes when I fold them "wrong".
55. You put my shoes in the closet when I leave them out and you never complain.

56. You pay our debts.
57. You are kind-hearted and sympathetic to others.
58. You wake up when I come home late and want to talk.
59. You listen again the next day when I tell you again.
60. You don't always think you have to solve my problems.

61. You own a batting cage and share it with everyone.
62. You play games with your sons that teach them while they're playing.
63. You love them beyond reason, but you never smother them.
64. You don't let me smother them either.
65. You are proud of them.

66. You see me with the eyes of love.
67. You treat me like your best friend.
68. You believe in "happily ever after."
69. You are authentic.
70. You never expect people to give you more than you offer in return.

71. You make the best pancakes in the entire world.
72. You put fuel in my car when it's raining or cold or I'm cranky.
73. You climb on the roof every winter -- just after the cold snap -- to put our star on the roof.
74. You can tell me the same story three times, and your enthusiasm increases each time.
75. You don't understand decorative towels, but you tolerate them.

76. You forgive me when I fail.
77. You forget the times I failed.
78. You say you're sorry when you're wrong.
79. You are not afraid to make me listen to you, even when I'm not cooperative.
80. You know how to think of marriage building ideas (the Question Game!).

81. You love to shop for Christmas.
82. You think of things people would really love to give as gifts, even when they don't know they'd love them.
83. You are the best turkey carver in the world.
84. You support my "never-make-the-same-recipe-twice philosophy" until we find something that should be made twice.
85. You always do your mother's Thanksgiving dishes and she loves you for that.

86. You love to solve mysteries.
87. You love the smell of fresh flowers as long as they don't smell like "funeral flowers".
88. You wish funerals didn't occur, but you go to them when you have to go.
89. You love people who can solve mysteries.
90. You solve mysteries every day of your life.

91. You love Christmas best of all.
92. You love to watch people open the presents you chose for them.
93. You love when someone surprises you with the Best Gift of All.
94. You love when YOU surprise someone with a gift they love, but didn't know they wanted.
95. You love decorating for Christmas.

And... the five BEST things about you...

96. You believe.
97. You trust.
98. You learn.
99. You live.
100. You love.

And because of all those things, I love you.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thankful for These 13 Things

Tonight I am in list mode and I am thankful.  I'm thankful for thirteen things.  Thirteen is my lucky number; both of my sons were born on the 13th -- one in November (91) and one in February (95). 

1.  I'm thankful Adam made it through surgery and will recover.  I'm hoping I'll be thankful next week that he's no longer on the pain medicine.

2.  I'm thankful Jakob is doing what he loves every single day.  Every.  Single.  Day.

3.  I'm thankful Mari is staying with us until a little after Christmas and that she is only moving from here to the homes of two of my best friends in the world.

4.  I'm thankful for Haleigh, who is the epitomy of courage for me.

5.  I'm thankful for each person who was at our home on Thanksgiving.  They are beloved.

6.  I'm thankful for my dad who is the greatest teacher who ever walked the face of the earth.

7.  I'm thankful for my husband's parents.  They are the most welcoming, loving, faith-filled people I have ever met and they love me.

8.  I'm thankful for money in the bank at a time when people are losing their jobs and their homes.

9.  I'm thankful for my Church family because they are God-blessed and Spirit-filled.

10.  I'm thankful for health -- every person in my immediate circle is blessed with health.  That's precious.

11. I'm thankful for the people I don't even know who bear good wishes and glad tidings for members of my family.  Each person has touched so many others and those others have blessed us. 

12. I'm thankful for the strength, courgage, and wisdom I take from my relationship with the Lord every day.

13.  I'm thankful for my marriage and where I am in relationship with my husband today.  We don't always walk the same path, but we look for each other every moment of every day.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Art of Being Thankful

In honor of my promise to myself to put my world in order, I've been cleaning closets and cabinets and cupboards. 
I have always needed internal order.  It doesn't seem to matter how messy the world around me is, but messy drawers give me anxiety. 

Over the last two years, I let things get messy.  The greater the emotional trauma, the more difficult it was for me to care about messy closets and cabinets and cupboards.  Coping consumed all my energy.

It was bad.  I had Things That Don't Cut in the Things That Cut drawer.  My measuring cup was in the Christmas Cupboard.  My root vegetables waited in random dark corners of the kitchen.  My once alphabetized spice rack -- well, it was so disordered I stopped using dried spices.

This weekend I cured my kitchen of clutter.  It is a thing of beauty, though pockets of disorder remain.  I have confidence they will be a thing of history by the new year. 

While sorting and restoring, I stumbled upon my Thanksgiving stash.  I have kept a journal of all things Thanksgiving since 1998.  I have the recipes I used every year until 2007.  I saved my timelines (1. Start the Turkey at 4:48 am.  2.  Go back to bed for forty-five minutes...).  I have the guest lists.  I even rated each recipe. 

On a separate piece of paper, I found my Thanksgiving 2008 planner.  2008 was my first mom-less Thanksgiving.  I wrote: "Shoulda paid better attention all these years.  I have no idea how to make gravy.  Buy bottled."  Lucky for our guests, my mother-in-law makes a mean gravy.  It's delish.

This year's Thanksgiving is no exception to my "let's try something new" philosophy of holiday events.  I have a new turkey idea that promises the most succulent turkey to date.  I no longer need a recipe or timeline for anything else on the menu.  I heard a recipe from a friend for a divine cranberry dessert I think I'll try, more because I love watching the cranberries pop than because I think anyone will eat it.

While I'm cutting and basting and mixing, I'm going to be thankful.  I'm going to be thankful the last two years are in the past.  I'm going to be thankful for the people coming to share the feast.  I'm going to be thankful that my spices are alphabetized once again. 

And I'm going to be thankful for all these blessings without worrying about what will happen tomorrow.

That, I think, is the art of being thankful.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

And Then There's Faith...

I read, with shock and dismay, a publically published reflection by a Lutheran pastor I respect. 

Pondering Luther's "by grace alone, by faith alone" theory, she wrote about her early experiences as a Roman Catholic and her revelation that the only true and right path to salvation is following Lutheran doctrine.  Of course, she writes, "you will never find a stronger Lutheran than a former Catholic."

She describes her early Catholic years and the acts she did to earn a "right" relationship with God.  She attended daily Mass, participated in daily prayer, learned the Catechism, said novenas, blessed herself with holy water, and attended confession.  The Lutherans call those things "good works" and she notes that the acts have no impact on salvation.  Because she's now Lutheran she does good works because she wants to, not because she has to.  In fact, her greatest revelation came from a nine-year old friend who said, "Catholics go to church because they have to; Lutherans go because they want to."


I have examined Church history for the last twenty-five years; I minored in Theology in college.  Roman Catholics are humanly frail and we fail.  But failure -- even on grand scales like the medieval Inquisition and the more recent sexual abuse by clergy -- does not constitute sufficient justification for discarding a tradition that dates back to the days of Jesus.  If it does, then Luther's own 95 Theses belongs in the same rubbish heap as his work encouraging harassment and hatred of the Jews. 

I am Roman Catholic by choice.  I studied Catholicism and I believe it is universal.  I believe the Catholic Church is the guardian of Truth.  I believe what I say when I pray the Our Father and the Nicene Creed.  I love Mary and the scriptural Rosary.  I love the Mass -- its history, the Liturgy, the mystical actions of the priest.  I love the familiarity of the Mass; no matter where I attend Mass and what language is spoken, I have a sense of being among family. 

I've never attended Mass because I had to go.  I have never dipped my fingers in holy water and blessed myself because I thought I might go to hell if I didn't.  I have never knelt during the Transfiguration for any other reason than humility in the presence of Christ.  I don't do those things to achieve salvation. I do those things because I believe they draw me closer to the Lord and I long for a relationship with the Lord.

I am most thankful for the Sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, Marriage, and Reconciliation. 

The Eucharist is our regular opportunity to enter into the Pascal Mystery.  We do what Jesus told us to do:  take and eat; drink this cup.  From the moment we sing the "Holy, Holy" we commemorate the first Palm Sunday and all the events culminating in Easter morning.

In Marriage, a man and a woman enter into a covenant with each other and with God; we are called to love one another like Christ loves the Church.  Two become one when Christ stands in the center.  Since the moment we married, there was no longer an I or a me; there is only us and we.

During Reconciliation I make reparation for the harm I have done to myself and to the entire body of Christ; I don't confess as part of a private motivation for personal salvation, but because I have the opportunity to rest my failing on the altar of the Lord.  The Lord gladly takes it from me and flings my failure as far from me as the east is from the west.

I am Roman Catholic by choice.  I was blessed with salvation on the day I was baptized.  I do good things because I believe we are called to be the hands and feet of Christ.

Don't get me wrong.  I appreciate a thoughtful reflection about faith and where people are in their faith journeys.  Personally, I have never felt the need to denigrate another religious practice to increase my conviction that I belong in the Church.  It makes me sad when others do.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I finished a great novel this morning, A Suitable Vengeance by Elizabeth George.  George is a brilliant author.  Her stories touch the ugliest the world has to offer and her characters are people I want to know.

The final segment of this book is titled "Expiation."

What a great word.

Expiation.  The means by which atonement or reparation is made.  The process of forgiving a transgression.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all mention forgiveness. 
Then Peter approaching asked him, "Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus answered, "I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. (Matthew 18:21-22)

"When you stand to pray, forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance, so that your heavenly Father may in turn forgive you your transgressions." (Mark 11:25)

"Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven." (Luke 6:37)
I've been searching all the corners of my heart for lingering resentment. 

I can't find any.

... And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us...  Amen.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Give Thanks

Giving gracious and heartfelt thanks can be tough.

I once gave myself a challenge:  for thirty days I would authentically compliment someone on something.  Of course my challenge was no challenge; once my eyes opened to the world around me, I saw brilliance and beauty everywhere.

Authentic compliments demand nothing in return.  Yet people's responses fascinated me. 

"Oh goodness!  This mop of hair?  It's hideous!"

"THESE jeans?  Really?"

"That solo was terrible.  I hit seven wrong notes in the second verse!"

I might have believed I had no taste and was tone deaf.

And you know?  I did the same thing to people.  Was it that I thought accepting praise was arrogant?  That nice girls should be self-depreciating?  That I was unworthy of praise?

For awhile I took the praise-begets-praise approach.  When someone offered a compliment to me, I offered one in return.  It's trickier than it sounds.


My uncle approached after Mass one Sunday.  He grabbed both of my hands and looked me in the eye:  "I can't stop watching your hands on the keyboard.  It's not just the music that moves me; it's the way you touch the piano." 

My husband hugged me after attending a show I wrote: "That was amazing! I'm proud of you."

A teammate of Joe's caught me after a Florida game I watched with my sister:  "I saw you listening to your friend during the game.  She was telling you something important.  I have never seen anyone listen so intently.  I wish people would listen to me like that."

The parent of one of my faith formation students waited for me outside my classroom in May:  "You are the best religion teacher my daughter has ever had.  She could not stop talking about the stories you shared and the things you taught.  Thank you."

Genuine compliments are gifts I unwrap long after receiving them.  Don't the gift givers deserve something authentic in return?  Don't they deserve my undivided attention while speaking?  Don't they deserve acknowledgement?

Still, it took me a long time to accept praise in a way that honors the person offering it. 

I've learned to pause when someone offers me a compliment.  I make eye contact with the person.  I say "Thank YOU.  Your opinion -- and the fact that you took the time to tell me --  matters to me."

I hope the gift giver leaves feeling as warm as I do.

Friday, November 13, 2009

November 13, 1991. Adam Joseph.

On this day eighteen years ago, Adam came to live with us.
From the moment of conception until the day he was born, the wee little parasite wrecked havoc on me.  Early in the pregnancy I spent weeks flat on my back.  Motion made me vomit.  The smell or sight of food made me vomit.  The telephone made me vomit.  Near the end of the pregnancy I was on bed rest.
It didn't matter.
I was so in love with our baby.  I dreamt of him and wondered who he would be.  I hoped I would be enough for him.
Shortly after making his first ever ambulance sale in Cokato, Minnesota, Joe registered me at Unity Hospital in Fridley.  We were a little concerned because I should not have been having contractions yet; the baby wasn't due until December 5.
We waited in a room with a baby monitor while the doctors and nurses ran tests to see how well the baby's lungs had developed.
I'm not sure what Dr L actually said when he came in the room with the news that we could have our baby; I saw in his face that all was well and turned my attention inward.
Dr L broke the membranes and things started happening fast.  And then, suddenly, things stopped happening.  When the doctor came to recommend pitocin, I recalled the childbirth instructor's comment, "Often once there is one medical intervention, others follow."  Crap.  I wasn't doing labor right.
Things happened even faster.  Nearly thirty hours after arriving at the hospital, the contractions were ninety seconds long with fifteen or twenty second pauses. 
Joe doesn't like hospitals or doctors or blood.  He gets faint.
In the last days of our pregnancy, he was my Knight in Shining Armor. 
He stayed with me for the duration.  He watched the monitor.  When he saw a contraction starting, he held my face in his hands and said, "Okay, Kari.  Breathe."  He washed my face with warm washclothes.  When the nurse said it might help, he rubbed the small of my back.  He helped me take a shower to help me find rest.  He fed me M & M's and gave me sips of water.  He encouraged me to sleep in the seconds between contractions. 
And, when the doctor came to recommend a surgical delivery, he said, "Do what you think is best.  She can't do this anymore."
I let myself rest in the circle of his arms, knowing he would keep me safe.  After all these years, I'm not sure I could feel safe without Joe.

It seemed like hours later they were doing all the prep for the surgery. Joe left me to do his own prep.  The next time I saw him, he looked like he belonged to the hospital rather than to me.  Joe stood by my head with his hands on my shoulders and watched for his first glimspe of our baby.

I watched his face.

I felt some pressure and then a huge release as they lifted our baby from and held him over the sheet. His little scrunched body was dark skinned and beautiful.  Even his wee face was scrunched too.  He was trying to open his eyes -- much like he does to this day -- to see his brand new world.

And on Joe's face, I saw wonder and awe, two magnificent gifts of the Spirit.  I watched Joe fall in love with our son.  He whispered, "It really is a baby."

He looked a little surprised when I answered "Adam Joseph" to the nurse requesting the baby's name.  It wasn't what we'd chosen.  Every year when I told Adam the story of his beginning, I always told him God whispered in my ear. 

In the mad rush of love Adam brought us on November 13, 1991, I forgot the long months of pregnancy and the intensely difficult hours of labor. 

Suffering disappears in the enveloping folds of love; even when love causes the suffering.

To the woman he said: "I will intensify the pangs of your childbearing; in pain shall you bring forth children. Yet your urge shall be for your husband, and he shall be your master."

                                                                                          Genesis 3:3

Happy Birthday, Adam.  We are so proud of the boy you were and the man you are becoming.  It's not going to be easy to make your way in the world, but you have the tools you need for the job.  We like to think you'll take on every challenge the way you take on offensive players on the soccer field: head-on and with no quarter!  And in life -- just like on the field -- when you do fall, get up, dust off your knees, and take the next step.  Keep your faith, honor, and courage, and rest in the circle of your family and friends. 

And, Adam, thank you for the Grace you brought to our lives. 

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Great Escape Artist's Last Escape

A dozen years ago -- when Jakob was a toddler and before Adam started school -- Joe and I were away at a conference.  On the way home we stopped at an animal shelter.  Not a dog lover, I was drawn to the quiet lab leaning against the wall of her cage.  She watched my approach with the slightest wag of her tail.  The closer I moved, the bigger the wag. 

Joe saw her too.  We shared a glance over her head.  "She's the One!" we agreed.  The sign identified her as Coco, approximately two years old.  The only other information read, "Escape Artist."

When we told the boys we had a surprise in the car, Jakob thought it was food.  He rushed out to find... Coco.  His belly wasn't happy, but it was a joyful meeting.

"Escape Artist" proved an apt description.  Left home during the day, she'd wander the Golf Course or the neighborhood.  She's imposing, so it wasn't long before people complained.  Joe tried keeping her at the office with him.  His theory was she could sleep in the kennel behind the building.  She didn't like that notion.  Joe spent many an hour combing nearby neighborhoods looking for Coco.  She could escape anything, it seemed.  She was always delighted when Joe found her!

Eventually Joe installed the invisible fence.  She learned her boundaries quickly, and contentedly explored them. 

She loved the boys.  Whenever Adam played outside, she paced a ring around him.  If anyone came too close to her ring of love, she gently turned them away.  No one was getting near her boy until Joe or I said it was fine.  Jakob, a little more active and always hungry, had a different relationship with Coco.  He liked to sleep on her; she didn't mind since he was so sticky and tasty.

Once Adam and I thought Coco would like to attend Pet Day at LME.  Big Mistake.  She outmuscled us and went to greet the other dogs; one owner screamed that Coco was trying to eat her baby.  When we finally caught her, I tripped over the edge of the pavement, and she dragged me along the pavement.  Adam thought she might be the reason Pet Day was subsequently discontinued.

Coco always missed Joe when he was away from home.  She'd wander the house looking for him.  She checked his favorite chair in the living room.  Then she'd sniff around the front door.  Finally, she'd make her way to the bedroom to check for him in bed.  When there was no trace of him, she'd rest dejectedly on the floor.  Hearing a noise in the garage, she made a mad dash to the door.  Sometimes he'd come through it for a celebration of homecoming.  Other times she waited in vain.

This morning our Coco couldn't get off the floor in the living room.  Our best guess is she laid down there last night, and didn't get up again.

Joe said I should bring her to town and we'd go to the vet.  Since she couldn't move, Jakob, Mari, and I lifted her on a blanket and carried her outside.  She couldn't help, though she tried.  There was something in her expression that said she wasn't coming home again.

We collected Joe and Adam.  Knowing she'd do what she could to please him, Joe encouraged her to get out of the car.  She made a valiant effort, but she was too weak.  He caught her shoulders before she fell.  She made her last journey on a stretcher.

Dehydrated and probably suffering some internal bleeding at the great human-year age of 123, there wasn't much to do for Coco, except let her escape her pain.

Joe was last to say goodbye to Coco.  He knelt beside her for the last time and ran his hands over her beloved body, his hands cupping her face and stroking her ears.  Both boys watched with breaking hearts.

The boys and I stayed with her until she made her last great escape.  The nurse held her, and when they administered the drug Coco relaxed into that gentle hug.  Her heart stopped and she took her last few breaths while our boys willed her their love.

The dozen years of life she shared growing and loving and learning with our boys will live with them always, and I think they will be better men for witnessing not only her life, but also her death.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Girls, Girls, Girls...

Last week in Florida, my house was overflowing with girls.  It was SO amazing.

Someone always cooked... and we learned new recipes.

Someone always cleaned... and we learned different cleaning products.

Someone always talked... and we learned each other's stories.

Back in my boy-house, I find myself missing my girlie girl week. 

My 10 on the Tenth

I just found a delightful new blog, Life at 7000 Feet.  As a rabid list-maker myself, the mountain girl with altitude appeals to me.  I'm making my own list of...

Ten Things that Really Annoy Me

1.  I get annoyed when people request something from me after I've already said no.  When someone makes a request, I respond thoughtfully.  Don't ask a second time.

2.  I get annoyed by socks stuffed under the cushions of the furniture, especially when that furniture is in the room adjacent to the laundry room.

3.  I get annoyed when all three dogs sit behind me in the kitchen when I'm cooking and look at me with deep, mournful longing.

4.  I get annoyed by long explanations.  Great example:  when an someone is ill, I would appreciate a notice that says, "Hi, it's so-and-so.  I'm ill today and will be back in two days."  With a few exceptions, I don't need to know anything about the illness, including gross symptoms.  I also don't need to hear a croaky voice to make the illness more believable. 

5.  I get annoyed by poor grammar and spelling, especially with the written word.  We have so many tools to prevent poor writing -- even though I cannot find those tools in blogger anymore.  I usually spot my errors as soon as I publish.

6.  I get annoyed by people who insult each other during heated discussions even when an opponent is stooooooopid.

7.  I get annoyed when I've finished 38 out of 40 things on my list, and someone comes and asks me for the 39th.

8.  I get annoyed by people who refuse to take responsibility for mistakes.  "It's not my fault" has to be one of the most ridiculous phrases in the language.

9.  I get annoyed when a person refuses to make the effort to learn a new task or complete a challenging project.

10.  I get annoyed when my cupboards, drawers, closets, cabinets, or anything that closes (think car trunks and storage boxes) are disordered.  I'd rather everything be left on the floor or counter than stored sloppily.

That was a little more difficult than I thought.  My husband always tells me I'm not much of a complainer.  He might be correct.

The Week of Adam

This is a big week for Adam.

Last night was his final high school soccer banquet. He received his awards, the most impressive of which was his All Conference Keeper award. The senior plaques gave Coach Chad a chuckle: the player on the plaque is splayed in a scissor kick. Adam -- able to play on the field during one game -- did his valiant best to score. His scissor kick, not a thing of beauty, was nearly effective; the ball hit the post. Still, it was an uncommon pose for that solid and strong body. He's splayed most often in the mud, the body of an offensive player mashed beneath him.

On Friday Adam turns 18.

Eighteen years ago, we celebrated Joe's first ambulance sale in Minnesota.

Not long after the memorable Halloween blizzard of '91, he had a council meeting to attend in Cokato, Minnesota. He really needed to attend the meeting; he was the lowest bidder thanks to a calculation error, and should receive the award unless something went wrong. Hugely pregnant and already having the odd contraction, I was nervous about staying home alone so I accompanied him to that meeting.

Council meetings have a tendency to be lengthy. This one was no exception.

B, a long-time ambulance dealer and Joe's competitor, was at the meeting too. The council was trying to decide which ambulance to purchase. While Joe's price was better, he was unknown in the ambulance world.

Joe vibrated with energy. He presented his product and defended his pricing admirably.

B did his level best to convince the council that Joe was too young and inexperienced to sell an ambulance. He suggested Joe wouldn't be around long enough to provide support and service to the ambulance crew.

I could not get comfortable. Sensitive only to the tiny body inside mine, I couldn't even take interest in the proceedings. I shifted continually in my seat.

Finally an ambulance crew member and councilman whispered to Joe, "I'm not sure you realize it or not, but your wife is in labor."

"I'm not leaving until we're done," answered Joe.

"No, really," crew member urges, "she's gotta go."

"I really can't leave!"

Crew member interrupts the discussion, "I make a motion to purchase the ambulance from Ninety-Four Services. We gotta get this lady outta here."

Someone seconded the motion and they called a vote. Joe made his first sale.

Crew member approaches and asks which hospital we're using. We were headed to Unity in Fridley, a long haul from Cokato. "Want a ride in the ambulance?" he asked.

"Oh no!" Joe exclaims. "We're fine!" and we climbed in our Chrysler Laser for the ninety-minute drive to Fridley.

He probably could have flown.

To this day B chuckles when he suggests Joe played the dirtiest trick in the world.

And Adam? Dr L wasn't sure Adam should be born yet; he wasn't due until December 5. He did all manner of things to stop labor so he could run some tests.

When we left the hospital nearly a week later, we carried with us the beautiful baby boy who is now a man full grown.  

Monday, November 9, 2009

How My Story Began...

When I was 16 someone hurt me.  At the time it felt like the end of the world.  After a few weeks of trying to manage it myself, I went to Fr Harry.

What he offered, I didn't expect.  I'm not even sure I liked it.

Upon completion my tale of woe-is-me and my tears -- real ones -- of grief, he remained silent for a moment.

"You know, Kari.  You are writing -- if you will -- the opening paragraphs in the book of your life.  These are the parts that set the tone and direction for the rest of the book.  If you want to live life as a victim always overshadowed by guilt and shame, by all means, continue this theme."

Pause for a long slow drag on the cigarrette.

"But I see something different for you.  I see your strength, love of the Lord, and compassion.  I would like to see you write like a warrior."

Another drag.

"The life of a warrior isn't easy, you know.  There will still be disappointments and failures.  You'll slip and fall.  You'll cry.  But you'll always get back on your feet and continue the journey."

Final drag.

"Make a choice, girl."

Friday, November 6, 2009

Swing........... And a miss..............

Joe's team lost today.  Had they won they'd be playing tomorrow.

I'm not sure whether to be glad or sad.

Win.  We're at a stadium most of the day, jockeying car rides to the airport.

Loss.  We do what we want when we want and take people to the airport at random times.

I know Joe -- and the team -- choose the win every time.

Sometimes I don't.

Today was a "Swing... And a miss" day.  Nothing happened in their favor.

And yet.

They played every pitch like it was valuable.

They supported each player even when he struggled.

They smiled at the fans who were less than die hards.

I LOVE the guys Joe plays with.

There's Rick.  Friend.

There's Tim.  Manager. 

There's Terry.  Widower.

There's Jeff.  Married to a Really Nice Girl.

There's Doc.  Batter When It Matters.

There's Marshall.  Energizer Bunny.


They are each special men.  I'm sorry they lost today.  And I'm not.

Tomorrow Joe and I get One Entire Day in Paradise to spend whatever way we like.  Yay us.