Wednesday, March 21, 2012


When we are kids we all have heroes and heroines. We’re taught at first that they are recognizable mostly because of their tight fitting costumes and capes. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman etc. Of course the women are more scantily clad than the men but that is for a whole other entry. Google “Superheroes” and check out the pictures. 95% of them are men. And the men, of course, have big, bulging muscles. These are mostly used for beating up bad guys and saving us poor helpless women. Whatever… My kids have all been superheroes at one time or another. They jump off of things and dress in costume so they are not recognizable.

One of my favorite kid superhero stories is about Coulter when he was dressed as Spiderman for Spookorama at their school. I think he was in kindergarten. I painted his face because they aren’t allowed to wear masks for safety reasons. When we arrived at school a bunch of the parents said, “Hey, it’s Spiderman!” or “Hello Spiderman!” And each time this happened Coulter became quite alarmed. He would stop and say, “I’m not the real Spiderman.” He wanted to make this very clear and he would wait until he could tell that the person he was talking to understood that he was NOT the real Spiderman. He was afraid that if something went horribly wrong everyone would turn to him and expect him to handle the situation. He did not want that responsibility and he did not want people to have a false sense of security because he was there. It was over the top cute.

Then we jump ahead a few years when we all have to do reports on our hero(ine)s. Sophia’s first report was on Amelia Earhart. Coulter will be picking someone soon but hasn’t yet. We are forced to take a look at real people and see those who have really contributed to our society or have advanced us in some way. These people are real heroes. Take note, NONE of them are wearing tights or capes. There are a couple exceptions I suppose, Mikhail Baryshnikov being one.

A few of my favorite heroes are….. Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Albert Einstein, John Adams, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Sacagawea, Winston Churchill, Neil Armstrong, Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman and Margaret Thatcher. I don’t think you’d catch any of them in tights and a cape, although it would make a funny picture. All of these people were visionaries. They had a dream, a vision, determination and tenacity. When others said, “It can’t be done.” they cast that opinion aside and continued on the path of righteousness and strength. They didn’t care what the masses said, the thing that was important was in their hearts and that needed to get out. It was more than a mission it was necessity. And by following their vision they have made a better world for us all.

Recently I have been drawn to more ordinary heroes. Yesterday I was at my workout facility doing a core strengthening class and then a cardio blast. It was (always is) hard. Really, it’s so hard that I laugh during class because I know that the teacher is crazy to think I could do all this stuff. I do the best I can and then I go back a couple days later to do it (half of it) all over again. When I walked out of the gym yesterday there were the usual suspects in the lobby, a group of 70-80 somethings. I said, “She was trying to kill us in there!” to which they all laughed. I stopped and talked to the ladies.

The 2 chattiest of the bunch were seated closest to me. We struck up a conversation. They were telling me that their class was really hard too, lots of strength training and balance exercises. They’ve invited the men but they won’t come. They’re too scared. We all giggled. One of them introduced herself to me, her name was Bo. She told me about all the things that she does and volunteers for each week. The day before she had volunteered with the Children’s Theater (I think that was it), a highway cleanup crew and had been to see Wicked with some friends. She makes being 80 something sound pretty great. She told me how on the clean up there was a piece of garbage across a little creek and up an embankment. Her 2 recently retired friends, both about 65 said, “Oh, just leave it.” Bo couldn’t do that. She leapt over the creek and climbed up to get the garbage. She climbed down and hopped back over the creek to toss it in the sack. She showed them. Her friend piped up and said, with a twinkle in her eye and a big grin on her face, “And we’re both in our 80’s!” And now these 2 ladies are 2 of my newest heroines. They are fun, active, involved and moving forward. They have a vision of their future and it includes helping others and being a participant in life.

Another of my senior heroines is my friend Signe, she is 80 and is on my Meals on Wheels route. She is not as mobile as she once was but she is very smart and involved in the rhythm of life, politics and spirituality. And oh, is she wise! I sometimes feel like she can see my soul. A few weeks ago she told me that up until this year she was having a fine time being an old lady. It is becoming less fun than it was. Signe often challenges me on various subjects and she makes me think. I am always glad to see her and glean a bit of wisdom. She is another kind of heroine.

And I don’t forget all the grandparents in our lives. They are all active and showing us the ropes on how to be older. My mom tells me what is coming and I am grateful to her for sharing. I know our makeup is very similar and I will most likely face many of the same issues. Ed is still skiing at75 and mom at 71. Ans works so hard I don’t know how she does it. She feeds thousands of kids every day. Bert runs his own company and helps many organizations raise money. Dad is still working and valued for it at 73.Sally runs their home while dad has been travelling with work. She set up a day camp for all the grandkids last year too. They are all very active and still….none of them is wearing capes and tights. Again, there’s an interesting picture.

I challenge you to take a look around and take note of the heroes all around you. Focus on what it is that draws you to them and makes you want to be better. What is it that you admire about them? Educators, volunteers, that woman who tries to kill you in the core class, a coach that lifts a kid that no one else did or could, the senior with consistently good advice, the friend who loves your children and family and my new friends who give me a window into what the 80s can be. There are so many out there and we just need to see them, really see them. They are there to be the example and to teach us all what we can be, and all of us can be a hero to someone.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Modern Family

Sophia has been watching Modern Family with me lately.  I’m on the fence about if it’s appropriate or not.  Actually, to be more accurate, I don’t think it is appropriate but it has given me a platform to explain lots of things.  I guess it can be appropriate with explanation. 

There are often jokes that she doesn’t get so I stop the show and explain them.  This morning we were watching the one where Phil finds out that his 17 year old daughter is not a virgin.  He is driving his daughters to the mall and says something about Haley that ends in “aversion.”  His other daughter, Alex, starts laughing in the back seat, catches herself and realizes that her dad didn’t know about Haley’s indiscretion.  She starts to say, “I thought you said….” And then she trails off.  He sees their faces and he knows now.  There are shocked faces all around…….  I put the show on pause.  I ask Sophia, “Do you know what just happened?”  She doesn’t. 

I start to explain.  “Do you know what a virgin is?”  She doesn’t.  I explain that it is a person who has never had sex.  She knows what sex is.  She nods that she understands.  I explain that when Phil said, “aversion” Alex heard “a virgin” and started to laugh because Haley was not a virgin.  Their dad was shocked because he didn’t know that and because Haley is a young person, too young to be having sex.  I needed to make that clear to Sophia.  She understood what happened and that it wasn’t appropriate. 

Later on Mitchell was walking next to Cameron (they’re a gay couple) and was leading a party of 30 people.  To make sure he was visible he was carrying a flag.  He said, “Follow the party flag everyone.”  Cameron heard “party fag” and gave Mitchell “the eye.” Mitchell said, “I said party FLAG.”  Again, time to pause the show.  Sophia did not know the word “fag.”  I explained and we moved on.

In both of those instances I was glad she didn’t know those words.  She is 11 and still so sweet and innocent.  I love that.  I am grateful that those words have not come up in her circle.  I remember very clearly the first time someone in my circle brought up the word virgin.  It was in 7th grade and I had no idea what that word was.  They asked me if I was a virgin.  I said, “I don’t know.” After a 7th grade explanation I definitely knew I was one.  They all laughed that I didn’t know that word and I was embarrassed.  The truth of the matter is I shouldn’t have known that word.  Why would that come up in 7th grade?  Scary. 

I don’t want Sophia to have to deal with that.  Kids seem to know things earlier than when I was a kid and I would rather give her the explanation so I know she is getting proper information.  I don’t want her to feel uncomfortable talking to me but she will. 

I would never let her watch Modern Family without Bob or me there to explain what is going on.  Most if it would go right over her head.  I guess that would be fine except that I don’t want her guessing and misunderstanding what is going on.  A wrong interpretation or explanation by another 11 year old can cause quite a bit of confusion. 

It has been a good platform to us to discuss lots of different things.  It would be very inappropriate for Sophia if I wasn’t there.  She has been pretty well protected from the real world and she deserves that.  I want to give her enough information without overwhelming her.  It is a fine line and different with every kid.  I think she can handle what I tell her.  She is VERY wise and tells me if she is uncomfortable or if I start to tell her more than she needs to know.  Yes, Modern Family is inappropriate BUT we will continue to use it as a safe way to learn about our world.    

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Capture the Flag and a Dog Wash

Sunday was a perfect day….PERFECT! We all got up well rested and ready for the day. We were going to go to church buuUUUuuuut, it was the perfect day and we wanted to be outside in it. In Portland, when the sun comes out, you pay attention! If you don’t, it will go away thinking it’s been ignored and not appreciated. MR. SUN, WE APPRECIATE YOU!!! I SWEAR! SEE, WE’RE OUT HERE SOAKING IN YOUR GLORY. PLEASE STAY! So we all went out and paid homage……all day.

The day started with a trip to the Rebuilding Center (That I seem to always call the Rebuild It Center). We picked up an old kitchen sink and a counter top to fashion a dog washing station. I had hot water added outside. When it’s cold out it just seems mean to hose Iva off with cold water. The plan for the dog wash was to make it out of the sink, counter top and a pallet that was on the side of the street. Reduce, reuse, recycle….we live in Portland for goodness sakes.

When we got home Bob started getting all the tools out, I made lunch and the kids went into the park. Sophia was climbing trees and the boys were riding their Green Machines. At 2 pm the park filled with kids and they played capture the flag. This is a new thing around here. One of the moms shot out an email a week ago to set up a game last week. It was so successful that we did it again. It was a beautiful sight. There were about 30 kids running all over the place for almost 2 ½ hours. Beverly Cleary herself couldn’t have written it better!

While they were playing Bob and I were building. It’s not finished yet but I will post a picture when it’s done. We made great progress and were loving being in the SUN!

At 5 our friend Greg Baker came over for a jam with Sophia. Rebecca was out of town and Sophia needed to practice, a perfect combination. They spent almost an hour playing music while we wrapped up our day. I made dinner to the great jams of Sophia and Greg. I loved it.

It was an ordinary day but to me it was perfect. I love the perfectly ordinary days of our lives the most. When I think of this spring I will remember this past Sunday. Our spring has been pretty nice in my book. We have seen many more days of sun than last year and that is what I choose to focus on. Yes, it’s damp out there, the ground is muddy and the moss is thick and healthy but my glass is half full. The sun is shining brightly and reflects nicely off of the puddles and my half full glass of …….. wine. The sun has taken notice of our joy and will grace us with her presence for the next few days and warm us to a balmy 60+ degrees. I will take these perfectly ordinary sunny days and lock them into my memory as perfect, period.