Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Some Kind of Wonder

The time has come to admit I will never be Nancy Drew. Or a Copa Cabana dancer. Yes as I approach my 40th year -- reality has started to point the finger of truth about my life.

It feels like five minutes ago that I was climbing trees and planning out my future from my leafy kingdom. That skinny 10 year old girl who constantly believed all was possible. I was going to be a Rockette, Wonder Woman, or maybe the Bionic Woman. I was going to own a newspaper, tell amazing stories and write books to transport people to dreamy far away places with my words.

While I have been able to accomplish a few of these things, still those pesky paths not taken break my heart. Like the ski instructor job offer in Crested Butte Colorado. Or the chance to work for the big deal Chicago advertising agency. Then the nanny setup in the Hamptons with the Italian family. I said no to all of these and I can’t help but dream about the possibilities. Instead of Wonder Woman, I have become a wondering woman.

I hope this doesn’t make me out to be a whiner. Really, I adore my current path. I love the fact that I get to write, be a mom, class room parent and a wife. It’s only sometimes in the daily minutiae I begin to wonder. When my days are filled with endless laundry, e-mails, schlepping my dog to his cancer treatment and I am greeted with not-so-happy notes from my son’s teacher that I think, “hey, what about Nancy Drew?”

Or then there’s some throwback song that sucks me back to my own version of land before time. I’m not talking about the dinosaur cartoon movie. I’m talking about hearing some 80s song and transporting myself back to my college campus, gawking at some hottie frat guy without a shirt, grilling hot dogs and smiling to myself, “man, I can do just about anything.”

And I can. Sort of. Well, as long as I can be on time for carpool pickup and it doesn’t conflict with piano lessons and hockey games. Which leads me to appreciate that in some ways I kind of am a Wonder Woman. The amazing fact that I can accomplish breakfast, carpool, a load of laundry, writing a few pages, getting my son and husband out the door and down 2 cups of coffee all before 7:30 in the morning. Let’s not mention that I have packed up lunches, library books to return and stuffed my own workout bag in there too. And I’m not sharing that to brag, but I find it pretty inspiring.

Still, I’d rather be Nancy Drew sometimes. I know it’s ridiculous. I guess I’m missing the risky, adventure, the heady sort of wonder. The chance to have a day with surprise, delight, magic, charmingness. My days feel so ordinary. They line up together like simple smooth stones. The day by day grayness of making beds, going to work, cooking dinner and doing it all over again. All the while dreaming of something crazy happening other than getting caught by the neighborhood association with my garage door up. The surprises like the one time I found this plain stone at the beach, but turning it over discovering a brilliant pearl belly. The delight of unexpected heady wonder in my hands.

My stepdaughter graduated from college this year and I am beside myself. It’s all I can do to drown her in unsolicited advice about the world and what she should do with it. I want to shout “Go! Take risks, do something ridiculous, live your dream, take the hardest possible path you can imagine, don’t arrange your life around what’s easy. Listen to your heart. Travel. Do amazing things. Explore the limits of yourself. Don’t settle. Be bold! Go before you have a mortgage payment!”

But there will be no hearing of that. Not in a way that she could understand anyways. It wouldn’t be fair to project my own choices on her. She has to find her feet on her own. I will encourage her to be true in her career choices, but I think she sees me and doesn’t really get it. Yet I try to help her understand that the orderly life isn’t all there is to the world. That carpool, work, dinner, laundry, church repeat isn’t the end.

I want to help her see that she really could become a Copa Cabana dancer if she wants to. I sit in carpool pickup and wonder of donning a sequined beautiful costume of ridiculous feather headdresses on dangerously high-heeled shoes. Walter Mitty style, I tune out while I should be making productive use of my time by checking voicemail or readying my son’s snack. But I don’t. I sit and wonder.

The ache still remains of those paths not taken. I wish I had something brilliant to say about how to let them go. I’m guessing that ache spot is meant to stay there to keep us connected to our Creator. His thumbprint to remind us that there is a part of you that can only be satisfied divinely. The knowing that life here is temporary and the true heady wonder comes only in the next round.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

For the love of books

Have you seen J.K. Rowling's fairy tale book on

You can check it out at

Would it be too cliche to say it's magical? I am an esthetics person who adores the way books look and feel. I treasure all the small intricacies of how books are put together and this book is a stunning feast for the senses.

The feature on her new book "The Tale of Beedle the Bard" is lovely. It shows you all the gorgeous hand illustrations and small touches of how creative one could get with a book. Of course there are only 7 copies in the world, so looking at the books on the website is about as close as I can get for now.

If you love books as much as I do, you will delight in seeing the images of this book. Who knows, it just might inspire something new in you!


Monday, February 25, 2008

Eating Humble Pie

We are stuck on the sixes...

That would be the number six fact family of addition in school (you know, 6 plus 2, 6 plus 5, etc.) Despite my controlling and overbearing attempts to practice the six family until oblivion, we still have not mastered it. Or correction my first grade son has not mastered it yet. And the problem is we cannot move on to the sevens until we get all the sixes right. So we continue to drill the 6 fact family.

The real story is that I know my son is smart. I know he knows it. I think he misses the little details because he's 6 1/2 and as a boy, would rather be running wildly in the outdoors. Or anything else other than having his mom drill him like a tiny army soldier about what six plus whatever equals.

I guess my freaky mommy side is showing -- The problem is I can't help him and it's bugging me. I want him to do well in school. I want him to keep up with the other kids. But I don't know whether to shut up, back off, keep drilling, or what else to do. So in my desperate attempt in what to do, I simply asked him.

On the way home from school I said "what would you do if you were the parent and your child didn't master the 6 fact family?" (as if this is the greatest problem in the world.)

He quietly said, "I would say, that's okay son, keep trying and do your best."

How is it that a six year old has it all figured out? Time to eat some humble pie.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Dreaming Out Loud

A recent radio show asked "what are your dreams?" and invited people to call in.

Ahhh, where to start. My mind immediately goes to the most selfish thing I can find. Hey, after all this is my dream. A house in France, Paris or Italy. To study Spanish and the art of tapas in Spain. And speaking of art, why not visit all the great works in the world. To read and collect amazing books. To have a house in Maine. To camp in the Grand Canyon.

Which leads me to more soul-ful type of dreams -- for my family to be safe and happy. For those I love to be in good health and to be knit closer together. For each of my family to be true to their absolute best and to live up to their potential God has given them.

While we are talking about the great short order cook in the sky, we might as well invite Him to solve world hunger, end all wars, save the earth and love everyone with a Coke and a smile.

I'm sure if I would have called in to the radio program to share all of that, they would have cut me off after paragraph one. This would have been followed by "aren't you asking for a little much?" I guess so, but why not? It's my dream, might as well make it a big fat one.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Nancy Drew & Me

As a kid I loved Nancy Drew. From her super sleuth abilities to how she always trusted her hunch. Every time I see one of those Carolyn Keene books at the library and their lovely 50s-ish covers, I get a warmish delight.

On scalding hot summer days as a kid in the 1970s, I would escape to the shady spot in my bedroom and wrap myself in her stories. Nancy was so smart, she always knew what to do and she could always figure it out. As a ten year old, Nancy was my it. Even when she made mistakes, it always seemed to be part of the plan and eventually led her to the right discovery.

What I wouldn't give to be Nancy Drew. But knowing she is not real and the fact that Carolyn Keene was not even real does give some comfort. The fact that there was an entire stable of writers devoted to creating the tales, coming up with the drama and solving the mystery does give some perspective.

I guess that's a lot about who I am as a person. I want to figure it all out alone but all the while knowing that's not how life gets handled. You can't do it solo -- or if you do it feels sort of empty and hollow. It takes friends, a family, a church community, a dog, a kind act from strangers, something interesting to cross your path to find life's best. You get through stuff with a patchwork of encouragers. And how we are lucky enough to be given these blessings is probably the greatest mystery of all.