Tuesday, February 3, 2015


I'm embarrassed to say I'm still fuming a little.  Not too embarrassed to write another post on the topic though.  What can I say?  Cyber venting is somewhat cathartic for me.

In my defense, a large portion of the fact that I'm still fuming a little is that I sat through a good ten to fifteen minutes on the phone of a mom of one of the chosen few giving me her take on the situation.  Which she felt was necessary because Chris has very publicly stated our disdain for how things have gone down and, I think, because she's feeling a little guilty.  On Saturday morning, when this was still a hot, fresh, steaming pile of bull dung (stinks the most when it's fresh), she expressed a wish to give her perspective.  I kind of shut her down, expressed that it wasn't necessary, that I know how things go in the big mean world.  We kind of left it at that.  Then, on Sunday, there was a super awkward moment between this mom, Chris, and one of the cherry picker dads.  Too long to go into, but take my word for it:  awkward.

I then came home to an email once again expressing her desire to share her perspective, some info we might not know, and stating how valued our friendship is.  I replied, told her we apologized for any action we'd taken that had left her feeling put in the middle as well as my shortness and reluctance to discuss it on Saturday and welcomed her to call anytime.

All of which led to her phone call yesterday morning.  In case you're wondering why we saw this mom over the weekend, it's because her kid and J are on the same basketball team and we had a tournament.  And, we know them well, largely because the boys have been on the same baseball team for the past two seasons.  We have spent a whole lotta hours with these folks.  And we like them, and we do value their friendship.  (And thus would've valued a little forthrightness about this situation, since they've been sitting among the Cooperstown chosen few since September and felt a need to keep it secret, despite the hours and hours we've spent together on the sidelines since then.  But I digress... we're all doing the best we can here).

Still, I really had no desire to sit and listen to a monologue on why this whole stinking pile of dung doesn't really stink as much it seems.  Insert lots of details here about how this isn't associated with Edina Baseball and how these dads did a lot of leg work to get all this put together and had no malicious intent to leave anyone out.  Their motives were pure.  Blah, blah, blah.

I turned 39 last week.  Depending on where you sit, that could be viewed as old, or young, or middle aged.  From where I sit, it's the oldest I've ever been, I have the most life experience I've ever had, and I'm further into adulthood than I've ever been before.  And, as a whole, I love adulthood.  My twenties were far better than my teens, my thirties have blown my twenties out of the water, and I fully expect the same trend for my forties.  Growing up has, on the whole, been good to me.

Here's where I struggle with being adult.  I really, really, REALLY did not want to take that phone call.  My particular logic chip in my particular brain tells me I had no obligation to do it.  The only purpose in me listening was so she could feel better about the situation. If I were to have taken my best interest to heart, I wouldn't have.  Because, let's face it, it's just drawing this whole nonsensical situation out for me.  Keeping that dung pile steaming and fresh for an extra day or two if you will.

And yet...

Not taking that phone call really wouldn't have been very adult of me.  And neither would saying all the things that were going through my mind during said phone call.  So, I put on my big girl panties and simply said, 'yes, umm hmm, ok, I see.'

And yet...

I'm still resisting the urge to reply to her.  To get everything off my chest like she got to do.  To dispute all her asinine details about why the dung doesn't really stink as much as I think it does.

And yet...

I get how pointless that would be.  I get that views on ethics and decent human behavior vary greatly based on where you sit and what you see; and that we all have to make our own decisions about how we're going to act, what we can live with and what we can't.  And, while I'd like to hole up and simply tell folks who don't see things my way to talk to the hand and leave me be, that ultimately hurts no one more than myself.  I guess, if it gets down to it, I can see how belief that nothing outside of the rules has happened here exists.  I get that this other mother has relationship with the two dads who put this whole shootin' match together, and perhaps that relationship makes it harder to see what to me is so clearly culpability.

So, my takeaways for today.

Integrity is in the eye of the beholder.

Sometimes I have to respect the eye of the beholder even if doing so puts my guts into knots.

It's ok to be adult and to take the high road and take that damn phone call, even though it feels terribly and horribly unjust.

And finally:
Inspirational {Interchangeable} Quote Printables at my3monsters.com. Love this for my girls

Believe it or not, I'm actually feeling better.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Cake Eater Problems

I’m going to spare you the details, but last week was a little on the long and emotionally and mentally taxing side for me.  All you really need to know is that come Friday at 5pm, my little family headed out to dinner and I was very ready to just sit at a restaurant and be served while the four of us would sit and utilize our mobile devices to play games and catch up on social media and ignore one another enjoy meaningful conversation about the highs and lows of our week.  

And, it went that way for a time.  Then Jerod asked me if I’d received the email about a baseball team trip to Cooperstown to play in a tournament this summer.  Well, no, as a matter of fact I hadn’t.  Jerod then proceeds to freak out a little bit because there’s a meeting pertaining to Cooperstown THAT VERY NIGHT.  I immediately begin scanning my phone to see if I’ve missed an email.  Husband then assumes there must’ve been a glitch with Jerod’s baseball registration, causing him to be left out.  I text a couple of baseball mommas and find out two different dads are putting together teams, which have essentially been cherry picked by these two dads; and the whole thing has no official affiliation with the hometown baseball association.  Jerod was not one of the cherry picked kiddos.  At this point, food is arriving at the table and tears are welling up in his eyes.  

Well hell.  There goes my relaxing dinner.  

I like sports.  Scratch that.  I freakin’ love sports.  When I’m not at my kids’ games, I’m typically at home watching sports on the tee vee.  I also love watching my kids play sports and be parts of things (teams) bigger than themselves.  Holy hot hannah, though, I am rapidly running out of patience for the associations and parents involved with organizing kid sports.  

Both dads forming these Cooperstown teams sit on the board of the Edina Baseball Association.  And all of the kids they’re picking have come through Edina Baseball Association.  Yet these teams are said to have no affiliation with EBA.  So, you can sit on the association board and pick players from the association.  Edina must be proud of these cake eaters.  Having their cake (sitting on the board and carrying the responsibilities that come with it) and eating it too (plucking kids from the association for a team that isn’t part of the association).  

Way to keep it classy, fellas.  I feel like they should at least be required to pay for my damn dinner.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Post I Have No Business Writing

I'm leaving for El Salvador in four days.  I need to pack.  I have no less than three very large loads of laundry waiting to be folded, and the dryer will be buzzing at me very soon.  I have volunteer obligations that need tending to.  I guess maybe 'volunteer obligations' is somewhat of an oxymoron.  Volunteer tasks might be a better way to put it, but we'll get back to that a little later.  At any rate, the PTO checkbook needs to be reconciled and I'm supposed to be contacting an attorney on behalf of my church regarding a conservation easement on the church's property.  I digress.  I have no intention of ever residing in Kansas again.  These are just a few of the reasons I have no business writing a post on my feelings about mid-term elections in Kansas.  But, here I am.

Until this election, I really hadn't followed a Kansas gubernatorial race since I'd been away.  Not that I didn't care about my home state, but it was a busy time.  I had some stuff going on:  entering the real world, moving, learning how to be married, having babies, etc.  And, I knew Kansas, though the overwhelming electorate held political views very different from my own, would be OK.  Although I still feel busy (albeit in completely different ways), Kansas politics has sucked me in of late.  Like many things that suck me in at this phase of my life, I attribute this to social media.  And, in particular, the facebook page of Game on For Kansas Schools, and their efforts on behalf of students in Kansas.

They brought to my consciousness the state of education in Kansas and it wasn't pretty.  Being that I had no real intention of ever residing in the sunflower state again, it would be logical for me not to care.  BUT...

I'm proud to be a product of public education in Kansas.  The knowledge and values that education instilled in me are why I have the 'volunteer obligations' mentioned above.  In Kansas schools I learned about being a contributing member of society, about looking out for one another, about helping out where we can for the greater good.  I don't love going to PTO meetings or serving on church committees; but growing up and being educated in Kansas, I learned that citizenship and service are vital to creating the kind of world I want to live in.  I'm proud to be the granddaughter of Kansas educators.  I'm proud to hold a degree from the University of Kansas (I'm also proud to hold a degree from Southwestern College, but it's a private institution, so that's a whole different ball of wax).  And to me, the current state of education in the state of Kansas feels like a complete kick in the face of all those things.  And, most importantly, as far as I'm concerned, it feels like a kick in the face to the scads of fantastic teachers who helped to shape me into what I am today.

When Chris and I moved to Minnesota in 2000, we intended to spend three to five years here and then try to get back to Kansas.  Life got in the way of our plans, and we're still here 14 years later.  Our lives our such right now that we could live anywhere on the planet, so long as there's reliable internet access.  We could move to Kansas.  We'd be closer to most of our family.  Our taxes would be lower (we're white and fairly well to do-- Sam would take very good care of us).  We could sell our 1950's dated rambler and buy a brand stinking  new, maintenance free mansion with the proceeds.   On paper it'd be a sweet deal.  In reality, it'd be hell.

Take comfort in my to do list.  If not for it, I would sit here and bellyache all day.  Alas, the laundry calls.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Prison Talk, Part 2-- Thank God for Teachers

I never brought this up with teachers, for the reasons I've already described.  There's no good time.  It's uncomfortable.  Two years ago, when boy child was in fourth grade, my husband and I attended his parent-teacher conference.  Husband and I and teacher (who knew nothing of the situation) discussed and agreed that boy child had been a little out of sorts.  We pretty much left it at that.  The next day (yes, the VERY next day) the teacher (an absolute saint) called to tell me that boy child had burst into tears during the class' 'tell everyone what you're doing for Thanksgiving break' exercise; as he stated, "We're going to jail to visit my uncle and I don't want to talk about it."  So, yeah, we apparently should've given the teacher a head's up to the situation.  In my defense, I didn't have a manual.

After the call, and a meltdown on my part, I sent his teacher the following email:

Mrs. D,
I feel like giving you a little more information on the situation might be helpful.  

C's brother has been in federal prison in Michigan for just under three years, for charges relating to internet pornography(I apparently am not quite ready to come right out and say it, but if you look closely, you can read it through the black.  I'm all about the mind games).  Obviously, we had no idea; and when the feds came knocking on his door (right before Jerod was about to start kindergarten), we were shocked, saddened, mad, etc., etc.  My immediate concern, obviously, was whether or not my kids had been violated.  Upon completion of the investigation, we were assured that they were not.

Because our kids were so young, we initially just told them that their uncle was going to be gone for a long time.  As time has progressed, they've obviously learned more and more.  Clearly they know he's in prison, but the only reason why we've given them is 'he got into some stuff that wasn't his, he got in trouble, and he's being punished.'  The nature of his offense has turned a bad situation into a really bad situation... as we haven't felt able to tell them why M's in trouble.  

When he initially went away, we did not intend to take the kids to visit.  They pushed us about wanting to see him, though, and we ultimately decided to take them to see him.  They've been twice now.  It is extremely hard on all of us, but J takes it especially hard.  I have admittedly been in a little denial about our upcoming unconventional holiday plans.  As ridiculous as it sounds, it really didn't dawn on me that this could be what's causing his melancholy moods.  

I understand that this is a lot to take in, and for that I apologize.  As I mentioned on the phone, it's really tricky to know when to bring it up.  It ultimately is not secret information.  Our closest friends all know, but we have not readily shared it with people at Countryside (J didn't start there until 2nd grade, I'm not super social, and I'm still getting to know folks).  I also understand how bizarre it must be to read that we're actually taking our kids to visit.  It is something we struggled mightily with, but ultimately decided it was a way to teach our kids about unconditional love and forgiveness.  

If we can answer any more questions or be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to ask.  We are taking steps to find someone for J to see, because he's clearly not feeling like he can talk to us about it.  

Thank you again for your call and your compassion.  We appreciate it more than we can ever tell you.

To which she replied:  

Thank you for sharing.  What you have shared with me will not go beyond me, but it may help me be able to help J in some way in the classroom.  He truly is an amazing kid (as I’m sure you know!) and if you can think of anything I can do for him please let me know.  I can only imagine the struggles that you must deal with related to this as a brother (in-law), and as a parent.  We do have a school psychologist who is a resource for kids to go and talk with here.  I could see if he could possibly talk with Jerod if you think that might help him.  Please let me know and I will facilitate whatever I can to help out.

Have a great week and good luck with the holidays.

If you know me at all, you know my belief that teachers are the single most underpaid, underappreciated group of angels on earth.  Seriously.  You can't tell me this woman knew she'd be dealing with this kind of stuff, yet she dealt with all of us with such grace, professionalism, and compassion.  There really are not adequate words to say how thankful I am.  

The following year, in fifth grade, I was more proactive.  I forwarded the email above along with this message at the beginning of the year:

Mr. D,
As a sort of 'follow up' to the worksheet I filled out about J, I'm sending a copy of a note I sent to Mrs. D last year.  On the day before Thanksgiving break last year, her class was going around telling what they'd be doing for the holiday, and Jerod burst into tears and said we were going to visit his uncle in jail.  The note below fills in some of the gaps.  This whole cluster may or may not be something that comes up this year.  My intent in sending this is so that you won't be caught completely off guard should it come up.
I realize this is an odd thing to share via email.  Finding the right time to broach this subject with others is one the many, many difficult aspects of this unfortunate scenario.  Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns.  You also most certainly have our permission to talk about this with Mrs. D or anyone else at Countryside you feel needs to know. 

And, completely unrelated... I thought I had bought the calculator, but apparently I haven't.  I will be in after school today to purchase one.

To which he replied:  

Thank you very much for the heads up.  I really appreciate it!

No worries about the calculator.  I have a meeting today right after school so Jerod can just show me the calculator tomorrow morning.

Thanks for all your support!!!

During this fall's conference (our first middle school conference!), I sat across the table from J's advisory teacher and gave her the low down.  I need to quit yapping and get to work, so I'm not going to spew all the details; but she was equally as incredible as the fourth and fifth grade teachers.  I don't claim to have all the answers to parenting, but I do know for a fact C and I could not do it alone.  I am so thankful for our village, including TEACHERS.



In the interest of not overwhelming this blog with talk of the pokey, I give you fire baby's 10th birthday slideshow.  She's a beast, but she's awesome.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Prison Talk

One might think the most challenging part of this chapter in life is talking about it, and that is true.  Sort of.  Actually, once you decide to talk about it, the discussion tends to not be too terribly difficult (though this could be because I've become somewhat desensitized to the situation).  What IS difficult, however, is knowing who to talk to about it, when to talk to them, how much to tell.

When it first became apparent that Uncle M was in trouble, our first instinct was to tell no one.  There are lots of reasons for this, but as I so often say, that's a post for another day.  Anyhoo, we initially chose to deal with the situation internally.  Bad idea.  Internalizing something you're feeling so viscerally leads to stress, anxiety, and an extremely foul mood.  I'm not saying it's not ok to be in a bad mood; but when you're perpetually in a bad mood for months on end, and people around you don't know why, relationships suffer.  I think, in looking back, I can say we didn't suffer any friendship casualties related to this; but many were strained for quite some time; which I attribute to us not sharing what we were dealing with.

Eventually, we did come to a point where we told people.  In fact,I hit a point where I really didn't care who the hell knew.  What was once a closely guarded secret, I will now discuss with anyone who wants to know more.  However, that doesn't mean everyone needs, or even wants to know.  The big issue I deal with is not wanting to talk about it, not because I'm hiding it, but because talking about it tends to make the person receiving such news pretty damn uncomfortable.  Imagine someone you know throwing it out in conversation that they have a loved one in prison.  How would you respond?  Even having been on this side of it, I don't know the answer to that.  And, when the hell do you bring up such a topic?  During joys and concerns time of your parenting support group?  Over dinner or drinks with friends?  At your kid's parent teacher conference?  There simply is no good time to throw that into a conversation.

Tune in next time for a report on how we finally did come to tell boy child's teacher of the situation.  It's a doozy.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Policy, Procedure, & Power

Last weekend, after probably two months of emailing back and forth to find a time that would work for both families (welcome to parenting and socializing in the modern era), we met up with family friends who we've known since J was a babe.  We would not be Minnesotans if the 'You going anywhere for MEA topic?' didn't come up, so of course it did.  This family knows of the situation and has heard some of our tales from previous visits to what we call 'La Casa Grande,' so we told them what we had in store.  Had they not had previous knowledge of the situation, we likely would have said, "We're going to Michigan to catch up with a college friend."  Which is true, because another absolutely fabulous perk of these trips is that we're always able to catch up with college friend Jen and her family.  Which brings up two topics that I'll leave now and hopefully blog about on another day.  Talking to people about this whole shebang, and how awesome it is to meet up with Jen and family on a regular basis.

Aaaaaanyhoo... the reason I brought up the friends we caught up with last weekend is because upon hearing our plans, she mentioned that they've started watching Orange is the New Black and asked if the visitation scenes portrayed on the show are realistic at all.  In a nutshell, yes they are.

Here's how it goes, on a good day, with no hitches:
  • You check the website to see what visiting hours are.
  • You arrive in the lobby and pick up a numbered visitor form to fill out.  It includes information such as the name (and of course number) of who you're there to see, your name and home address, make and model of the vehicle you're driving, home address, and any minors with you for whom you are responsible.
  • A guard sitting in a glassed off cubicle of sorts calls out numbers (which correspond to the numbered forms).  Once your number is called, you enter the cubicle, sign in, remove your shoes, and go through a metal detector.  
  • Upon passing the metal detector test, you enter a little anteroom of sorts.  Once a handful of other visitors have been processed, the guard comes in.  Then a huge door of bars (yes, prison bars) slides closed between the anteroom and the guard cubicle/lobby area.  Not to be overly dramatic, but it's an awful lot like this.  You really haven't lived until you've experienced this with your kids.  

  • You enter the actual visiting area, check in with another guard at a desk, who tells you where to sit.
  • You sit and wait for your inmate to come in.  Usually it's fairly quick.  Sometimes it's not.  We watched a family sit and wait for nearly an hour today.

Now I'll write about what can actually happen.  In some ways, it's the same.  Differences will be in a different colored text.
  • You check the website to see what visiting hours are.  With any luck, the website will have been updated, but you never really know.  If you happen to arrive during a 'count,' or there's fog, or anything out of the ordinary has happened; all bets can be off.  We've historically been lucky in this regard, thankfully.  
  • You arrive in the lobby and pick up a numbered visitor form to fill out.  It includes information such as the name (and of course number) of who you're there to see, your name and home address, make and model of the vehicle you're driving, home address, and any minors with you for whom you are responsible.  Should the country be in the midst of an ebola scare, you'll have to fill out a sheet of paper saying you haven't been in western Africa in the past 21 days; and if you have, you must certify you're not suffering from runny turds.  While waiting for your number to be called, you'll watch others be called in and then come out because they didn't meet some visitor standard or another.  There are no words to adequately convey the ridiculous sadness of watching this go down.  
  • A guard sitting in a glassed off cubicle of sorts calls out numbers (which correspond to the numbered forms).  Once your number is called, you enter the cubicle, sign in, remove your shoes, and go through a metal detector.  If you don't meet all the criteria for the visitor dress code, you get sent out to change; and the guard tells you to fill out another form (a.k.a. move to the back of the line).  Yesterday, boy child was wearing sweat pants and girl child was wearing yoga pants.  DENIED.  Thankfully we had our suitcases in the car, so we went out to change.  Unfortunately, yoga pants was all I'd packed for girl child; because that's all she ever wears.  Thankfully, I had packed my black 'skinny jeans,' which can double as not skinny jeans on a nine year old (because believe you me, there wasn't any chance of skinny jeans getting past this week's guard.) Girl child has been in with yoga pants before, and boy child has been in with sweat pants before; but that nonsense wasn't going to fly with this week's guard.  And, in case you're wondering, these standards most certainly vary; depending on who the guard is, what kind of mood he/she is in, his/her general impressions of you, barometric pressure.  Seriously, it is totally random.  If after you've changed clothes and filled out your forms for a second time a new inmate should arrive with the local sheriff to report, previously mentioned guard will SPRINT out of his little glass area to meet the sheriff before he brings the inmate into the lobby, because inmate can't walk through the lobby while visitors are sitting there.  Inmate will go back into his cage in the back of the van and guard will tell all visitors that they have to leave the building.  Visitors will wait outside while inmate is escorted in, complete with cuffs and lots of chains.  You really haven't lived until you've experienced this with your kids.  
  • Upon passing the metal detector test, you enter a little anteroom of sorts.  Once a handful of other visitors have been processed, the guard comes in.  Then a huge door of bars (yes, prison bars) slides closed between the anteroom and the guard cubicle/lobby area.  Not to be overly dramatic, but it's an awful lot like this.  You really haven't lived until you've experienced this with your kids.  

  • You enter the actual visiting area, check in with another guard at a desk, who tells you where to sit.
  • You sit and wait for your inmate to come in.  Usually it's fairly quick.  Sometimes it's not.  We watched a family sit and wait for nearly an hour today.
So... that's more than you ever wanted to know about the entry process for visiting an incarcerated family member.  Which also presents another future post topic:  how/when/why we decided that we would take our children to visit Uncle M in la casa grande.

The title of this post is the summary.  There are policies and procedures, and there is most definitely a power struggle going on.