Adoration of the Artist

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I was in a car with work friends and colleagues when we heard the news that Prince had died.  Stunned, we sat and shared our favorite songs and memories of hearing them.  We joked about taking the rest of the day off to mourn.  It was so sudden, even though I’d heard of his emergency plane landing and hospitalization in Moline, Illinois last weekend.  Twenty-four hours later, the cable news and my Facebook feed are full of reminiscences and appreciations of his humanitarianism, his daring, and most of all, his artistry.

We have lost too many great artists in 2016.  David Bowie, Glenn Frey, and Merle Haggard are the ones that stand out to me.  The loss of Prince is truly a loss to humanity.  In the United States, we tend to value the pragmatic, the pursuit of wealth.  How many kids love the fine arts in school but are pooh-poohed in terms of considering it for a career?  I certainly never seriously considered it, believing that it would never lead to a stable, comfortable life, despite adoring my flute and singing.  The lucky and talented few ignore that pragmatism and those social pressures.  It seems as if for true artists, they cannot exist without creation and expression and inspiration, and that certainly seems to have been his purpose, or at least one of them.

I believe Prince speaks to a part of all of us that yearns for expression for expression’s sake, the beauty and pain of what it means to be human.  He sang about desire and faith and joy and jealousy.  His music defied categorization.  He had crazy talent.  When Eric Clapton was asked what it was like to be the best guitarist on Earth, he said he didn’t know and to ask Prince.  Bono posted on Facebook that he never met Mozart, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, or Elvis, but he met Prince.  What admiration!

My first exposure to Prince was via a cassette tape of Purple Rain, played over and over again on our home stereo for family living room dance parties.  I knew the words to “Darling Nikki” before I understood what they meant.  I remember having friends over and putting a sign on our front door saying, “If you don’t want to party, don’t bother knocking on the door.”  (How wild could a fifth grade party be?)  I rode the bus to and from school and Prince was heavy in the rotation on the bus radio and I remember singing “Raspberry Beret,” “1999,” and “Pop Life” the countless times they were played.

As an adult, I grew to understand more about why he was as controversial to some.  It never really clicked with me as a kid how he challenged gender norms with his high heels and falsetto vocal range and make-up.  He just seemed impossibly cool, and he was.  Was it the Golden Globe Awards where he showed up walking with a cane?  He made it look effortlessly sexy.  I watched his Superbowl performance live and it was easily the best one I have ever seen.  I just laughed when he defied the NFL’s efforts to present “clean, family fun” at the halftime show, three years post-Nipplegate, with that awesome, phallic use of his guitar behind the sheet.  I love that in a time when our society is transforming, in which we question white privilege and gender norm policing and bigotry disguised as “religious freedom,” he has put forward a fearless willingness to challenge those very things.  Al Sharpton tweeted yesterday that Prince donated privately to Trayvon Martin’s family.  He achieved financial wealth via his artistic genius, but seemed to never forget where he came from and helped others.

As much as I love what he did as a humanitarian, I have even more respect for him as a performer.  I wish I had seen him in concert.  I think one of the things I loved most about him was his recognition of fellow artists and his desire to collaborate with them.  I loved that Stevie Nicks was able to call him when she was inspired by his music to write a song and ask for help, and that in response he spontaneously showed up at the studio to record instrumental tracks with her and finish the song.  I love that he performed with beautiful ballet dancer Misty Copeland.

In the music industry these days, we see meticulously-managed, image-conscious entertainers.  In Prince, we see what my friend Maria said is “living proof you can be yourself in all your purple freakishness and change the world forever.”

I was listening to a Minneapolis radio station yesterday that was playing only Prince songs.  The DJ started talking about Prince’s legendary parties at his home in Paisley Park.  The public was often invited and she said that in the morning (because of course the party lasted into the morning), you could have pancakes there.  The thought of that makes me so, so happy.  A man who has played at the White House still lives in his Midwestern home state and invites guests to his home for pancakes.  I wish I had been to one of those.  I shall have to settle for listening to all of his music all weekend.

There is nothing I can say to properly memorialize Prince.  There are more knowledgable, dedicated fans.  But I felt the need to salute a true artist, someone whose music formed part of the soundtrack of my childhood and young adult life, and whose music will stand the test of time.  My favorites include “When Doves Cry,” “Darling Nikki,” and “The Cross.”  What are yours?  Comment if you will.

 

 

 

 

Seasoning

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We are in the midst of spring here in Kansas City.  The up and down temperatures have somewhat dampened the new flowers and buds on our big, beautiful trees, but as I look outside, the sun is shining and the wind is no doubt carrying kites and seeds and birds to new destinations.  We celebrated the start of the baseball season with our world champion Kansas City Royals.  The Kansas City Symphony is performing Gershwin’s lively “An American in Paris” this weekend.  Conversations around town range from morel mushroom hunting and school field trips to patio weather and outdoor festivals.

I love the rhythms of this season.  I love the awakening of the earth, the smell of green.  I do not have my mother’s green thumb, but my favorite smell is of the earth after a spring shower.  I breathe in the musty, grassy, watery, elemental nature of it all.  I spent the afternoon yesterday at a local park that overlooks the mighty Missouri River, the “Big Muddy” water that flows through Missouri, near all the places I have lived in this state.  I watched the wind ripple the river’s surface.  I followed the whirlpools my grandfather warned me about as a kid as they roiled and boiled and raced downstream.  I saw the light of the sun break through the clouds only to hide again for a smattering of rain drops to fall.  I celebrated the renewal of life on the planet and gave thanks for the season to come.

The seasons are important in this part of the world.  At my family’s farm equipment business in rural Missouri, conversations at “the tractor store” often revolved around the conditions for planting, the winter snow and spring rains needed to carry the crops through the furnace of July and August, the hectic nature of harvest.  The external world determines, to a large degree, the fortunes of an agricultural community, and Kansas City by extension, as a city with a significant focus on agribusiness.

The seasons are important to me.  And yet, I live a lot of my days inside my head.  I think and ask questions and reason and write for a living.  I apply rules to facts and make conclusions and suggest remedies.  I am more connected to a computer than the earth most days.  Many of us are, in this knowledge economy.  Our jobs do not change with the seasons.  Humanity has not evolved to handle this well.  Part of us yearns for a return to that seasonal rhythm of life despite our love for consistent home temperatures and our favorite fruit no matter the time of year.

I am in the middle season of my life.  I find I am gaining an appreciation for all of the rhythms of the earth:  growth, decay, death, renewal.  I embrace Ecclesiastes 3:1-8’s promise of a season for everything under Heaven.  I am more concerned with preserving and restoring the Earth’s beauty and health and that of the people who live in it.  I am more aware of my own smallness.  I am grateful for my awareness of the beauty around me.  I am mindful of making sure my children notice it and rejoice.  I am drinking it in.

Happy Spring!!!  I am celebrating this weekend with my son’s soccer and some kite-flying.  You?  I hope you connect with nature in some way and share with me.

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Star Wars-Inspired Parenting

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We are a Star Wars family.  We own the original trilogy and the prequels.  My son’s room is filled with the Lego versions of an Imperial Star Destroyer, AT-AT Walker, Jabba’s Sail Barge, Rey’s Speeder, B-Wing Fighter, Poe’s X-Wing Fighter, and my personal favorite, the Millennium Falcon.  I own action figures from my childhood and of new characters from The Force Awakens.  My daughter has her own action figures and light saber.  My husband owns the Sphero BB-8 droid that he controls remotely from his phone, and the remote control Millennium Falcon that really flies.  We binge watch The Clone Wars and await each new episode of Star Wars Rebels.  We are dedicated fans, and Disney has made a lot of money off of us.  Of course, we have pre-ordered the digital and Blu-Ray copies of the movie (out today, April 1, and April 5, respectively).

We enjoy these movies as fun entertainment, but the movies and shows also offer Doug and I the opportunity to teach our kids valuable lessons about the world and how to live in it.

  • Heroes are ordinary people who rise to the challenges of their time.  This may seem to be a surprising lesson given that Luke Skywalker and other Star Wars heroes are blessed with a special power, e.g., to feel and harness a mystical energy called The Force.  However, the Rebellion is composed of numerous people from all across the galaxy who contribute in some way to the cause:  pilots, intelligence, military strategy, communications support, supply requisition.  Han and Chewbacca were smugglers who initially had no interest in helping the Rebellion, yet were drawn in by the commitment and willingness to sacrifice demonstrated by Leia, Luke, and the others.  In fact, the new Star Wars movie, Rogue One, coming out in December 2016, is focused on the rebels who stole the design plans for the original Death Star that enabled the Rebels’ successful destruction of it at the Battle of Yavin.  According to what we know thus far about the movie, none of the characters in Rogue One are Jedi or are Force-sensitive, yet their contribution was critical to the Rebel cause.  (They’re also led by a women, played by Felicity Jones.)
  • Giving in to anger, fear, and aggression leads to misery.  We have our fair share of temper tantrums and  meltdowns around here.  Yoda’s warning to Luke that “anger, fear, and aggression” lead to the Dark Side of the Force is repeated in our household as a way to lighten the moment.  We also talk in calmer times about how it’s okay to have these feelings and to express them, but that it is not healthy to dwell or wallow in them, but try to channel the feelings into something constructive.  Otherwise, you inevitably worsen your situation.  Conversely, Yoda’s praise of self-control and patience is repeated by us as a way to help our kids make good choices.  If they find ways to take a breath, a break, or ask for a hug, they can avoid the spiral into a meltdown or tantrum that leads to additional bad choices.
  • The galaxy is full of various sentient life forms, all of which are worthy of respect.  In the Star Wars galaxy, Jedis and members of the Rebellion are members of not only different races, but different species.  In contrast, while not explicitly stated in the movies, Star Wars literature frequently references Emperor Palpatine’s prejudice against anyone serving in the Imperial Fleet other than humans.  The Force Awakens takes some additional steps in this area, with the three main heroes being a white female, black male, and Latino male.  We use these themes from the Star Wars universe to discuss prejudice and discrimination in our own world with our children, and emphasize the need to love and respect the people and living things of our planet.
  • Safeguarding our freedom is difficult in times of intense fear and instability.  It is no coincidence that Revenge of the Sith, the 2005 movie released in the aftermath of September 11, highlights this truth.  The Old Republic’s Senate, faced with a growing military threat from the Separatists, enthusiastically approves granting supreme executive authority to Chancellor Palpatine, who declares the beginning of the Galactic Empire.  Senator Padme Amidala’s stunned response: “So this is how liberty dies…to thunderous applause.”  Of course, Palpatine and the Empire proceed to enslave entire worlds and use a super-weapon to destroy Princess Leia’s home planet of Alderaan.  As our own nation and others face fears of terrorism from within and abroad, we see the rise of candidates (ahem, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz) who promise stability and project authority in a calculated play on these fears.  We speak with our children about the dangers of trusting too much in any leader to make any country great and repeat the lesson above about giving into our worst fears.  We firmly believe that our country will rot from within if we allow our misunderstandings and fears to isolate and punish innocent people who can be our allies.

Finally, I will share how Star Wars has inspired me personally, dating myself in the process.  My very first memory is of three-year-old me going to my hometown’s drive-in theater to watch the first release of Star Wars in 1977.  My brother and I were in the backseat of my parents’ car and I remember waking up from a nap as Princess Leia drew her weapon to defend against Stormtroopers at the start of the movie.  She has been my hero ever since.  In a play world dominated by Barbies and baby dolls, she was a female role model for someone who used her gifts to fight for freedom for others and against evil, with bravery, diplomacy, political negotiation, and if necessary, military force.  She was a confident leader who stood up for what she believed in.  Her example stayed with me throughout my childhood and inspires me to this day.  With the arrival of Daisy Ridley’s character, Rey, I am thrilled that my daughter and son will have the opportunity to see a woman who is both powerful and loving, who has survived horrible circumstances yet is full of hope.  And I can say that the most emotional part of watching The Force Awakens for me was not (spoiler alert) Han’s death at the hands of his son, but the moment when Rey successfully calls Anakin’s lightsaber to her and raises it to battle Kylo Ren.  Tears rolled down my cheeks as I watched Rey’s face, full of fear but resolute in her determination to defeat him and save herself and her injured friend, Finn.  A she, not a he, is the center of the hero’s journey in this new trilogy, and I couldn’t be more excited to see what happens in Episode VIII, due in theaters December 2018.

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Christian Community…via Twitter?

I love Twitter. It’s my primary news source for sports and politics.  It helps me keep up to date on friends I don’t see often and has even led to new, authentic friendships with people I may never have otherwise met.  Twitter certainly can bring out the worst in people, as with other types of social media, but this Easter I wanted to share a story of how my friend Cristin created a perhaps-unlikely Christian community during this season of Lent. 

First, about Cristin, aka @artofbeingblunt. You need to know she is amazing.  I met her via Twitter maybe six years ago.  Like me, she is a die-hard Mizzou alum and Kansas Citian.  She is an incredibly talented writer and funny as hell.  She is also a preacher’s kid who shares very openly her struggles with finding Christian community.  Before the start of Lent this year, Cristin suggested via Twitter that she wanted to start an offline group of people to help each other focus on the season.  Seven of her followers wanted in, including me.  I didn’t know most of them, other than my  fantastic cousin Andrea (@akgarcia311).  I’d met another person once briefly through Cristin.  We came from different branches of the Christian family, Lutheran, Catholic, Methodist, maybe others?  So we began Lent not knowing for sure what this would be. 

We communicated via Twitter’s “direct message” function, which made our messages visible only to the group.  It started out with sharing of inspirational pictures with verses.  Someone started sharing these great daily Lenten reflections that I believe were from a Catholic bishop.  I subscribe to my own church home’s daily lessons and would also share them on occasion.  The person sharing Lenten reflections also started sharing YouTube songs from Christian-inspired bands.  (I’d totally forgotten about Jars of Clay!)

Soon, something else started happening.  Someone shared that she felt Satan biting at her heels and thanked others for what they had shared as it helped her.  And then we started seeking each other out for prayers.  One asked for prayers for a family member’s job interview, and another for him and his spouse as they faced some unspecified challenges.  I asked for prayers for one of my brothers as he went through surgery.  And it struck me how sometimes it is so much easier to speak your fears to someone who a bit more removed from your personal life.  That’s good and bad, but in this case, for me, it was powerful to know people I had never met were praying for me, and humbling to be asked to do the same for someone.  

Often we focus on Lent by giving up things, and I certainly tried, with limited success, to do that again this year.  I found that this group did more to focus my heart and mind on the powerful sacrifice and promise of the Easter story.  I asked the group if they minded me sharing our journey with you, and the support was great.  We intend to continue our group beyond the season and I look forward to it. 

Happy Easter!  Follow my church @rezdowntown and if you are in the KC area, join us for Easter at the Kauffman Center at 9am or 11am tomorrow!  Details at http://www.rezdowntown.org.

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I recently finished Jay Newton Small’s “Broad Influence,” a book about how achieving a critical mass of women in a variety of public and private institutions is not only good for women, but the customers or stakeholders of that institution.  I highly recommend picking it up, and she references a library of recent books on women’s role outside of the home (Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In,” Anne-Marie Slaughter’s “Unfinished Business,” Hanna Rosin’s “The End of Men“), all of which I devoured almost as soon as they were released.  As a professional mom to two young children, I clearly care about this topic, but I wish more men would read these books as well, particularly the men who still dominate the upper echelons of leadership in the private sector, all three branches of government, and the military.

I’ll save you the book reviews but relate my personal experience to this.  Before Sheryl Sandberg advised women to seek a mate who would be fully supportive of their professional ambitions, I made that a top priority.  My husband and I balance careers, his in health information technology and mine in civil rights law, that involve travel expectations.  We are both incredibly passionate about our children and enjoy being actively engaged in their young lives and education.  We are committed to an equal partnership in life.  And yet, I find that outside institutions undermine us and other couples seeking this balance in unhealthy and frustrating ways.

First, the relentless emphasis on productivity from individual workers makes a 40 hour work week insufficient for too many jobs, professional and otherwise.  As Slaughter noted in her book, far too many organizations operate on the assumption that there is someone (aka a “wife”) taking care of the personal needs of the employee and his or her family.  Someone has to manage the household duties, children’s activities and education, and extended family and other social obligations.  Yet the extended work hours in too many positions means that one or both parents cannot fulfill all of the non-work duties.  The ones fortunate enough to afford it can outsource much of this work with house cleaners, financial planners, nannies, carpools, and tutors.  Some are lucky enough to have retired grandparents to help with child care, chauffeuring, tutoring, and household tasks.  The rest of us muddle through, paying bills late at night, letting the house go, and sacrificing time as a couple to make up for the time lost with kids.  Organizations in the private and public sector are offering more flexible and part-time options for working parents; however, in most cases, promotion potential is negatively affected because supervisory or executive level positions are not offered with flexible, part-time, or job-sharing options.  As Slaughter indicates, research indicates people are truly productive for a maximum of six hours per day, yet the corporate expectation is often at least 10.

In our family, Doug travels frequently and often for multiple overnights, often with little notice or flexibility, particularly around the end of the business quarter.  When he’s gone, I’m running kids to soccer practice, taking leave when a kid gets sick, and navigating homework, bath, and bedtime solo.   He does the same when I am gone, but I have far more flexibility in scheduling my travel, fortunately.  I have successfully negotiated reduced schedules in current and previous work positions so that one of us is able to take kids to practices and help minimize the craziness of the dinner, homework, bath, and bedtime routine.  In my experience, however, staying “part-time” is difficult if not well ingrained in the organization due to the ongoing pressure to do more with less, despite the evidence regarding productivity and overwork.  We are hanging on to this arrangement for now.  However, I have had several friends recently leave wonderful careers because despite their employers’ attempts at flexibility, it didn’t function well enough in reality for them to continue.  This is a tremendous and avoidable loss for their organizations.  As Rosin points out in her book, the “soft skills” attributed to women in communications, organization, and relationship-building are increasingly in demand in today’s information and services economy, and leadership in these areas are sorely needed.

Second, our antiquated school calendar creates complications for families with two parents working outside of the home.  The outdated agrarian school calendar with an extended summer means that families agonize over the extra expense of child care or a series of summer camps for several months.   Teachers often spend the first month in the fall catching up students after their “summer slide,” especially for students who are already behind educationally.  The typical school day also does not coincide with general business hours, meaning parents have to find before and after school child care or reduce their hours to drop off and pick up children.  Again, in a time when schools are cutting recess and physical education to cram in more instructional time, wouldn’t it make more sense to lengthen the school day and build that time back in?  It would certainly require more financial support for school systems but it would be a worthwhile investment.

We are again fortunate to live in a school district that offers four weeks of free summer school with low-cost before and after school care at the site, and a school-sponsored summer camp that covers all but two remaining weeks of the summer.  You better bet I sign up for the summer camp quickly because there are limited spaces and they go fast.  My son’s school doesn’t start until 8:45 a.m. and I need to get to work by 8:00 a.m.  As a result, before-school care is a necessity.  Although I am sometimes able to pick up my son by his 3:45 p.m. dismissal time, because my husband is not and I sometimes am traveling or working extra hours, we also pay for after-school care that we often do not need.  The reason I am writing at this moment is because I used a vacation day to care for my son, whose school is on spring break.  Parents in my neighborhood who have kids in different schools in the same district have to deal with start times for kids that are two hours apart, making it hard for parents to ensure kids get to school safely and also get to work on time.  Not all parents work a traditional business calendar.  However, increasing the availability of before- and after-school care at schools and lengthening the school day is a necessity for contemporary families.

There are many more ways institutions undermine working parents, and the two I raise primarily affect working professional parents.  The troubles with shift work positions offered by companies like Starbucks and Wal-Mart are well-documented and mean that parents have trouble obtaining quality child care for their unpredictable and erratic work schedules.  Too many working parents work for employers who do not offer paid sick leave, meaning a child’s illness can lead to a parent’s termination or a loss of wages.  I could go on and on, but instead will encourage everyone to read the books I referenced at the beginning of this post, and think hard about the real economic, social, and personal costs we are incurring as a result of antiquated work policies that are based on a family model that is no longer the norm.  We can advocate as voters, employees, and leaders to make family-friendly institutional changes that will also improve work culture and, ultimately, institutional performance.  We can vote for and promote leaders who support these changes and actively work toward them.

 

 

 

Journey to #MIZATL

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Tomorrow our family gets on a plane and travels to Atlanta to watch my beloved Missouri Tigers play in the Southeastern Conference championship game in football.  Much is being written this week about what a journey this is for the Missouri athletic program.  There’s the completely shocking second season success in the SEC.  There’s Henry Josey’s journey from breakout sophomore Big 12 running back to catastrophic knee injury to blazing through Aggie defenders on his way to sealing Mizzou’s first SEC East division championship.  There is the slow but steady journey of this long-suffering Mizzou football program, this “sleeping giant” as Osborne put it, from decades of obscurity and heartbreak to now, with Gary Pinkel tying Don Faurot at 101 wins and promising “it gets better.”

All of that and more are stories for sportswriters this week.  Mine is the story of a fan who has been on this journey from a distance but who can hardly breathe with excitement and anxiety and hope and fear and expectation and gratitude for this beautiful, unexpected season.  My journey starts on a farm in rural Missouri on Saturday afternoons with touch football in the yard with Dad, my uncle, siblings and cousins, with a grandfather who watched while keeping the radio tuned into the Mizzou game.  It seems Mizzou never won but there was always hope.  There were also conversations at Grandpa’s “tractor store” (the family business) about the game with farmers on Monday, breaking down what Coach Powers or Widenhofer or Stull were doing right or wrong and whether the players were going to come through and what recruits were in the pipeline.  I never went to any Mizzou games as a kid but the games and program were background music for my family life, whether by radio, TV or newspaper.  It was part of being a citizen of this state, and my grandparents certainly taught me to love our beautiful state when they took me and my brother Matt on a mini-tour of it when I was nine.  As I entered junior high and high school my brother Matt and I always looked forward to watching Mizzou football and basketball games, particularly those against Kansas.  I began picturing myself as a student at these games and could not wait for the prospect of attending college at the big state flagship university that seemed so different from my small town.

When I got to Mizzou as a freshman, I did not hesitate to buy an all-sports pass and did not miss any football games that I can remember, although the games were far from memorable.  I think we once tore the goal posts down for simply winning a game against Illinois.  I still felt so lucky and excited to be a part of a Division I college football fan base, even one with such a traumatized history including the fifth down and fleakicker (both of which I recall watching with my family).  Lifetime friendships were forged at these games.  When Larry Smith arrived my junior year, it seemed things were improving.  My love for football never faded, even as Smith’s tenure grew less convincing.

I made a tough but necessary personal choice to leave Ol’ Mizzou for law school which made following the program harder for a few years.  Not surprisingly, Mizzou games were typically not televised in Virginia but I still managed to earn the nickname “Mizzou” for my (overexcessive?) pride in my undergraduate alma mater.  (I recall one of my UVa law classmates, a Michigan alum, being completely unaware of the “Mizzou” moniker, along with many classmates who assumed Kansas City was in Kansas.  Ugh.)   However, when I began my professional career in Austin, home of a fellow Big 12 conference school, I again had greater access to Mizzou games.  Unfortunately, I also encountered a lot of Texas arrogance that foreshadowed Mizzou’s eventual departure from the conference.  I recall someone at my law firm joking that Mizzou should be kicked out of the conference because they weren’t any good.  In Austin, I served as president of the local Mizzou alumni association, organized watch parties and made good friends who shared this bond of feeling that defeat is just around the corner from victory.  It was with these people that I watched in amazement as Brad Smith elevated this program and our spirits and hope for greater things to come.  Could it be?  Were we finally on our way with Coach Pinkel?

While I absolutely adored Austin, there was no doubt that I could not stomach raising my children as Texans.  I am (at least) a fourth generation Missourian and I needed to come home.  Thankfully, my Arkansas-born and Louisiana-reared husband agreed and nine years later, here we are.  I tell my son regularly that he was at Armageddon at Arrowhead in 2007, bouncing around in my six-months-pregnant belly as we hit what was at that time the pinnacle of recent Mizzou football history.  When College Gameday came to town in 2010, we made sure to be there with signs at the ready.  We still aren’t season ticket holders but I hope to change that very soon.  With two young children, one of whom is still a toddler, the number of night games and cold weather games make regular attendance harder right now.  Plus, because I work outside the home during the week I want to ensure my weekend time is spent with my kids.  However, this weekend we are cashing in the frequent flyer miles and heading to Atlanta because I can’t miss this part of Mizzou’s football journey and I want my son to experience it, too.  We are staying with one of my dearest friends from my Mizzou days, a bridesmaid in my wedding and lifelong friend.  Even if I have to spend half the game walking my toddler daughter around the concourse, even if Mizzou loses in spectacular fashion, it will be worth it.  Because this team and this coach have given me so much joy and pride as a fan and we have not yet made a game this season.  The mental toughness and quiet strength this team projects seems new and different for a Mizzou team.  When L’Damian Washington talks about their preparation and approach and leadership, I think these guys are destined for great things in football and beyond, in life.  When Gary Pinkel talks about this team and this upcoming game, it is with a humble confidence that strikes just the right tone.  They seem ready.  Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t, maybe Auburn will just win.  Whatever.  I have to be there because if these guys are going to win this championship, and possibly WIN IT ALL, I feel like I’m representing my grandpa and aunt and sister and cousins who are also Mizzou alums, and the rest of my family who are fans.  I’m representing OUR STATE, the one I love so very much.  I can’t wait.  M-I-Z!!!!!

I finally did it

So I’m finally creating a more personal blog.  I generally hate oversharing online.  I’m cautious by nature.  Why now?  I want my kids to read it someday and understand their impact on my life.  Also, while writing is a huge part of my daily professional life, it’s not the kind that gives you the freedom offered in this space.  I feel like I am supposed to do this now, to shine a light on these inner workings and see where they lead.  So here I go.

The title is a working title more than anything and inspired by my five year old son’s actions today.  It’s Thursday and my husband flew out very early, so I was taking both kids to school.  We’re almost to Alex’s school when he reminds me he was supposed to dress for “career day.”  I had forgotten.  He was wearing a nice sweater and jeans.  We’d planned earlier in the week for him to be an engineer or architect with a button down shirt, slacks, tie, and “blueprint.”  Feeling horrible that I’d let him down and not wanting him to go into school without a costume, I turned the car around to head home.  He asked if I would be late to work and I said yes but it would be fine.  He asked, “What was I going to be again?” I reminded him.  He said, “Well, I want to be a spy instead.”  Much more fun, and convenient, as I explained to him that as a spy he would need to blend in with his surroundings and look like a student.  I turned the car back around to return to school and said he was all set, but suggested he spend time in Kids Zone, the before school program, making a construction paper “watch” that included helpful spy tools like a recording device.  As we walked in, I questioned him about the change of mind.  Did he get the idea from another student?  Why the change?  He said it was because he knew he would not have to change clothes and I would not have to miss work.  I don’t really think he understood that when he suggested it, but maybe so.  Regardless, it brought me to tears that I managed to hold until I got back to the car.  This little guy, this big-hearted little man, showed me the grace I needed today.  I strive to be a professional mom who is very active in my children’s lives.  I successfully negotiated a reduced schedule at my job primarily because I desperately wanted to pick my son up from kindergarten and hear about his day before he forgets, as he tends to do. I wanted time in the evenings to review sight words and count by fives and tens and read and  color pictures and take walks and rake leaves and giggle.  We are doing all of those things and more!  But I forgot something important in his life today.  He was fine.  He showed me his “watch” as soon as he got in the car at pick-up and said the teacher loaned him a magnifying glass as an additional prop.  Completely fine.

Perhaps mom guilt serves some sort of evolutionary purpose but I’m trying not to let it overtake my parental journey.  Hold me accountable on that score, please?

As we said bedtime prayers tonight, I thanked Alex for how he handled me forgetting his career day and said it was an example of him showing me grace.  I explained that grace was when we showed kindness and love to someone who perhaps did not treat us in the best way or did not deserve it.  I explained that God shows us this grace every day because we all make mistakes and yet he forgives us and loves us deeply.  I think he may have drifted off to sleep before I finished.  Maybe the lesson wasn’t for him anyway.

Welcome to our journey!

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