Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Giving thanks and being present

Is your table set for the big day? Thankfully, I am not responsible for that big job in our family yet. Maybe that is why I can look forward to this holiday without the work of hosting or shopping for gifts. I think if Ryan and I ever host we'd be tempted to try a vegetarian Thanksgiving. Given the low enthusiasm that would generate in both our families, I think we're safely off the rotation list for awhile.

I've already accomplished my pre-holiday fast thanks to an unexpected bout with the flu. I am very thankful that I am the only one in the household that came down with it. Ryan handled home and kids with great skill and let me truly rest. The kids were pretty sweet and gave me many hugs and kisses (on the top of my head/knee/ankle/shoulder, so as not to get sick). Of course, Izzy the great cuddler, couldn't really stay away. She came home from school yesterday and sat at the far end of the couch, near my feet. She kept scooting closer and closer, finally ending up nestled under my arm and wrapped around my legs. She slept in bed with me while Ryan slept on the couch. I am so thankful for two year-old snuggles.

I have been thinking about this post for the past week. I am guilty of doing many of the things in this list of "How to miss a childhood." My excuse for carrying my phone around all the time is to take pictures at impromptu moments when my children are doing something funny, cute, amazing. And I do take pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. I enjoy looking at them, posting them to Instagram and on this blog. But am I missing the moments that defined those pictures? I wonder.

My phone is a distraction. If it is nearby, I look at it. I check emails, instagram, twitter, whatever. Short blips of news and events, images of other people's lives. It leaves my mind fragmented and unfocused. With my phone in my hand, I am not as effective in whatever I'm doing at the moment - working, parenting, cooking, listening. I'm putting it down.

From now on, my phone stays in my work bag or on the charger when I get home in the evenings. If I want to check emails at home, I will have to make the effort to turn on my laptop (it won't happen nearly as often). If I want to take pictures, I will use my 'real' camera. I will browse Facebook (really losing my interest with all the ads and promos lately) and Instagram on occasion, but you won't see me there as often. Instead, I'll be taking pictures in my mind, living in the present, and giving thanks daily.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

In the kitchen @ Modern on Meadow

While living in the loft last year, one of the hardest adjustments for us was the tiny, apartment-sized kitchen. There was zero counter space, an electric stove top and a crummy oven that never cooked things evenly. For two people that love to cook, it was a major downer. During the entire remodel, dreaming about our new kitchen kept me going.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Feeling thankful

Thank you for the many, many positive comments to my previous post. Some of you replied here on the blog, on facebook and in personal messages to me. It was cathartic to write about my experience in church last Sunday. I've been emotional all week - feeling amazed and incredulous, a little sad, but mostly relieved and happy. I am filled with hope that we are moving towards a better day when all people are accepted, loved and even treasured for their uniqueness and individuality.

To add to my emotional week, Charlie and I visited his new school on Wednesday. The school hosts Preschool Fun Days throughout the year for incoming kindergartners. He will be a Corinth Dragon next year.

We visited the art room on this tour and the kids listened to a story and drew some pictures with markers. Charlie was a little shy, a little nervous, typical behavior for him in a new setting. But over all he did pretty well. I think I did pretty well, too - only welled up once.

When we arrived, the teacher told the kids to write their names on name tags. Yikes. Guess we need to progress past the "CH" and learn to spell our name. Some of the children could write their names, some couldn't. We have 9 months to work on it and I know we'll get there.

I was on the KU campus last week for an advisory board meeting and the fall colors were beautiful. Visits to the Lawrence campus for work are always a treat for me. I may work for the university, but the medical center just doesn't have the charm and feel of the Lawrence campus. Is there any place more beautiful than Jayhawk Boulevard in the Fall?

And we took the kids to their first KU basketball game last weekend - they were in the PHOG! Charlie could barely not contain his excitement and woke up at 2 in the morning the night before to ask me when we were going to the basketball game. 

Thanks to their older cousins, Charlie and Izzy made it until 8 minutes left in the second half. They had plenty of room to squirm in their seats (which were on the aisle) and that made all the difference. Things went pretty well until we got home at 11pm with tired, cranky kids that we had to wake up, undress, dress in pajamas, and get back to sleep. We might try this again in about 10 years.

Happy Weekend!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Hope for a better tomorrow

My Uncle Adam was a kind and gentle person. He had a soft voice and an easy smile. He was a talented musician and could play any instrument he picked up - to hear him play the piano was truly magical. When I was a kid and visited my grandparents in California, he lived nearby and always reserved a day to spend with me. He took me to Disney Land, taught me how to sail in Mission Bay, and gave me my first ride on a motorcycle. He was bigger than life - a man I loved and admired.

My parents told me my Uncle was gay when I was 10 years old. I was surprised at first, but it didn’t change my feelings for him or my relationship with him. He came out after he graduated college, and it wasn’t easy news for his conservative Kansas family to hear at the time. But his Dad and brothers, sister and mother all loved him for the person he was. Family mattered more than any differences in lifestyle ever could. I was fortunate to know Adam's partner, Ben. They had a pair of Labradors at a time when gay couples could only dream of having their own children. 

When I was a senior in high school, my Uncle Adam died of complications due to HIV/AIDS. It was 1991. Had he survived a few more years, he might have lived a long and healthy life. Instead his life was cut short at the age of 40.

I remember sitting in my small town Presbyterian church as a teenager, hearing our minister say that homosexuality is a sin and there is no place in heaven for people like my Uncle. I remember looking to my parents and the church for answers. I remember asking my parents how we could believe in a religion that would throw aside someone we knew to be loving and spiritual.  Hearing those words of hate and exclusion at a time when I was struggling with my Uncle’s death had a deep impact on me and my relationship with the church.

I sought answers in college in religion classes and studies of Eastern civilization. I thought maybe other religions would bring me the message my own church failed to deliver. I never left the church completely in my 20s and 30s, but I kept it at arm’s length. I accepted the church for what it could offer me and my family, but I also observed and felt its limitations - the shortcomings I could not look past.

All these years I’ve had to live with the idea that my church and the Presbyterian faith would never accept my Uncle and people like him. Until now.  

I joined my current church shortly before Ryan and I were married and I've come to look forward to the weekly services. The sermons are profound and eloquent even on the most ordinary of Sundays. This past Sunday the sermon was titled "Homosexuality: It Is Not Only a Fight That Needs to End, It Has Been the Wrong Fight All Along." Ryan especially wanted to hear this sermon and since he grew up in this church, he knew what to expect (this church has always been progressive about homosexuality, I now know). I had no idea what would be said. I had no idea the sermon would have such a profound impact on me, that it would bring me to tears.

I cannot begin to tell you how amazed and undone I felt following Sunday's sermon. To hear a minister from this traditional church (in Kansas) say that the argument over homosexuality in the church needs to end, that gays and lesbians can not only belong but lead in our church, and ought to have a place in all churches, all religions; to hear him say that the church's mission should be to lift people up – particularly those cast out by society and most in need – and not to judge and turn our backs; to hear those words of love and acceptance so long after we buried my Uncle brought a rush of relief and a wave of emotion I didn't expect.

I am now 40, the age my Uncle was when he died. The words I heard Sunday give me hope for the world my own children might know when they turn 40. The words give me hope.

All these years I knew deep in my heart that my Uncle could only be in heaven. The God I believe in would never turn his back on someone with his heart, his gentle soul. But to hear a Presbyterian minister - one I deeply respect and admire - confirm what I've always believed to be true, is a gift I will never forget.  

Thursday, November 7, 2013


Thanks for all the kind comments and encouragement to my post a few weeks back. It makes a huge difference to me to know I'm not alone in my struggles with career/parenting.

I think we're in a post-Halloween slump this week in the Maniger household. I had a headache all day Monday from my sugar detox, finally feeling right again. The kids have thankfully forgotten about their Halloween candy, so no need to employ the Switch Witch - a brilliant idea. I will remember that trick in the future.

I think I've figured out what is getting me down lately. Change is coming in our lives in the form of Kindergarten. It is looming large and making me a bit crazy. You might think it's a long way off to be worrying about this, but really it isn't. I'm taking Charlie to his new school in a couple weeks for a tour with other parents and kids. I need to decide on half-day or full day kindergarten (do I really have a choice?) and what arrangements we will make for before/after school.

We're in a groove with our daily routine right now. We've had the same daycare for four plus years, our drop-off and pick-up routines are consistent and familiar. That's all about to change.

The kids will be in two locations next year, adding time and complexity to our morning and evening routines. And even if Charlie goes to full day kindergarten, he will be done by 3:00. 3:00!

Of course there is before/after care and that is what most working parents rely on. I looked up some information on the school website the other day and it made me cry.

Seems crazy, I know. Both kids have been in daycare since they were a few months old. This is nothing new. Except, it is.

School lets out at 3:00 and most of the kids will go home. They will file out onto the sidewalk and their parents will pull through the car line and pick them up, complete with smiles and hugs. It is the end of the school day. Time to go home.

The kids in after care will get shuttled to a new classroom for homework, to the gym for some games. They will make friends, play, have fun.

But it isn't like daycare where almost all of the kids stay until 5:00. Charlie will know the difference. He will wonder why he doesn't get picked up like the other kids. Because both of your parents work, I will tell him. Mom and Dad have careers and we've worked hard to earn our degrees and we provide you with a very nice life as a result. It's all good, kid.

Except it isn't. He won't care about all that, our careers are not his concern, his responsibility. He will simply want to be picked up like the other kids. End of story.

It has me in a funk. A post-Halloween, sugar detox, hazy, gray day-kinda funk.