Saturday, March 31, 2007

First Funeral

This morning Moses and I went to the funeral of his classmates' mother. Thursday I went to my friend Dee's funeral. Today Moses and I went to this one. Neither Mo nor I knew this woman. The boys just started kindergarten in the fall and Miles' mom went into the hospital, I believe, in October. We didn't really have a chance to know her. I wasn't sure I even knew who the dad was until I saw him this morning. I have seen him around. We introduced ourselves. How odd to be there and not know the deceased or her husband--our only connection being these six year old boys.

Moses and Miles share a locker. He is cute as a button. Mo really likes him. When we heard his mom died Moses showed true empathy. We knew Miles and his family were on their way to Michigan where his mom's side of the family lives but Mo wished he would be at school the next day. "I just want to see Miles. I just want to talk to Miles."

So, the memorial "celebration" was this morning and all Miles' classmates were invited. A letter was sent from school saying this was purely optional but gave the details, saying it would be child-friendly, child-geared. Moses wanted to go. We wanted him to go. This is what you do, right? This is how you are a friend to your friends. You show up for this stuff.

So Teresa (mom) and Annie (kindergartener) who live next door picked us up in the driving rain/almost snow and then we picked up another mom and classmate and headed to the church. I felt akward asking the dad/husband what his first name was again--but we both knew we didn't know each other so I didn't see the point in struggling through the rest of the morning not knowing his name and he didn't know mine either so it was fine....I think it was fine....I hope it was anyway...maybe I came off like a jerk, but I don't think so.

The service was lovely. The congregational hymn was Jesus Loves Me which slayed me with its simplicity. There were scripture readings followed by a sketchy (but ultimately fine) sermon and then a solo by a maybe sixth grade boy with a gorgeous soprano voice. Then the dad/husband gave the "remembrance." I simply don't know how he did it. I don't know how he stood up there and spoke about his wife but it was amazing. It was beautiful. It was a beautifully written piece, beautifully presented. I wish I had known this woman.

Then there was a children's message where someone read that "Little Nut Brown Hare" book about "how much I love you." And while we sang the closing hymn (another simple but beautiful song by Natalie Sleeth) the kids all traced their hands and signed their names on a poster for Miles so he'd know who was there. After the hymn the kids lead us out of the sanctuary, out of the church picking up helium balloons on the way. We stood in the sleet in the parking lot where the pastor gave the benediction and we let the balloons go--some with messages tied to the strings.

Back inside there were coloring books about Moms for the kids and plates of cookies. Miles had told the kids at school they were going to have nachos after the funeral but he fessed up that he was only teasing--really there was chicken noodle soup and he warned us it was bad, with really big pieces of chicken. I stood around and talked to the other kindergarten moms and dads (there were about 8 families), the principal, counselor and two kindergarten teachers from school. I spoke to Miles' dad again before I left--what a neat guy--and what thought and care went into to planning this, much of it solely for his son.

And that was that--Mo's first funeral. He knew it was sad. He knew it was heavy. But he's six. He chased Miles around the parking lot. He said, "See ya Monday at school!" I hope he knows now not to dread these sorts of things. Of course no one likes going to funerals. But it's what you do. It's how you are a friend to your friends. You show up for the funeral and then you seamlessly say, "see you Monday at school!" and chase him around the parking lot.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Raspberry Beret in the Serengeti

When we were in England we scheduled our lives around the sketch comedy show Big Train. It was apparently only on for the one year we were there. We didn't realize just how lucky we were.

Here is a little rainy Thursday morning humor from the BBC.

PS: Spellcheck told me how to spell "Serengeti" and it looks wrong to me...but what do I know?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

don't worry--wait for it

This terrible Thing happened. It was a life-ruining, dream-crushing Thing. It was horrible. I was sitting in the kitchen of a friend from church crying my eyes out. I was bawling uncontrolably and inconsolably (rightfully so) like I haven't done since I don't know when. When I thought about the Thing I felt ill. When I thought about what to do next--how to get over the Thing--all the options seemed more horrendus and painful and sickening then the Thing itself. I wanted to die. I was heavy and full of black dread.

I sobbed, "I'm usually a straight-forward head-on kind of person. I can usually face things, but I can't face this. I can't do it. All I can do is hope it will magically disappear. For the first time in my life I can honestly only see failure and doom. All I can do is wish this is all a dream and that I will wake up."

And then I did.

It was a dream.

I was so happy.

I snuggled back under my covers with the robins chirping outside the window and had another hour of blissful dream-free sleep.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

so sick of cancer

Thursday morning I have to go to my friend Dee's funeral. I can not believe Dee died. I could not believe it last week when I heard Dee was home on hospice with a few days left.

Screw you, cancer.

When I got the news that she was indeed dying and soon I felt ripped off. I told Paul that the only think I could think of was so cliche--"I thought I'd have more time." And Paul said that's how cliches become cliches--because they are true.

Dee and I were on the Library Board together. We were colleagues. We didn't really see each other outside of that realm. But I have a deep admiration and respect for her. I always really enjoyed being around her. I know she felt similarly toward me. I trusted her judgement. I could confide in her my personal opinions or misgivings or frustration regarding things board-related, a bit unusual in a politically-charged arena. I could trust her to correct me when I was wrong, shoot my ideas down when they were stupid, support me when she thought I was onto something and fight for me when she knew I was right. She played devil's advocate to ensure that we really thought things through. This sometimes slowed down progress but I was never sorry she made me think. We always volunteered each other to do things because neither of us wanted to do it but knew the other would do things in a way we approved of. "You should be board president." "No, YOU should be board president!"

A few times we went for coffee after meetings. Most meetings we stood around afterward and talked. I thought when I started back to school I'd get to see her there. I thought we could meet for lunch. I thought I'd get to know who she was outside of the Board. I thought I'd ask her advice and she'd give me encouragement. I thought I'd talk her into being board president. I thought there would be time.

And now there's not.

And Thursday I will go to her funeral.

And in a few months somebody else I know will die of cancer. Like my grandparents and aunts. Like Amy's mom. Like Dixie and Marion. Like so many people you guys know and love.

I am sick to death of cancer.

But I will pray and pray and keep praying that those who are fighting cancer will win. Like my dad did. Like my neighbor did. Like my mother-in-law did before and is right now. Like all the people I see at the Relay for Life wearing Survivor shirts and I think, "I had no idea!" did. Because it doesn't always end poorly. But why it ever has to start is beyond me.

Monday, March 26, 2007

spring sprung

1. It is supposed to be 80ish today. Crocuses and tulips are opening up. Daylillies are pushing through.

2. I am starting week 2 of my new fitness regimen. I am alternating running and yoga daily. I do not feel the pounds melting away. I do not feel my pants getting looser. I trick myself into thinking "getting started is the hard part." And I feel smug and self-satisfied to just be out of the house in sweats and trainers. I run a block and then am amazed at all the negative thoughts that come into my mind. I want to stop running and go home. I want to stop running and go home and drink a Coke and eat a bag of M&M's. Getting started is not the hard part. I'm a good starter. I'm not so good with the follow through....which is why twice a year I say "and NOW I'm really going to get in shape and back to pre-baby weight!" and I never have and Oliver is almost FIVE. But I shall persevere. I can change my life, right?

3. I started recording yesterday! Whoop! I went over to Todd's after church and we sat in front of the recording console and he began explaining things to me and I thought, "Oh, crap." It seemed overwhelming. But then he went downstairs to wash beer bottles (he's brewing his own beer these days) and left me to it. I did great. I laid down guitar and vocal tracks for a song, then laid down two accordion tracks. The accordion tracks aren't keepers--I'll have to redo them--but I UNDERSTAND how to do that much. Now, once I have the tracks I need I'll have to figure out mixing, but that's a whole other ball of wax. Which is good. It IS a whole other ball of wax which I will deal with when the time comes.

He had the mics set up facing the corner. It had the same affect of singing in the shower, which sounded great. But I kept turning my whole body so I could see out the window. I finally rearranged the whole room so I could sing looking out the window. The sound bouncing off the glass does not have the same feel as it bouncing back off the wall, but I am much happier. Facing the corner I only had the vocal mic staring me in the face and saying "you better make this good!" But when I faced the window I could relax a little more, blur my sight a little and not focus on anything but see the green of the trees and cars moving down the street and sing a little more naturally.

I was there for about four hours yesterday and am going back as soon as Ollie goes to school. I have thought of little else since then. I'm chomping at the bit. Fun. Fun. Fun.

4. Oma and Opa have arrived to spread a little grandparent love around the house. Opa is playing "Guess Who?" with Ollie just outside my door. Paul made bacon and pancakes for breakfast. Tonight Jean & Gus will come over, I'm sure. Good stuff.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

How I Spent My Spring Break by, Emily Dunbar

Thursday 6:00 am
With the kids loaded snuggly into the back of the Fit, bellies full of dramamine we set off. We made it the 2+ hours to Nebraska City (the kids slept the whole time) for breakfast at McDonalds.

Thursday 3:30 pm
After a long drive with bickering children, one of whom tried to disembark while hurtling along at 77 mph and briefly reduced me to tears, we arrive at my mom and dad's house. Hooray! We hang out, watch cable, eat dinner, catch up, whathaveyou.

Friday 11:00 am
I head off to Music Folk and play baby Taylors and baby Martins for an hour. Delightful. I'm settled on the mahogany baby Taylor whenever I have an extra couple hundred dollars sitting around for another guitar. I really would like a small one for travel (I had to go guitar-less this trip) and for when the kids start to play (becasue they WILL play--we WILL have a family band).

Friday 12:30 pm
After getting my guitar jones taken care of, I drive downtown and proveI am NOT a country bumpkin. I meet the delightful Tim at Wasabi on Washington for some conversation and fantastic sushi--no restaurants like this in Hastings.

Friday 2:30 pm
I meet my parents and kids at the St. Louis Art Museum. The kids only last an hour, which is okay. We see the Egytian sarcophogi along with the African and Polynesian art--mostly masks and carvings which they are totally into--plus some unrelated suits of armor. Then we have our obligatory and delicious trip to Ted Drewes.

Friday 6:00 pm
Off to Doug & Sandy's for dinner. The kids have a ball. Phoebe spends the night for a little girl-time with her cousin Jordan. I fear the boys will be jealous and freak out. Even though they are all sharing a bedroom at my parents, they don't notice her absense until breakfast. The fact that my mom gave them their first Transformers has them distracted and blissfully occupied.

Saturday 11:00 am
Snows all day -- giant freak-of-nature flakes that have no choice but to melt on contact with the ground. I go to Target (ahhhh) then pick up Phoebe. We meet Mom, Dad & the boys at McDonalds for a late lunch and a little Playland excercise. We had planned to go to the park but then....snow.

Saturday 6:00 pm
Doug, Sandy, Jordan and Calvin come for dinner. Calvin keeps appearing upstairs with strange bleeding cuts. No one can explain. Monday night after cleaning up the basement I find a smashed coffee mug in the carpet. Apparently Ollie was throwing toys in the air and Calvin followed suit with the closest thing at hand--a porcelin coffee cup. I asked Ollie why he didn't tell me this when we were asking how Calvin cut himself. He forgot.

Sunday 11:00 am
Church. Lunch at PJ's.

Sunday 2:00 pm
Mom and I take the kids shopping for new Crocs and (why not?) Croc jewlery. Thanks, Mom. I drop them off and head to World Market, Old Navy, The Knowledge Store and Borders and only buy a cheap rug and a game called Bananagrams.

Sunday 6:30 pm
I drive over to Nate & Gina's new house for the grand tour. We have dinner at Dewey's Pizza in downtown Kirkwood, which is now strangely metroplitan, sophisticated, and full of restaurants. Nate & I each have a wild mushroom pie and Gina opts for pepperoni (which is given the misleading name X-pepperoni). Nate takes Gina home to finish a little school work and then comes over to see his godchild, Oliver. We play Bananagrams, Transformers and Nate times the children to see how long it takes them to run around the house.

Monday 10:30 am
Grandpa takes us to the St. Louis Zoo.

Monday 3:00 pm
Naptime for me.

Monday 4:30 pm
We drive to the Shrewsbury Metrolink Station and take the train down to Laclede's Landing to eat at the Old Spaghetti Factory. This makes me want to live in the city. I say this aloud and my parents say, yes, Kirkwood has a lot to offer. I say, "No, I mean in the CITY." Oh. Dinner is good and fun. We take the Metrolink back. Five minutes into the half-hour train ride Oliver has to pee--BAD. I keep him talking to distract him but he is squirming and pinching off (if you know what I mean) and near tears. I debate taking the souvenir Old Spagetti Factory plastic cups out of my purse for him to pee in. We make it to Shrewsbury--by now Mo is in a similar state--we run down the platform, down the stairs, half way down the parking lot where they drop trough and pee in the grass. We are one classy crew.

Tuesday 6:30 am
We pile back into the Fit. Stop at the St. Louis Bread Co (Panera Bread to some of you) for a Mocha for me and pumpkin Muffies all around. Then, we hit the highway.

Tuesday 3:30 pm
After a delightful day with nearly perfectly behaved children (much to my delight and all praise to God) we arrive home. Aaaaah. Home.

Things to note:
Every morning my parents made a Starbucks run. Every night I stayed up well past midnight watching Christina Aguilera: Behind the Music and Australia's Next Top Model. This is what happens when one who normally get five channels with questionable reception on their bunny ears enter a home with digital cable. The kids watched a Dirty Job's marathon on Sunday. I feel thoroughly vacationed. Also--Paul did the math when I got home. The Fit averaged ABOVE 30 mpg for the trip. One tank hit just above 37. I'm glad we packed in!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

take THAT ppst

Yesterday it got up to 77 degrees. It was beautiful. I put ABBA Gold in the cd player, got in the Fit and drove to Kearney to take the PPST.

I did the 1:15 reading section in about 20 minutes.

Then came the dreaded math. It was tough. There were a couple graphs with an X axis and a Y axis and a sloping line with the question "Which of the following equations does this graph represent?" No clue. No inkling of how to do those problems. There were a couple like this:"A student says the following is true: x y parenthesis blah blah blah. Which of the following proves the student wrong." I don't even think the MATH was that hard, but having it framed that way was very confusing to me.

There were, I think, 44 questions and 1:15 to complete it. I could skip questions or mark them for review. I was down to the wire going back over my marked and unanswered questions with the time clock flashing. There was one question involving area and perimeter that I couldn't work out--but I didn't know why. I KNOW how to figure those things, but there seemed to be two correct answers. That was very frustrating. And when I ran out of time and the math portion shut down I really didn't know where I stood.

After a fifteen minute break I did the writing multiple choice section, then the essay. My essay was a rather uninspired standardized test essay, but decent none-the-less.

Then came the scores. Out of 190 possible, I needed 171 to pass the math. I got a 182! I could hardly believe it. I'm a pretty optimistic person. I think I have pretty realistic expectations for things. And still, I thought it was a real possibility that I would not pass the math. So, WOO HOO!

After the test I went to Target--a treat because we don't have one in town. Then I went to the music shop and played a baby Taylor guitar for a while. Next I hit the Thunderhead Brewery to return my empty growlers bottles and pick up two new growlers: Dubble and IPA. The Thunderhead makes fantastic beer, brewed right here in central Nebraska, to be taken home in glass gallon jugs. It's so great.

I cranked ABBA back up and drove home to find Paul grilling on the patio. We had burgers and BBQ potato chips. A little after eight Todd & Cody and Clay & Susie came over to celebrate. We opened the aforementioned growlers and sat in the backyard until it got chilly. Clay and Susie brought be a book. Todd & Cody brought me a bag of thrifted Scrabble tiles--the uses for which are endless.

I feel so relieved. This was my last hurtle to jump through for grad school--now I just have to wait for my (please) acceptance letter. I had been dangling the carrot of recording a cd in front of me and now I can. Thursday the kids and I drive off to St. Louis.

I'm a happy girl.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Save the drama for your Mama? No thank you. Save it for someone else.

While I am tempted to cut to the chase, I must start this story at the beginning. I was in the backyard with the kids when a hawk flew low across the yard into our big pine tree. He was carrying a mammal of some sort in his talons. As many of you know, this sort of thing is cause for great excitement at our house. I told the kids to freeze and went in to get Paul.

We went in and watched from the window for a while, passing binoculars around and then headed slowly and quietly outside with binocs, scope, & camera. It was pretty cool. After a few minutes the kids wandered back to what they were doing. I decided to take a walk. Paul, of course, sat there for at least an hour watching the hawk devouring what turned out to be a ground squirrel. Here are some photos he took:

When I got back from my walk--I went about 2-1/2 miles (how long would that take?)--Paul, Phoebe & Ollie were all laying on their bellies right next to the tree watching the hawk from freakishly close. I walked up and asked where Moses was. Nobody knew.

I walked in the back door (with Paul a few steps behind me) and called his name. I came into the living room and there he stood all wide-eyed and panicky.

"Mom, I just called 911! I called 911! I couldn't find anybody so I called 911!"

I stared at him and saw no blood. I looked the room over and saw no fire or intruders. I thought something awful must have happened, he needed help, he couldn't find anybody and called 911. After brief questioning and observation we discover that the emergency WAS that he couldn't find us.

I grabbed the phone and called 911 myself.

"Hastings 911. Where is your emergency?"
"I don't actually have an emergency, but my son just called from ### Chestnut Ave."
"Yes, ma'am he did."
"He couldn't find us and panicked, but we are all here. We were in the back yard. Everything is okay. There is no emergency."
"Thank you ma'am. I'll let the authorities know."

At first, this all made good sense. Paul and the other kids had been laying on their bellies, quietly, under the pine tree for who-knows-how-long. You'd think Mo would know we wouldn't ever LEAVE him, but I could imagine looking the house and yard over and not seeing anybody and freaking out.

I'm not sure 911 would have been my first option, what with our very helpful and friendly neighbors outside....

But as it turns out, Phoebe and Ollie had been outside with Paul for about 5 minutes. The three kids had been playing in the front yard (where they wouldn't scare the hawk away). Phoebe and Ollie went into the back yard to see Paul. Moses went inside and had some crazy lapse of time and judgement and called 911.

Moses SAID he walked around the outside of the house looking. He SAID he called out Paul's name. It just doesn't add up. Standing in the kitchen talking about all this I could see EXACTLY where they were watching the hawk through the window. Our yard is not so big that they wouldn't have heard Mo even if he had been just walking and not yelling....and they were laying there quietly so as not to scare the hawk away so if Moses had yelled HE would have scared the hawk away and everyone would have been aware of the fact that he was out there looking for them.

I don't understand AT ALL why he was so freaked out. (You may have caught on by now that Moses is sometimes off in his own world.) I do, however, understand that his fear and panic were real. He wasn't being naughty--not calling 911 to see what happened, to get attention, or just get a rise out of everybody. He was REALLY scared. So, I suppose, he did the right thing...but c'mon...911?

After I got off the phone and we got some answers out of him he just bawled. He cried and cried, poor thing. When he settled down we talked about what to do if such a thing happened again (ie: actually look for your parents, not call 911 straight away). We commended him for knowing how to call 911, give them the information they needed, tell them what the emergency was--he really did a good job at that. We reassured him that we would never just leave without telling him. We waited for a police car to show up just to check on us--it never did.

And now I have to stifle the urge to make jokes about it. Every time there is any sort of problem--like Moses couldn't find his tennis shoes--I want to say, "You can't find your shoes?! We better call 911!!" But I have refrained...for now.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

shout out

So, my friend Todd Brown is making a move. He is a great singer/songwriter and all around good guy. He now has a cd to promote and tomorrow he gets to promote on Nebraska Public Radio's Friday Live.

We've been playing in the same circle (both literal and figurative) for a couple of years--both of us enjoying writing, playing locally, and dreaming of what we might do with our music. And the time has come for Todd to move on it and it's very exciting. I can't wait to see what happens.

Admittedly, I'm jealous, but I plan to ride his coattails. I'm actually using Todd's recording equipment to put a cd together as soon as I take the PPST (MONDAY!). So in my afteroons I'll be hitting the spare room at Todd and Cody's and recording.

Go to Todd's new myspace digs; listen to the songs he has up; then email him and say you want to buy his cd. It's good stuff.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

TODAY the school nurse called regarding:

Head Lice.
The fun never ends, folks. The fun never ends.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Right now we are watching Borat. I use the terms both "we" and "watching" loosely. I simply cannot take it. I cannot watch. I have to leave the room. I like sitting here in the office where I can hear it but don't have to watch. When I was sitting on the couch I was mostly hiding my face. He makes my shouldners tense up. He makes me nervous and uncomfortable...but he is so freaking funny.

And Sasha Baron Cohen is so handsome...and, thankfully, so NOT Borat.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

New Song

When I started this this morning it was just a silly idea I had but as I wrote it started to take on some acutal meaning. I'm still working out the melody--I had one, but realized I was absolutely ripping off Patty Griffin, so it's back to the melodic drawing board. Think: cowboy ballad in 3/4 time.

Sweetheart Deal
Emily Dunbar


Our parents had it rough in the wagons and tents
Poor and sore abused. One look, ten cents
Times were harder then and they did what they did
To survive and provide a better life for their kids

The travelin’ shows died and we scrambled scratched
To make a dime off our faces and the humps on our backs
We wanted the gold, but the pains to avoid
So someone pitched a story to the weekend tabloid

It was a sweetheart deal and everyone won
The Bat Boy, The Wolfman, The Cyclops Woman
The World’s Fattest Baby, the sweet Mermaid Girl
We smiled for the camera and hid from the world

We became their bread and butter. We worked out a plan
Each month one of us graced the checkout stand
The public gawked and gasped and we made out like thieves
Safe in our shelter from each taunt and tease

It was a sweetheart deal…

But times have changed again and the people don’t care
for the Boy with Fish Gills, The Girl with Spiders for Hair
They want pretty movie starlets with ugly tattoos
to have nervous breakdowns and they call it news

I used to find the old way perverse
Turn a freak into star and fill up his purse
But now they take the ones who start with it all
And pay a million dollars to watch them fall

We had a sweetheart deal and everyone won…

Now I work the drive through and nobody minds
that my fingers are webbed they say, “Hey, it takes all kinds”
But that stunning young thing who used to be on TV
They scratched her eyes out and shunned her till she felt like me
They scratched her eyes out and shunned her till she felt just like me