Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Monday, June 29, 2009
First, I wanted to follow up on my last post from vacation. I think sometimes I have to really take my emotions out, turn them over a bit in the sunlight and examine them before I can own them. That is the way it was with the melancholy thing. I'm still not sure where it came from, exactly, except to say that it can be hard to see Oliver through the eyes of people who see him for only a few days each year. I tend to focus on progress, where the noticeable thing, to a person lacking context, might be a deficit. You'd think I would be used to it by now. But I never will be used to seeing that certain look cross someone's face as they observe my boy. I never will be.
BUT, having said that, I also have to tell you how completely and totally awesome my kids were on this vacation. Oliver, a boy of motion, is at his best when we are traveling -- no kidding! Stand in line for a half hour here, 40 minutes there? No problem. Follow Mom and Dad through a crowded airport carrying his brother's banjo on his back? Great! Sit contentedly through a 9 hour plane ride? Sure!! In fact, both kids in this way are true children of their parents: they are real adventurers at heart.
(Just one word of caution for any other parents of kids out there who think taking play doh on the airplane is a great way to occupy her sensory seeking kid. To airport security play doh = plastic explosives. It is a banned substance!!! Who would have thunk it? However, after a little begging on my part they let us keep one container for the trip. Apparently that desperate look in my eye did the trick.)
Also, while in Switzerland they were completely (mostly) wonderful. Sami had only a few flare-ups of temper but not anything like last year. Not once did he call me a smelly pig :-) Oliver tolerated lots of visits with family and friends. Both kids ate in inordinate amount of chocolate and ice cream, and they voluntarily cleared the table after every meal. We hiked every day. Oliver learned how to operate a hand brake on a borrowed scooter and Sami learned to balance on two wheels using a gliding bike. We went swimming in the Rhine. We rode the train. They rode a zip-line that nearly gave me a heart-attack. ... Oliver didn't sleep all that well but otherwise seemed perfectly at ease.
There's lots of other things to share, of course, but I'll leave you with a few photos and a short video of the zip line adventure.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Frankie the Walk ‘n Roll Dog tells the tale of a dachshund who is adopted early in life by Gail and her husband. He has a good life with his adopted "mother", seeing the world, or at least Elkhart Lake, from the basket on the front of Gail's bike. But soon life changes dramatically in Frankie's house: a spinal cord injury leaves her hind legs paralyzed leaving her unable to walk. Operations, physical therapy and a lot of love and persistence follow as Frankie heals from his injury but is still unable to walk. Gail, not one to give up easily, finds a way to help Frankie to have the best possible quality of life. A specially made wheelchair gives Frankie the mobility he needs to continue seeing the world with Gail.
Together, Frankie and Gail have become a registered therapy dog team, visiting the elderly and hospital and hospice patients.
Frankie the Walk ‘n Roll Dog, is a beautifully illustrated children's book that will appeal to people of all ages.
OK, now for the backstory of this review. I have to admit that when I was asked to write a post about this book for the Virtual Tour a few thoughts crossed my mind. Like: A Dog book? A Dog in a wheelchair book? But I was also a bit curious, so sure, I said: sign me up. When the book arrived I barely had time to glance at the cover before shoving it into my suitcase to read while on vacation. And there the book remained, guiltily reminding me of my obligation every time I opened my suitcase to throw in another pound of souvenir chocolate. Finally, on the day before we were to depart for home I sat down to read the book.
What I found between the pages of Frankie The Walk 'n Roll Dog, was a very touching love story. It reminded me that there is no possible way to place a value on love. Love inspires us to create possibilities where others might see only limitations. Love inspires us to keep on moving forward even when our very own legs cannot carry us any further. And there are as many varieties of love in this world as their are varieties of people. It is what makes life so interesting.
About Barbara: She is the author of the multi-award winning Frankie, the Walk 'N roll Dog. She wrote the children's book to give hope and inspiration to all who face challenges. Her lifetime love of animals led her to realize that Frankie's paralysis was an opportunity to spread a positive message. Frankie the Walk ‘n Roll Dog, her first children’s book, was awarded the 2008 National Best Book Award (children’s picture book soft cover) by USA Book News, the Merial Human-Animal Bond Award by Dog Writer’s Association of America, and the Editor’s Choice Award by Allbooks Review. It was also a finalist in the 2008 Indie Excellence Awards. Frankie has been inducted into the 2009 Wisconsin Pet Hall of Fame.
Saturday, June 06, 2009
For some reason I got a yen to hear some Leonard Cohen a few weeks ago and during a spare moment downloaded The Essential Leonard Cohen. I used to have quite a collection of his music on cassette tape but I left all of that in an act of catharsis at the Salvation Army before one big move or another. I’m a real sucker for some of his earlier stuff: Suzanne, So Long Marianne, Bird on a Wire and of course, my favorite, the painfully melancholy Famous Blue Raincoat. Cohen’s music transports me to the soul of my early twenties when I was deeply involved in an angst-filled love affair with an older man. An artist no less. Our affair was doomed but painfully exquisite. And perfectly suited for a Leonard Cohen soundtrack. But life has changed a bit for me since those days. I don’t have a lot of time for free listening and when I do, Leo rarely suits the mood.
Fast forward a couple of weeks and you’ll find me listening to Cohen again. I’m on vacation in an unbearably beautiful spot but my mood is undeniably melancholy. The setting is ripe. Now that the children are older we’ve graduated again to the attic apartment in the old farm house owned by my mother-in-law. Normally a boarder lives in this small garret apartment but he has decamped to Southern France for a few months and so the apartment is ours for three weeks. The boarder is an intriguing fellow. In his mid-fifties, he has no regular job and by all accounts never has. He lives, as far as we can tell, on a small government pension. He owns next to nothing and his asceticism is evident in the things he has left behind: a small hot plate and tiny refrigerator, a cupboard pantry filled with the bare essentials: sugar, red table wine, instant coffee, saran wrap. His pillow and an extra set of shoes are covered in the corner of the outer room by a threadbare blanket. A sheet, roll of paper towels and a pair of scissors sit on a counter and a bare light bulb hangs above what must serve as his table but now holds my laptop -- a device that seems wholly out of place. The heavy wooden eaves and insulation hang above my head, moonlight streaming in from the skylight. A clothesline with sentential pins hang from the rafters in the far corner. A poster from the Spaghetti Western, Once Upon A Time in The West, hangs on one wall and a Political Map of the World hangs on another. The rest of his life is in whatever luggage he took with him to the South of France. I met Vernie on our last trip to Switzerland. He was quiet and unassuming with a gentle, self-assured smile. He helped my Mother-in-law with the weeding and yard work, he had extravagant patience with my children and he spoke English, German, Italian and French with equal fluency. He is the kind of person I always want to know more about because of the simple peace that he exudes.
I don’t know why I’m struck by this melancholy now when I finally have space to breathe; to just be. Such a change it is from the last few months. I don’t know why but I feel lost. If I go back to those earlier Cohen days I remember that the painfully exquisite feelings came from wanting intensely to inhabit a being that could capture the love of this person that had captured me so thoroughly. But a person cannot become a decade older, wiser and more confident just by wishing it so. And so it is for me with parenthood I suppose. Try as I might I have not become the person I want to be, the mother who accepts her role and her children in the simplicity of the moment. I want. If only. Why. I cannot seem to find the asceticism that makes living in the moment possible. I’m curious about Vernie because he apparently has what I lack: the ability to appreciate the gifts that come from the simplest of acts of living.
I am now a decade (or so) older than I was when Cohen was on regular rotation in my cassette player and hopefully I am also wiser and certainly more confident. But those traits only came by way of living. I had to earn them.
The greatest gift I can give my children is to accept them wholly for who they are, to not want and wish for them to be otherwise, even as I rejoice as they continue to learn and grow each day. I know this and yet the melancholy persists. I want. If only. Why. Is this part of the process? Is this the way I have to earn the next decade of wisdom?
I’m not sure.
But Leo? I think you’ve served your purpose. And you can take this melancholy with you!