Latest from The Spokesman-Review
The Labrador for Idaho campaign today released its closing ad in the race for the First Congressional District entitled “Family.” The ad, which will begin airing over the weekend, spotlights Raul’s family values and his determination to get to Washington and start working to restore the American dream for Idahoans/Raul Labrador campaign news release.
Life’s tender moments dance into our hearts
The dance starts before we are born.
Babies wait in the dark, moving in time to the beat of a mother’s heart and with the rhythm of her steps.
As newborns and infants, they curl, warm and safe in our arms. We hold them close and sway unconsciously from side to side, in the ancient, instinctive movement that soothes a child.
In a few months, when they find their feet, they jump and bounce, squealing with pleasure.
Of all the tender moments I have shared with my children, I think I’ll remember the dancing the most.
I loved it.
Supported by my hands around their sturdy bodies, they danced in my lap, pushing into the air. Their bright, round, full-moon faces smiled at me as they chewed on fat little fingers. Laughter bubbled up out of them.
Together, we took baby steps with lullabies and nursery rhymes.
As toddlers they reached up to me, stepped up on my toes and wrapped their arms around my knees or held tightly to my fingers as I waltzed around the room.
We giggled and wiggled with silly tunes from Sesame Street.
We boogied with pop music on the radio in the kitchen and danced jigs around the house listening to old bluegrass tunes and folk songs.
Some nights, they came to me quietly, slipped their arms around my waist, and we swayed to Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis, Etta James and Diana Krall, moving slowly around the living room. There was comfort – given and taken – in the embrace.
And love. Love set to music.
Occasionally, when we were feeling silly, we tangoed. Or we moved like Apache dancers across the room, dipping low at the finale.
We twirled and pirouetted to Tchaikovsky. We were the graceful Swans in Swan Lake.
Then, one by one, my children outgrew me.
One by one they let go of my fingers and my knees and my waist. Now my son towers over me. Even my daughters are taller than I am.
Now, only my youngest, almost 11 and almost eye-to-eye, will occasionally, absent-mindedly, step up on my feet and signal she wants to move.
I’ll twirl us around the room for a minute before she pulls away to go up to her room or outside to play.
I’m back to being a wallflower.
It’s OK. No one dances with their mother forever.
Or do they? When you think about it, it’s all a dance.
From the moment they’re conceived, we skip to the tune our children play. After they’re born, even when they’re standing on our feet, they’re really leading us.
Anyone who has raised a teenager knows how it feels to be outmatched; out of time with music you can’t even hear, trying to keep up with fancy footwork. As the years pass, as I grow old, the choreography will change but we’ll still be dancing.
Children grow up and away. That’s what life is all about. Making your way, holding on to others until you’re strong enough and steady enough, and the music comes through clear enough, to make it by yourself.
If you’re lucky, you find a partner. And it starts all over again.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance columnist for The Spokesman-Review. She can be reached at email@example.com
Home Planet: At times, it’s alright to get it wrong
I got my first taste of mother guilt just minutes after the birth of my first child.
After I delivered her – an all-day affair that in no way resembled the serene, choreographed breathing and point-of-focus births in Lamaze class films – I held her, counting fingers and toes, and nursed her and finally let them take her away for all the things they do to newborns. Exhausted and exhilarated, I chatted with the nurse who stayed with me to take care of all the immediate post partum chores and we quickly discovered we had mutual friends.
“Did you hear …?” she asked, dropping a gossipy bombshell. “No!” I said. “I always thought …”
And we were off and running, comparing notes on the bad behavior of a couple we knew. Just the kind of thing you do at a party or some other social occasion. But, I suddenly remembered, it wasn’t a party. I wasn’t just one of the girls. I was somebody’s mother.
Obviously not a very good mother, I thought, less than an hour on the new job and I’d already fallen short. What kind of mother, I asked myself, forgets for even a moment?
That was just the first time. I’ve wallowed in a lot of guilt since that afternoon.
Now, I could fill pages with my mistakes; with all the times I lost my focus or worse, my temper. I could write volumes on the little things I got wrong or just didn’t get at all. I could fill an encyclopedia with the times and places of situations that didn’t go as I’d hoped. Things I should have said and didn’t. Things I shouldn’t have said, and did. Steps I should have taken but missed. Promises I had to break and lessons I neglected to teach.
But I don’t have to record any of that. It isn’t necessary. All I have to do is look at my children, (most of whom can only be described as children in a proprietary way. Three of the four are grown and out of my grasp) and I am swept away by a tide of self-doubt and occasional deep regret.
What kind of mother, I still ask myself, gets it so wrong so often?
Fortunately, years of talking to other women – especially other mothers – have taught me one important thing: We all get it wrong some of the time.
From the moment any child comes into the world, he or she is placed in the hands of a rank amateur. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had one child or a dozen. Each new child puts you back at square one.
Mother’s Day is coming up. I’m hoping I’ll get my children together for at least an hour or so.
It doesn’t matter if there are flowers or chocolates or packages wrapped in pretty paper. It doesn’t matter where we are or what they bring me. All that matters is that I get a chance to see them all, intact, upright and reasonably well-adjusted in spite of me. And – this is the part I don’t remember often enough – because of me.
I’d like to think that on some level my children understand that even when I made my biggest blunders I was trying so very hard to get it right. I did the best I could but I was working without a script. Leaping without a safety net. Navigating without a map.
I suppose I could ask them, if I do get them all together, to tell me what I did right. But that would be fishing for compliments, wouldn’t it?
And goodness knows, I’d never want to be guilty of that.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance columnist for The Spokesman-Review. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Another Mother’s Day column from the past…
Weighty concerns easily forgotten on Mother’s Day
Tomorrow is Mother’s Day.
It doesn’t matter if it’s your first Mother’s Day or your 21st; you’ve probably already learned one very important lesson: Mothering is heavy-duty stuff. It’s definitely not for lightweights.
In fact, one of the hardest adjustments you have to make to a new baby, to every new baby, is dealing with the weight gain.
I don’t mean the extra pounds that creep up on you during pregnancy – the combined weight of baby, water and nine months of indulging in milkshakes, Krispy Kreme doughnuts and grilled cheese sandwiches. It isn’t uncomfortable swollen ankles that spill out over the tops of your shoes, or tender breasts.
It isn’t the stubborn little roll of fat around your middle that won’t go away. The spare tire that resists dieting, Pilates, Yoga and everything else you throw at it.
It isn’t the heavy diaper bag, packed with everything you could possibly – but probably won’t – need to care for the baby, or the backbreaking labor of tending to a family.
That’s the easy stuff.
What hits you hardest, what weighs you down and takes the longest time to adjust to, is the responsibility that lands on you once the baby arrives. That is forever.
I’m talking about the chest-crushing pressure to be a good mother and raise a healthy, well-rounded child; to leave behind a legacy of love and kindness; to make the right decisions and do the right thing. The oppressive worry about a child’s future; their success at school; their success in life.
For some, it’s the baggage from your own childhood, a burden you may not have even realized you were carrying, that has to be shifted before you can shoulder the new load.
And then there are all those expectations.
Raising a child is a weighty matter.
When you think about it, like the stones that filled the hold of sailing ships, the children we love and care for are the ballast that keeps us from tipping in the squalls or slipping under the waves. They weigh us down and balance us. They keep us from drifting away and they keep us afloat.
Children anchor us.
So tomorrow is Mother’s Day.
That means, if I’m lucky, the wicker tray, the tray that comes out only on special occasions, the one with a pocket on the side for a magazine or the newspaper and a special place for a glass of juice or a vase of fresh flowers, will be carried upstairs and placed on the bed beside me.
On it will be hot coffee, crisp bacon, scrambled eggs and maybe French toast. Or waffles with strawberries and whipped cream.
Queen for a day, I’ll lean back against my pillows and enjoy the luxury of breakfast in bed, and I won’t be counting calories. Why should I?
I’ve got children. That means I’ve put on a lot of weight over the last few years.
Tomorrow is my day to celebrate.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance columnist for The
Spokesman-Review. She can be reached at email@example.com
Looking back on columns about mothers…
Motherhood really isn’t about smooth landings
Imagine we are at a party (let’s make it a cocktail party because I’ve got a new dress and I’d like a chance to wear it even if it’s only in my imagination) and we’re making small talk, chatting the way strangers do.
And imagine that I told you that one day I decided I wanted to be a pilot.
I’d never really thought about being a pilot before, but one day, I just knew that was what I should be.
So I read a few books about flying, and a few more books about airplanes. I watched a couple of videos and began to notice airplanes everywhere I went, paying special attention to the pilots who were flying them.
Lots of people are pilots. How hard could it be?
Then, late one night, I rushed off to the air field, strapped myself into the cockpit, grabbed the stick and took to the air with no practical experience. I counted on instinct to guide me.
If I were to say that to you, you’d think I was, at best, a liar. At worst, maybe a little crazy.
But what if we were at that party and I popped a canapé in my mouth and told you I have a child. One day I decided I was ready to be a mother. I read a few books, watched a few videos and studied babies and mothers wherever I went.
I asked myself, how hard could it be?
Then, late one night I went to the hospital. With no practical experience and very little training, I came home with a child. Counting on instinct to guide me.
What’s crazy about that? Isn’t that the way most of us become parents?
I brought that first child home with me over 20 years ago.
I’ve still never flown a plane, but now I’ve got four children. And I’m not convinced that trying to fly without a lesson wouldn’t have been the easier route
Parenting is hard.
Most of the time, it’s impossible to see just where you’re headed, the speed at which you travel is terrifying and there’s no good way to stop once you start. And if you crash and burn, it’s not just yourself you’ll be hurting. There’s that precious cargo.
You take a plane down, you’re dead. You screw up your kids, you’re a bad parent.
That’s a lot worse than being dead.
Raising a child, you have to be the pilot, the copilot and the navigator.
Oh, and you’re also the flight attendant. You spend a lot of time making everyone but yourself comfortable.
The instinct to nurture and protect your young is a good start. It certainly helps. But nothing teaches like experience.
Which brings me to my point.
Mother’s Day is coming up. That’s a good time to think about who got you where you are today.
Most of us have someone, a mother or a mother figure who kept us aloft. She was the calm voice that told us to buckle up and breathe deeply. She guided us around storms and didn’t bail when the going got rough.
She brought us in safely. She gave us our wings. She put our feet on the ground.
This Mother’s Day, buy a card. Pick a flower. Take your mother somewhere she can wear a pretty dress.
And while you’re at it, by all means, tell her thanks for the ride.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance columnist for The Spokesman-Review. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons.” Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and public radio stations across the country. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Home Planet: Children leave home but not our hearts
The chime signaling a text message woke me out of a sound sleep. My phone, lying on the bed beside me, there in case of emergency, in case someone needed to reach me, close at hand for late night messages, glowed in the dark room.
“Just left the locks,” the message read. “And hit open water.”
It was from my son.
I typed a short reply, part message part benediction, and rolled onto my back to stare at the ceiling.
I was alone in a hotel room, on a weekend tour through the Walla Walla wine country. At the same time my 20-year-old son was on a boat cruising toward Alaska. It was the first night of his new job, and at that moment he was alone in a tiny cabin, watching land and all that was solid and secure, slip away.
Dear… Well, I don’t need to put your names down on paper. You all know who you are…
This morning when you woke up and stumbled into the kitchen for that first cup of coffee or bowl of cereal, or woke up and stumbled out to open the package sitting on the table in some other kitchen, you found a Valentine. You knew you would. I always give you a Valentine; a gift that includes a card chosen especially for you. A few chocolates, some little trinket to carry with you to remind you of me, a silly rhyme.
It’s the same little treat you get every year on this day. And, as always, I meant every one of those little Xs and Os.
This letter isn’t about that. This little note, a true love letter, is about all the other Valentines I’ve sent you. The ones you can’t see or hear or taste.
|Thursday, February 11, 2010|
Another vintage Home Planet Valentine…
Real love is the kind we are surrounded by every day
Chances are you’ve got love, or something like it, on your mind. After all, it’s Valentine’s Day.
Did you buy roses? You need to buy roses. And a card covered with sentimental poetry written by a stranger.
Don’t forget the chocolate, the expensive perfume, something from Victoria’s Secret, a gourmet meal at a five-star restaurant and jewelry. Isn’t that what it takes to show love? Well, one day a year, maybe. But it’s the other 364 days that tell the tale.
older I get and the more I watch the world around me, the more I realize
that - good health allowing - eventually we all seem to sort ourselves
into one of two groups. We decide to be happy or we don’t.
We all know people who appear to have come into this world with an hourglass in their hearts. It’s as though they know from the moment they’re born that time is running out. And they live lives to reflect that. They connect with the world in a unique way. They are present in each moment. They deliberately see the world in soft focus, smoothing the rough edges, the disappointments and inevitable letdowns. They count their blessings. They give back as much, if not more than they get.
Some charge into every day, seeking adventure or love - sometimes adventure and love. They make us laugh. They inspire us. They make us want that kind of happiness.
Some are easily contented. It is enough to simply be here at all. They get their pleasure from the quiet pursuits; a job that fulfills them and keeps food on the table, a home that is safe and warm, not necessisarily grand or fancy, just shelter from the storm. The love of family and a partner. They meet life with a soft smile and make their way through the world staying just outside the limelight.
Life, they will tell you, is fleeting. It is a gift. It should be appreciated. It should be shared. They forgive and forget and move on. They humble us.
By Cheryl-Anne Millsap
January 27, 2010
Special to Pinch
After almost 6 weeks of having her home, we just helped my middle daughter pack up her gear to return to school at the end of the long winter break. She was ready to go. She was ready to get back to her life on campus.
She took her new sweaters. She took the new DVDs and the books she bought while she was here. She took the female kitten she recently adopted from a friend on campus and who predictably went into heat as soon as they got home. The cat whose expensive, but necessary surgery put a significant dent in the post-holiday budget.
When her ride arrived we sent her on her way - as we always do - with hugs and kisses and a warning to be safe. To watch out for snow on the mountain passes, to stay alert and aware of other drivers. I told her to call us when she got back to school and to stay in touch on a regular basis. We reminded her to eat right and to make the right choices. She’s in college. I brought up that part about making good choices again.
I gave the kitten’s ears a rub and waved as the car pulled out of the driveway.
By Cheryl-Anne Millsap
Special to PINCH
Jan 20, 2010
One of the things I loved most about the Harry Potter books when my children were reading them, was the idea that photographs in newspapers, books and magazines were living images. The people in the magical photos moved, coming and going, talking, laughing and smiling at whoever was looking at them.
Sometimes, when I walk past the framed black-and-white and sepia-toned photos that hang on my bedroom wall, I think about that. They are, for the most part, snapshots and portraits of my children taken when they were very young. And most, although I’ve only just realized it, were taken in summer.
remember the moment each was taken…
By Cheryl-Anne Millsap
Special to Pinch.
January 6, 2010
We start every new year by searching for the right pieces to the puzzle. We open a box, upend it on the table and start building our boundaries.
Of course, anyone who’s ever done a jigsaw puzzle knows that’s the easy part. It’s finding a way to finish the rest that takes the real work.
Last night, after everyone else had gone to bed, I couldn’t get to sleep. Regretting that second late-afternoon cappuccino, I surrendered. I put on my slippers and wandered into the living room to play around with this year’s holiday puzzle.
The room was dark, with only the one lamp over the table. The cat was curled up on the sofa and the dog lifted his head to see if there was any chance I was up for a late-night snack before dropping it again and going right back to his snoring.
Pulling my robe a little tighter around me, shivering in the chilly night air, I sat down and began to study the pieces in front of me. I looked at the empty spaces and then at the puzzle-pieces scattered across the tabletop, occasionally picking up one to pop into the right place. As I worked, soothed by the quiet activity, my mind drifted back to the people who just a few hours before had been in the room…
Celebrate the gift we all receive
I let a whole year slip through my fingers.
Like the sand I scooped up at the beach on my vacation, months, days, weeks and hours trickled away until they were all gone and I was left with empty hands…
I don’t have a lot to show for last year. I didn’t lose a pound or gain an hour. I didn’t save nearly enough time or money. I didn’t turn over any new leaves or completely shed any bad habits. I’m basically the same person I was this time last year.
I was hoping for a little more than that.
By Cheryl-Anne Millsap
Special Correspondent to Pinch
I cook the same meal each Thanksgiving, by request, and seldom make any dramatic changes to the menu. So each November the house fills with the savory fragrance of our traditional meal. Sage, celery seed, pepper and onion in the Southern cornbread dressing. Cinnamon, brown sugar, pecans on top of the buttery sweet potatoes. The unmistakable aroma of roast turkey and fresh rolls.
The scents that surround us that day are comforting and familiar and pull each of us back in time. My children can close their eyes and connect the dots of their memories, recalling similar meals in different houses and cities.
Alone in the kitchen, a big yellow ware bowl and a faded recipe on the counter, I remember my own childhood, standing in my grandmother’s kitchen with my brother and sister, one of her aprons tied under my arms, a big mixing spoon in my hand, the house full of aunts, uncles and cousins who will gather around the big table in the dining room…
Holidays remind us of our fragile world
It’s always been my job to make sure we celebrate the holidays in a big way. So, last week one of my daughters and I made the traditional night before Thanksgiving trip to the grocery store to pick up the ingredients for the big meal.
My daughter took half the list and I went off in search of the rest.
I was aware of another family, another mother and child, beside me. It was hard to miss them. The child was loud and – truth be told – a little obnoxious. He wanted everything he saw and he wouldn’t take no for an answer. I listened to his mother explain, again and again, in a voice laced with irritation, why he was not going to get what he wanted. There just wasn’t enough money for anything but the basics, she told him. But he persisted…
The Smith Sisters
”Studies suggest that brothers and sisters who stay connected have healthier lives” http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2009/jul/26/the-power-of-siblings/
I only see my siblings a few times a year. However, my husband and his siblings are very close and we see them a couple times a month. Our children are all close in age, and the cousins have formed tight bonds.
Were you close to your siblings growing up? Are you still close?
Conservative religious groups are preparing a voter referendum to overturn a bill granting same-sex partners most of the rights and responsibilities of spouses.
Senate Bill 5688 passed the legislature yesterday and is headed to Gov. Chris Gregoire, who is expected to sign it into law.
Proponents say it’s a simple matter of fairness, that same-sex couples and their children deserve the same sort of protections and rights that married couples have. Opponents argue that the bill, after a trip through court, will lead to same-sex marriage.
This afternoon, Faith & Freedom’s Gary Randall emailed a note to supporters:
While the lawmakers were voting in favor of homosexual marriage in the Capitol, I and several other leaders in the faith community were meeting a few blocks away, finalizing details before filing a referendum to overturn this legislation.
…Their next step will be an easy one them. Litigate, correctly claiming there is no legal difference, then claim discrimination and it’s a done deal.
They will have successfully done an end-run on the State Supreme Court ruling which upheld DOMA and will have dismantled the Defense of Marriage Act.
If same-sex marriage becomes reality in Washington (as it has in four other states), he argues, Washington “will become a national attraction for homosexuals” from other states and countries.
More from the e-mail:
We know we will be outspent probably 6 to 1 or more on this referendum campaign, however we are equally confident, people of faith and conservatives will do all they can do to help us.
Proponents of the bill have repeatedly said they expect a referendum, and are prepared to take the debate to the public.
Volunteering as a family provides quality time for busy families, strengthens communication and promotes cooperation, according to the Corporation for National & Community Service.
For many families, the experience also increases problem-solving skills while enabling parents and older siblings to be role models to the younger ones. It can be as simple as visiting seniors at a nursing home or picking up litter along the Centennial Trail. Or, it could be a regular family activity such as the birthday parties that the Collins Whitehead family of Spokane Valley organizes every month for the mothers and children at St. Margaret’s Shelter.
By working side-by-side, families who give back to the community learn about social issues and spend quality time together, according to experts. As a result, children learn values from their parents that include empathy, tolerance, respect and civic engagement.
Is your family involved in community service? How did you pick your project? What prompted you to volunteer together as a family?
Also, how old were your children when they started taking part in volunteer work?
Are your kids worried about the economy?
You may assume they’re not. But if you are, chances are decent that they’re feeling your anxiety and wondering what’s going on. Teen-agers, especially, are mature enough to be scared — and to be given some straight talk about your situation.
A report from Money magazine says that an up-front discussion with your teenagers is a chance to allay their fears and teach them values about economic life.
The biggest question on your kids’ minds is probably: What does this mean to me? Answer this as straightforwardly as you can. “You don’t want to convey anxiety, just the facts,” says Gresham, who specializes in financial issues. Start with what’s not at risk: their allowance, say, or your ability to pay the mortgage. …
Then say what could be vulnerable: your job, for example, or your ability to cover all their college costs. Tell them exactly how you plan to cope. “You can’t just say, ‘We’re going to be okay,’ ” says New York City psychologist Marlin Potash, who focuses on money and relationships. “You must explain why you’re going to be okay.”
Voices: quotes from the House and Senate hearings on Washington’s everything-but-marriage bill for domestic partners…
Rather than try to shoehorn my lengthy print story into a blog post, here are some quotes from yesterday’s standing-room-only hearings on the “everything but marriage” law for state-registered domestic partners in Washington.
“You may not consider my family a family, but I know in my heart that they are. So will you please pass this bill, so that everyone can know that this is my family?”
-Benjamin, the 10-year-old son of one Seattle lesbian couple
“Genuine marriage has provided for the foundation of healthy and harmonious family living for civilized societies for centuries. It does not exist just for the emotional satisfaction, affirmation or validation of individuals, but for the greater good of the social order.”
-Larry Stickney, with the Washington Values Alliance
“When our kids now ask us if we’re married, we say, ‘Not in the eyes of the law, but yes, we are married in our hearts.’”
-Amie Bishop, a social worker and mother of Benjamin.
“It was said that (same-sex marriages briefly performed in Oregon) never existed. It was a devastating and humiliating experience. All of sudden, we felt totally negated, and that we and our relationship did not exist and there was no protection for us.”
-retired National Guard Col. Grethe Cammermeyer.
“They should be satisfied withthe status quo. Enough is enough.”
-a grandmother whose name I didn’t get.
“I say this respectfully, but there’s going to come a time when we’re all going to have to stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account for things done in the flesh.”
-Roy Hartwell, pastor of a church near Olympia.
“We’re here, we’re coming, we’re voting…We’re voting in your districts … We’re voting for this.”
-David Iseminger of Seattle.
“We vote as well…We will be back.”
-Gary Randall, with the Faith and Freedom Network
(For more context on the quotes, click on the story link above.)
Are you willing to pay $40 a year for a family medical leave stipend you might someday need? House and Senate lawmakers hope so…
More from the print paper:
In 2007, jubilant Democratic lawmakers approved $250-a-week stipends to workers who take unpaid time off to bond with a new baby.
Two years, later without paying anyone a dime, paid family medical leave has stalled. Gov. Chris Gregoire halted computer work on it to save money. And no one agrees how to pay for the estimated $40 million annual payout.
But they may be getting closer. Lawmakers in the House and Senate are now calling for a 2-cents-an-hour fee on all workers, with the money used to pay the stipend. And the benefit wouldn’t just apply to parents. Anyone with a sick family member could use it.
For a full-time worker, the fee works out to about $40 a year.
“If you’re going to ask everyone to pay, then everyone has to benefit,” said state Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, who introduced one of the bills Wednesday. “It’s just fairness.”
From which parent did you inherit your sensibility about money?
A recent poll in the U.K. showed that a quarter of all respondents say it was Mom, while 15 percent blame (or credit) Dad. Lisa Belkin reports on the survey at her New York Times blog.
This has me wondering about the generation growing up right now. Because, in the end, saying you adopted your parents view of money, and saying you have developed your own approach, are really two ways to say the same thing: you are influenced by the times in which you were raised. My father, conservative and cautious, was a child of the Depression. My mother, far more relaxed about finances, was a child of the sigh of relief that followed WWII.
I know, I know. The readers of The Vox Box aren’t jumping up and down, hyperactively anxious for Santa to arrive- or at least we shouldn’t be. But when has that ever stopped us before? For a few years now, I’ve shown my younger family members this Santa Tracker by NORAD. It’s very cool, for the under 7 set. Or the wish-they-were-under-7 set.
What are you doing tonight? Any awesome traditions?