Category Archives: Excavating

Perfect Moment Monday: Retrospect

Perfect Moment Monday is about noticing a perfect moment rather than creating one. Perfect moments can be momentous or ordinary or somewhere in between.

We gather once a week to engage in mindfulness about something that is right with our world. Everyone is welcome to join. Details on how to participate are at the bottom of this post, complete with bloggy bling.

Please visit the links of the participants at the bottom.

Here’s a perfect moment from my week. I hope you’ll share yours, too.

I took a trip on the yellow brick road down memory lane this week.

I returned to my college town in Kansas for a class reunion. This sign above the bar gave me pause, because I realized that people not even born when we graduated can now legally drink alcohol.
Let me say a little about my college. It’s small — there were 104 in my graduating class, and just under 1000 students altogether. It’s tight — after so many years, we alums greeted each other with deep affection. It’s idyllic — I hold thousands of happy memories. SO many memories in only 4 years. And the college is inextricably entwined with the town.

The town has remained at a population of about 3500 over the decades. It’s a farming and artisan community — highly welcoming of the transient student population who are invited to retain a claim on the place.

Each odd-numbered year, the town hosts Svensk Hyllningsfest, a Swedish harvest festival that coincides with the college’s class reunions. The town has one flashing red light at the main intersection. No green or yellow is necessary — just red. And even that is shut off during Hyllningsfest, for the parade and for the Swedish Dancers.

The day before the actual festivities (which I enjoyed immensely — hello fellow Stuga-ites!), I spent time alone, wandering the town with my 80s playlist on, revisiting the scenes of past sins. Such as:

  • with my roommate one night, moving a bench from City Hall and putting it in the middle of Main Street.
  • with the same roommate, grabbing bread carts from behind the grocery store and racing each other in the parking lot.
  • making out in the bandshell on my 19th birthday with Jim (“making out” is not a euphemism, mom — I truly did not mess around with Jim).
  • my pattern of going after the same guy my friend Kathy liked. Three times, we figured.
  • stealing a couple of dollars from the till at my summer job, just because I could.
  • “going to Nebraska,” which was a euphemisms for, well, taking a trip of sorts.
  • breaking a few hearts.

And the scene of past hurts:

  • having my heart broken. More than once.
  • being on the outside of girl groups. Or at least thinking I was.
  • not being able to do the splits for my final drill-team routine. I was the only girl who wasn’t that limber. Fail.
  • two car accidents that claimed the lives of friends.

I got to revisit these scenes of teen/twentysomething angst with mature eyes. Even my imperfections were made perfect.

Fall sunflowers, to and fro.

To participate in Perfect Moment Monday:

  1. Between Sunday night and Tuesday night, write up your own Perfect Moment in a blog post, on Twitter, on Facebook, or simply leave a comment below.
  2. Grab the URL of your Perfect Moment.
  3. Use MckLinky below to enter your (or your blog’s) name and the URL of your Perfect Moment
  4. Visit the Perfect Moments of others (from the links below), and let the writers know you were there.

Once you make a Perfect Moment post , you may place this button on your blog.

What Perfect Moment have you recently been aware of? Be sure to visit these moments and share the love, and please come back next week (click to subscribe).

Show & Tell: A Falling Out, of Sorts

Twenty years ago I was halfway through a year working in Japan. I had been teaching English, traveling the country, and working out some issues by leaving my falling-apart life behind for a bit.

Phase 1 of the year was Wonder. Everything in the Winter/Spring of 1989 was new and fascinating: the food, the people, the culture, the freedom. This period of growth and opening was exactly what I’d come for.

Summer brought Phase 2, which was Settling In. I felt confident enough in my language and getting-around skills to host my parents and sister for a visit in July and my boyfriend in August.

Things fell apart for Phase 3. Let’s call it Ick. I had no more visits to look forward to, I became very homesick (especially for Boyfriend), and I was bored to tears with my job. Speaking simplified English and covering the same topics over and over allowed me to practice and perfect the art of the clandestine yawn to the point where I thought my cranium would implode.

The heat and humidity were stifling to this dry-heat girl raised in the semi-arid Rocky Mountains. By the end of the summer, I was sick of sopping though my clothes ALL THE TIME. It was only after midnight that it was tolerable to go outside. Conveniently, this is also when I would gather several hundred yen and head to the international phone on the street corner to call Boyfriend, who would be available then due to the time difference.

One suffocating night, around 1 am on my way home from the phone booth, I noticed a man with a flannel jacket (??) hanging over his forearm. Odd. He began to follow me along a deserted street, and I saw that his OTHER arm was moving up and down. Rapidly. With a grin, he flapped open his first arm to show me what he was pumping.

I freaked out, even though I knew I wasn’t in any physical danger. He was a swine, but a harmless swine.

Still, I felt violated. The next day at work, I insisted that my coworker, a bilingual Japanese woman, help me make a police report.

She explained to me that reporting such a “crime” was just not done. Men will be men. Even if police DID look for the perv, even if they DID find him, nothing would happen to him. Shikata ga nai.

I insisted, and she accompanied to me to the local police station. In my mind I was quite powerful, bringing healthy feminine boundaries from America to my host country. I would save other women from this preying public crank wan.ker.

As soon as I finished puffing myself up, the translation deflation hit.

Know what the police officer said, as relayed to me by my colleague?

It probably fell out by itself.


I may have fallen off my chair. All by myself.


See what my classmates are showing and telling over at The Town Crier’s Show & Tell. And show something yourself — EVERYONE is welcome.

Hey, Baby. What’s Your Rung?

Here’s the way I saw the social universe during junior high and high school. Was it at all similar for you?

  • Top rung: Football and basketball players; cheerleaders/pompon girls
  • 2nd rung: Other jocks; friends of jocks and cheerleaders
  • 3rd rung: Cowboys
  • 4th rung: Smart geeks
  • 5th rung: Band weenies and choir/theater people
  • 6th rung: Stoners

Really, this list overstates the importance of rungs 3-6. It felt like below the 2nd rung, we were all lumped together as varying degrees of Losers.

Me? I was a Band Weenie, and proud of it. I wore a funny hat during marching band parades and hung out with other Band Weenies. We had cleaner fun than the Popular Kids — we weren’t cool enough for alcohol and other vices. We were more likely to TP a house (the quarterback’s naturally; the closest I could get to him) than to attend a kegger.

I got through high school without making any really bad decisions, and I suppose it was said I had a pretty good head on my shoulders. So in a way, unpopularity worked for me.

But at the time, I was keenly aware of being low on the ladder. This fact was emphasized more recently at my mmmfrtieth reunion, when I wished I’d had a dime for every time a former Top Runger asked me, “And which high school did YOU go to?”

YOURS, you self-centered princess / narcissistic musclehead!

But no, I’m over it now. Clearly. Thanks for asking.

I often wondered where popularity comes from. I mean, at what age do you get assigned a rung? Was it before 4th grade, when I moved into the school system? Was I assigned a lower rung because I was new? Then why were other newcomers allowed access to the upper rungs? Was it simply that I was not an athlete? That my jeans were off-brand and not Calvin Kleins? (On second thought, if you clicked on the link above, I bet the reasons will become apparent.)

What were the qualities that separated the Ins from the Outs? And who got to be the judge? I’d like to think it wasn’t just being, uh, easy, back in the 70s and 80s. After all, isn’t it supposed to be a recent phenomenon that kids are very, uh, body-savvy by middle school?

Now Tessa and Reed are beginning to steer their way through social strata. In the early elementary grades, the rungs assignments are not yet set and the kiddies are not yet cutthroat evil vicious eager social climbers, but I’m not exactly sure when the game begins. It could be very soon for my children. Surely the foundation for each of them is already being formed.

So this makes me think: how can I best help them navigate the emerging strata in their social lives? How do I teach them to balance their individuality (Tessa has a unique sense of fashion , and Reed is one of the most enthusiastic Jedis-in-training in this galaxy) with attempts to fit in and conform? How do I keep them from being either the hurters or the hurtees?

What are your thoughts?

  • What was your position and memories of your own ladder?
  • Where does popularity come from?
  • How will you / did you / would you help your children with these issues?

Note: this post was referenced on

The Mom Behind the Mom I Am

I was her first. She and my dad had waited nearly 4 years after getting married for my arrival.

Mom and Dad both had a strange sense of humor, as evidenced by the names they came up with for me. Good thing I was a girl and became Lori. If I’d been a boy, according to family lore, I would have been given my father’s initials, and thus been named Golden Folden Holden.

Mom was hands-on. She was always playing games with us, teaching us to play piano, living at our level. Unlike me as a mom, she seemed, in those early years, to have no interests of her own other than raising her three girls (see, no boys. Proof of God?).

Consequently, I learned to read at age 3, because Mom spent hours upon hours reading to me while I potty trained. I grew up thinking books and bathrooms go together, like Dick and Jane.

We had only one car back in those days, and my dad took it to work. So Mom was without a car from 7 am -6 pm. I can’t quite recall when she ran errands and got groceries. We rarely ate fast food and she had three homemade meals on the table each day. These days, my children and I practically live in the car and just use the house as a place to sleep and store stuff (well, the stuff that’s not stored in the car).

I remember Mom adapting to some of our health issues. I was a rather sickly child, having severe food allergies as well as asthma. Mom learned to cook without eggs and nuts, attempted to keep a dust-free house, and she shuttled me to dozens of doctor’s appointments to find answers and remedies (not sure how, without a car). When my middle sister was 11 months old, she contracted spinal meningitis. I don’t remember my Mom panicking the way I would. (By the way, mom was told by doctors that if Sheri survived, her physical stature and mental capabilities would likely be stunted. She is 5’9″ and pretty darn smart.)

I love my Mom’s quiet strength. I remember vividly the day I found out we were infertile. She did not probe, suggest, plan, solve, push, advise. She sat on the grass with me that summer day and listened. Allowed me to wail and rail about the unimaginable fail. Even though I was sure it was the end of my world, I sensed that she knew I would inevitably find a way out. I hope to be and do this for my children, to simply dwell in their space with them.

My Dad is the quotable one. In fact, my sisters and I made a book of Dad-isms we recollected from our childhoods. We tried once to put together a similar book for Mom, but she has always been more about feelings. She’s made us feel safe, loved, cared-for, important, interesting. She is by no means quiet (she’s actually one of the wittiest people I know) but she delivers these loving sensations with her day-in, day-out actions rather than with words.

Mom has continued to nurture her grandchildren the way she nurtured us. When Sheri had twin boys before her first son was even 18 months old, Mom and Dad made frequent trips to the other side of the state to help Sheri during those bleary years. When I experienced post-adoption depression syndrome, Mom was there daily to relieve me and reassure me. When Tami’s husband suffered from full paralysis, Mom stepped in to care for their then 2 year-old son. Nearly round-the-clock, for months. And not a complaint.

I often feel I can’t hold a candle to her. I did not sit patiently, reading Pat the Bunny countless times while my children potty trained. I do not put 3 home-cooked meals on the table each day, every day. I do not play game after game after game with my children. I have not handled our health blips with the same aplomb she did. I complain. A LOT (ask Roger). I have my own interests, and I make them a priority.

I’m not actually sure what I *did* get from her, but I shudder to think how I would have turned out without her.

I am, perhaps, the luckiest daughter in the world.

What are some of the mothering traits you got from your mom? In what ways do you differ from your mom?


In what ways did your mom influence the woman you are today?