I’ve been voused

What. In. The. Hell?

I attend a French conversation group weekly. It’s not the same group from week to week, but quite a few of the same people show up at each group. A couple of weeks ago, I met someone new who is here from France for a while. She, another person, and I spent most of that evening chatting and such. Nothing major. Just conversation.

Let’s stop for a moment. In French, there are two forms of “you:” tu and vous. The first one is used for people you know: peers, close friends, and such. The latter (pronounced something like voo), is used in the plural “you” and also for superiors (like your teacher or boss), strangers (like the store clerk), and, in very traditional families, from children to parents (though I think that’s not so much the case anymore). This is weird to most of us Americans because we don’t have this in English.

So, back to this woman I met a couple of weeks ago. We engaged in conversation where I recall us “tu-ing,” but when she walked in last night and greeted me, she vous-ed me! What?! Aren’t we peers within the context of the group? Didn’t we get past the “stranger stage?” *GASP* She thinks I’m OLD! She was showing respect for my age! Noooonnnnn!

Someone once commented, “You’re aging so gracefully.” That was 13 years ago (I only remember that because I was pregnant with my daughter at the time–damn, I miss the power of prenatal vitamins). Have these 13 years really been that rough on me? I feel young-ish on the inside! Shoot. I suppose I did just celebrate a birthday. . .is it that evident? Hmmm . . . I guess I’m not aging so gracefully now. Dammit.

As Kurt Vonnegut said: And so it goes.

I wish all of vous a great day.

the significance of songs

Earlier this week, Dolores O’Riordan died. She was the lead singer in an Irish band called The Cranberries. Several of my favorite musicians and singers have died in the past couple of years, and several much more influential on me than Ms. O’Riordan. However, her death flooded my mind with memories, and the realization that for me, music is a marker of time, experiences, and emotions.

In 1993, I embarked on a one-year journey to study abroad. For those of you who are too young to remember a time before cell phones and WiFi: this was a BIG DEAL. Young people taking off around the world with only hand-written letters stuffed in envelopes and MAILED, with a stamp; and occasional, expensive phone calls to keep in touch…parents NOT really stressing-out for lack of up-to-the-minute photojournalistic updates BECAUSE THERE WAS NO SUCH THING. . . ahem. Sorry. I digress. Where was I? Oh yeah. . . so, equipped with a cassette-playing powder-blue Sony walkman, (that hyperlink is for the youngins again) a few mix tapes (young folk may have to look that up, too), and my one bag of clothing, I set off for a year at a university in France. First stop before reporting to university: the home of a friend who was an exchange student in my high school.

The first day I awoke in France, I lingered in bed a bit, unsure of whether anyone else was awake (turns out it was afternoon already–oops). I took a moment and plugged in my headphones, pushed “play” on the walkman, and Dreams was first in queue (lyrics here). As I looked out over the impossibly narrow street, observing vehicles smaller than I’d ever seen in the U.S. (we did love our big cars), listening to the chatter of another language waft up to my window, those first lines struck my very core:

Oh, my life is changing everyday,
In every possible way.
And oh, my dreams, it’s never quite as it seems,
Never quite as it seems.

MY life was changing. Right then. In that moment and for all the moments to follow. I couldn’t have dreamed anything like this, yet there I was. In truth, my life had all been changing all along, but I hadn’t paid attention the way I did right then. Those lyrics called me into an awareness I’d never quite appreciated before. The lyrics were powerful, and that year-long exchange experience would be marked by that one song.

You know, I watched this TEDx talk not too long ago; at the beginning, Wayne talks about his the way he recalls things as being linked to movies that he watched. And I thought, “Oh, good. I’m not the only one whose mind works like this.”

I wonder: If I made a playlist of my life’s moments, what would it reveal? What would yours? I would love to hear what would be on your playlists!

I just used my SMARTPHONE to snap this image of a photo in my album. Haha! That’s nuts. When I was young, I would see a photo like this and say: Wow, that’s looks old-timey. Now MY kids are saying that about me and my photos of my past. . Dammit! Anyhow, this was the view from my bedroom in my friend’s apartment. What a change that was!

snow (ice) day

The original title of this post was going to be: “I know my shit, girl,” which is something I have already muttered to myself, and it’s only 7:00 a.m. Let’s back up, shall we?

My alarm is set most mornings for 4:40 a.m. because according to most sane people, I am a glutton for punishment. The real reason is that I hit the gym around 5:00 a.m., BECAUSE THAT’S THE ONLY TIME I GET TO MYSELF. So, my alarm went off, but so did my text messaging alert and my voicemail…our schools called a delay…then a closing. Well, hell. Among the cacophony of the alarm, the text alert, AND the automated phone call, I am fully awake. And so is my daughter because the damned school-issued tablet in her room is pinging with alerts and messages, too. She’s like me. Once awake, there is no turning back. Grrr. This is going to be a fantastic day (could you feel the eye-roll there?).

I hear my daughter preparing to start her shower, and I encourage her to go back to bed. She can’t, of course. The ensuing–albeit brief–conversation goes like this:

daughter: How am I going to get my P.E. uniform home to wash?

me: You can get it next week.

d: I don’t have P.E. until Wednesday

me: Ask for a pass to go get it

d: I can’t!

me: Well, I’m sure they’ll excuse the washing of it since there was no school today.

d: Washing isn’t required, mom.

me: Yes it is…

d: No, it’s NOT.

*cue my exasperated exit

Seriously, what INSANE P.E. teacher wouldn’t make laundering the uniform a requirement? We are talking junior high, people! The collective stink of a year of unwashed uniforms would surely send air quality meters into malfunction.

I digress. I may not know exactly how the school day goes or how easy/difficult it is to get a pass out of class, but the one thing I do know is that laundering is required. How do I know? Because this ain’t my first rodeo, people. Lest my last child forget: there have been three before her going through the same schools with many of the same teachers, and although I am guilty of signing off that I’ve read Classroom Policies that I actually haven’t, I’m pretty sure P.E. teachers still want uniforms washed.

Okay. Even though we’re off to a bit of a rocky start, I really, really do love Snow Days. I feel sorry for those who don’t live where there’s snow, because there is something special about getting that notification and having the day to cozy up, maybe make some hot chocolate, and just BE in same space with my people. Snow Days are so much more than an annoyance of weather and botched child-care plans and being late to work after shoveling and salting…Snow Days are a reminder that we’re not always in control. They’re a time to slow down, to take care, and to settle into what is. So, settle, my friends. Enjoy the gift.






20180105_095422.jpgWhen my eldest kid was graduating high school, we kicked into high gear to spruce up the house so it would look nice for an open house. Of course, instead of ticking off projects a little at a time over the year, we crammed everything into the last two months, including a re-painting of every common area in the house. That’s when I enthusiastically ordered my wall art I always wanted: ubuntu. Intentionally placed above the entry to the dining room where food serves to unite all people (Mama K loves to cook!), ubuntu can be spotted as soon as visitors walk in my front door. I wanted it to be something welcoming, something comforting, something that sparked conversation. “What does that mean?” a visitor would say…and from there we would launch into deep and meaningful conversation over fine libations. I wanted ubuntu to be something that let people who entered our home know how we are in the world. Hopefully, it would not only be something they saw on my wall, but something felt as they entered my home. You see, ubuntu is a Xhosa and Zulu word meaning something like: “I am because you are,” or “I am who I am because of who we all are.” Basically, it’s a philosophy of being…of being connected, of being aware, of being one with humanity. It’s a beautiful thing to hang in a home, no?

Yeah. Most days around here feel disconnected, hectic, and occasionally lonely. We have two teen-age boys, one almost-teen girl, and an adult son who comes in and out. Most meals around the table are short (hey, at least we dine together), most evenings one kid or another has work, has practice, or is under a self-imposed sequestration. It is ironic that I LOVE teenagers, like actually like them…and yet it’s the most trying and difficult age span to parent. It’s pretty tough when then ones you love seem to be programmed to despise you for a span of about six years. I mean, really, what kind of design is that?!?

As much as my family is developing into very different people. . . we ARE because of each other. I am not “mom” without them. I am not “Mama K” without the others they bring into our home. I am because the world is. Ubuntu is the very force that underlies everything we do.

This is a banner that hangs at the foot of the stairs so that we can see it every morning. Yep. There’s definitely a theme in our home.

P.S. Only after I ordered and stuck ubuntu to my wall did I learn it’s also a computer operating system. Well, there you go! This is now a sign that satisfies my computer-programmer spouse AND me. See? Ubuntu really is a unifying concept!

#pinterest #goodthings #fail

I have a Pinterest account, but I’m rarely on it. I should be. I own a photography business, so I really should be. . . but I’m not. I mean, who needs it? I am that person who made post-worthy birthday parties before there was a way to “post” anything at all. Hell, Hedwig (a Harry Potter reference) levitated in my dining room during a wand-choosing wherein party guests had to find the wand for them (“…the wand chooses the wizard, Harry…”). Sometimes Hedwig levitated, sometimes she didn’t…and that bunch of 6-year-olds were awestruck! Yeah, I do pretty all-right without Pinterest. Yet sometimes . . . sometimes I venture onto the site and use an idea.

If you and I are connected via social media, you may have seen this photo on New Year’s Day:


along with the accompanying text: “On 1-1-2017, we put this container in our kitchen and encouraged everyone to write down something good they experienced at least once a week. Today, I have emptied that jar and we will read them together. I can’t wait!”

This sounds great, right? I thought so, too. I thought this would be a great way to gain insight into my family. . . to learn what’s important to each of them. I envisioned going through, each of us choosing a square, unfolding it, and wistfully sharing the Good Things we’ve written. Yeah, well, so much for that. Let’s start with some immediate observations:

  • I seemed to be the one who actually stuck to the practice most faithfully
  • I really love camera club
  • I really love my French conversation groups
  • my spouse’s ‘good things’ mostly centered around only things that I did (this might be for another post–or for therapy, I’m not sure)
  • it appears I favor my eldest kid

Yeah. So, let’s take a look at that last one. Let me just say: my eldest lives away from home (he wasn’t around for the reading) and every time I saw him was, indeed, treasured time. But here’s the thing: it isn’t as though moments with my other kids weren’t mentioned or equally treasured, it’s just for some reason, they were written in more general terms, like “A house full of teenagers!” or “Seeing siblings engaged in meaningful conversation.” Now, had we had the session I envisioned–you know, the one where we share the story behind each thing written–the trio would have learned that they, too, had a fair amount of mentions. But no. Mentioning my eldest by name seemed disproportionate, even to my own ears. I noticed the kids’ enthusiasm quickly subside, and their exit was swift after the last paper square was read. #awkward #fail #mykidswillneedtherapy

Well, we put that jar back on the counter with the intention of doing it again this year. My spouse and I both proclaimed lessons learned and vowed to be particularly aware of what we write. That seems odd, though, doesn’t it? Does monitoring what I write change the intent of the practice? Shouldn’t I just write what genuinely made the day or week good? By changing my thought, I change what I write. By changing what I write, I change the authenticity of the sentiment . . . and then, somehow, it’s no longer “real.” And NOT being real . . . well . . . that’s just not a Good Thing.

meditation on espresso

Every day I get up and make my coffee…only this isn’t just any coffee. Each day for 24 years, I have made my coffee in a little Bialetti* espresso maker. Alongside that, I have a tiny pot of milk simmering, and what I end up with is a triple-shot latte. Every. Day. Most mornings, this is completely functional; caffeine to get me through the day, and a little indulgence to make me feel special. The routine is the same: Grind the coffee. Grab the powerful, yet diminutive, espresso maker. Unscrew the top from the bottom. Take out the filter basket. Fill the bottom with water. Insert basket. Fill basket with grounds. Screw the top back on. Put on the stove and turn on the burner. This is repeated daily, usually without thought. But today…today this routine became a ritualistic ceremony. That ceremony became an epiphany, and that epiphany became the seed for this blog.

After filling the bottom of the pot with water, putting the grounds in the filter basket, and fastening the top, I put the espresso pot on the stove and opened the lid so that I could watch the first of the dark elixir bubble up the center. This process always fascinates me. I know, I know…it’s just a mini-pressure cooker, and as the liquid heats up it’s sent out the only way it can go: up the tube in the center. But, as I stood watching, I thought about how pressure cookers are analogous to stress and negativity, and an eventual burst of negative energy . But not my little pot. It is different. It is full of goodness–my magic black-brown elixir–waiting to come out and fill the top well generously and fully. And that, my friends, was my epiphany.  I…we…all of us, are full of pent-up goodness waiting to burst out and fill the world.

As I sipped this morning’s latte, the taste was deeper, richer, and more complex with all the intentions I have set for myself. And you? What do you intend to put into the world this year? Find your magic elixir, drink it, and go!

*I have absolutely no affiliation with, nor advantage as a result of mentioning, this company.