Friday, July 27, 2012

Paterno, Who?

I'm sure many of you have been following the debacle at Penn State.  I don't think I have anything interesting to add to the debate, except a few thoughts about my dad.  What, you may be asking, could my father possibly have in common with Penn State?

Nothing.  Except that I offer him up as a contrast to Joe Paterno.  Why?

My dad and ole' Joe may have had a lot in common.  Depression era values.  Grass roots upbringing.  A love a sports.  A desire to instill an "old fashioned" set of values into generations of young men.  A love a sportsmanship and fair play.  Working hard to win.

The differences between the two, at least in my mind are glaring.

My dad was born into a hardworking depression era family who, at least to my mind, valued family and work ethic.  He worked hard, enrolled in the Navy, served in the Korean War and returned home to marry my mom and became an active dad to 4 children.  Along the way he graduated from Montana State University, with no debt, largely because my mom worked as a waitress to put him through college.  After graduation he got a job, bought a house, raised a family, and along the way became a very active member of the American Legion.

For over 45 years my dad has been the volunteer coordinator of the American Legion baseball program in Helena, Montana.  45 years of ensuring that a program will continue into the future.  45 years of weeknight meetings and weekend ballgames, with no pay - just for the love of the sport, and a desire to help young men become men of substance.  Men who would stand up for fair play and be good sports.

45 years of cleaning bathrooms at the stadium, serving up popcorn at the concession stand, manning the ticket gate and negotiating with the city to make sure the ball field was in tip top shape for the season's games. 45 years of cleaning up graffitti and shagging foal balls.

45 years of meetings and phone calls to ensure that the money would be there for future generations of baseball players.  45 years of seeing young men play ball for the team, then return to coach the team.  45 years of watching the boys play ball, graduate and return to the community to become businessmen and husbands and dads.  45 years of working . . . not for a statue in front of the stadium, not for accolades, not for praise or for money.  45 years for the love of the game.  45 years of winning seasons and losing seasons. 45 years of game in the rain and in the blazing sun.  No one was keeping a record of wins vs losses, because it was more important to play the game.

A few years ago, an American Legion tournament was named in honor of my dad, the Cloninger Classic.  After he retires, I hope the tournament will carry on, not only to honor my dad, but to recognize all of those folks who volunteer countless hours to ensure that sports are a safe haven for young men and women.

Ole' Joe can't hold a candle to my dad.  

Friday, July 13, 2012

Face Time


Lately I have found that my world has been narrowed to posts on Facebook and occasional texts between friends on the phone.  During the school year I have plenty of face time with fellow moms and friends as we drop off and pick up our kids from school.  Days are filled up with school, library visits and sports practices . . . so I get a lot of time, one on one with friends. 

Summer break brings a lot of fun filled days outside in the garden or with trips to the river.  My kids love summer and they like just being able to hang out at home.  Except . . . sometimes they feel lonely and they want to play with a friend.  Sometimes, I don't feel like having more kids over, so I tell a child, just call your friend and talk.  Said child complains . . . It's just not the same, I want to see my friend.

I want to see my friends to.  I want to see the expressions on their faces when they tell me about their latest triumphs or sorrows.  I want to engage, one on one, with the friends I cherish.  I want to do an about face and ditch Facebook and my phone and get down to the nitty gritty and actually talk to my friends.  Except, whoops, most of the time I need electronics to reach out and make that first contact.  So I can have face time.

I need more face time.  Anyone? 

Sunday, November 27, 2011


I've always claimed that I am not a pet person. That I don't REALLY like animals. That my life would be fine if I didn't know a cat or a dog, or a bird or a rat. But truly, at the core, I have a lot of affection for (cetain) animals.

When I was a little girl (cue the sappy music) my family had a dog named Spirit. I think he was some sort of mutt - kinda of a poodle. Truthfully, I really can't remember him - I've seen pictures of Spirit that were taken during camping trips with our family, but I'm not sure I can recall playing with him. What I do remember is that one day he was a part of our family - then the next day he was gone. I do recall coming home from school one day to find out that Spirit was gone - my mom and dad said they had given him away to a family that lived out in the county. My mom said that kids were always teasing him from the alley behind our house so she decided that he would be better off living with a family out in the country where he could run and play.

Honestly . . . I didn't believe it. I thought that my mom had just gotten tired of the dog and had sent it to the pound. We never talked about it again. And, how do you miss a dog you don't even remember playing with? But, I do remember being sad, a lingering sadness, that I hadn't gotten a chance to say goodbye.

As I have gotten older and become a mom (cue more sappy music) I have come to appreciate and need animal friends. Our golden retriever came into our lives as a stray dog - and he has stayed. He is the sweetest, most loyal and calm dog - and some days I forget to appreciate what a great pet he is.

We have also aquired a series of cats. First came Midnight, a male black cat we adopted from the pound four years ago - he is still with us and is hands down the coolest cat ever. We adopted him for mouse control - we love him for his cat antics. Then came Emily, who was run over by a car in the driveway. Then NeNe, who disappeared - but my daughter is sure she is living across the road. Hubby and I know that she was actually hit and killed by a car. Then came Jenny who was a great kitty and birthed a delightful litter of kittens. My kiddos loved Jenny and the kittens - and then we gave some of them up for adoption. All but Croon, Jenny's daughter. Then . . . Jenny disappeared over Labor Day weekend. So, we still have Croon and adopted two new kitties, Whisper and Captain Jack Sparrow - thankfully, they are still with us.

But . . . truth be told, the reason I have been crying since Friday is that on November 2nd we were fortunate enough to be gifted the sweetest dog ever - Wiggle Rum Tow Mater. He was intended to be a birthday gift for my son's 10th birthday - but our entire family fell in love with him! He was spirited and affectionate and loved to give kisses and jump up on our beds. He didn't have a tail - he just wiggled his rump - about 100 times per day. He loved belly rubs and conversations and soccer games and walks. He only lived with us for a few short weeks - but we knew we couldn't imagine life without him. Until . . . he was struck by a car and died a short time later on Friday. We didn't find out his fate until late afternoon on Saturday - after many frantic hours and phone calls searching for him. He is now gone forever. I told my kids the truth about what happened. They are sad he is gone. They are even more sad that they never had the chance to say goodbye.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanks for Giving

We had a really great Thanksgiving Day yesterday. Just us. With some food. No guests, not a lot of activity. Just food. Simple, yet really perfect. We talked about what we are all thankful for.

We usually travel over the Thanksgiving holiday, mostly to visit family in Montana. While we really enjoy visiting, this year the trip just seemed like too much. I haven't been feeling good, things with our fave teenager daughter aren't great - and we just wanted to be home. With our family. Appreciating one another. Quietly, peacefully. And, for the day we had I am thankful.

We didn't roast a turkey. Mainly because the sight of the 30 pound turkey in my neighbor's refridge was startling - and quite frankly ugly. Okay, not entirely true, even before I caught a glimpse of the ugly turkey we had decided to make something different. But, let me tell you - that turkey really was ugly! Yes, I do know where turkeys come from - but I only like the pretty ones, like the ones my friend Nancy sends to the turkey spa.

With the help of my favorite cookbook (Thanks to Ree Drummond, we began our day with maple glazed cinnamon rolls. Then, for dinner we had roasted beef tenderloin, butternut squash, oven roasted potatoes, homemade cranberry sauce and burgandy mushrooms. Chocolate cream pie and pumpkin pie rounded out our meal - I have to tell you that hubby fell asleep on the couch within minutes of ingesting this meal. It was different and non-traditional and yummy!

So yes, we missed our travel to Montana, and we missed you: Mom and Dad, Helen and Gary, Leonard and Carol, Susan and kids. And we hope to see you soon.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Musing about Christmas

It seems like everywhere I turn these days Christmas has already arrived. The stores are full of decorations and toys and gift ideas . . . . I confess I feel overwhelmed. Magazines are full of gift ideas. My kids come home from school everyday with some type of Christmas benefit we could/should contribute to. While I admit to a certain love of Christmas music - and I would listen to it all year long if my family would let me, and must also admit that I'm kind of a Scrooge when it comes to Christmas.

The power of marketing behind Christmas is poisonous, it lets the media and the stores have the last say in what our holiday should look like - without giving us room to breathe, to think, to reflect about what Christmas could mean without all the hoopla.

Some of my friends are all to familiar with my rants about how our community goes all out to care about the needy children/homeless families and the hungry during the holiday season. Don't get me wrong - I agree that hungry, homeless people need help from the community - I just feel that that help should be freely given all year long - not just during the holidays.

I do think the holiday season is a bit magical. Twinkling lights, the promise of gifts to be unwrapped. The smell of the pine tree, all of the cute handmade ornaments. I love to bake during the holidays - the kinds of treats we only make once a year. I love to see the snow fall on Christmas Eve. I can remember the excitement of Christmas when I was a kid. I get it, really I do.

Except, I can't help but think what would happen if we only celebrated Christmas for the month of December. If no one bought presents before then. Or mailed their Christmas cards. Or decorated their homes or stores. Would we run out of time to find the perfect gift, the perfect tree? Would I appreciate Christmas music more because my time to enjoy it was fleeting?

I know, I know. Many of you are shaking you heads at me. How could you possible make Christmas perfect in only 25 days? Maybe we can't. Maybe, rather than searching for the perfect gift, the perfect tree, the perfect tradition, the perfect holiday - we would be left with our imperfect selves. Would we have to give more of ourselves to our friends and family because we couldn't buy the perfect holiday? Would we really get to know one another, warts and all? Would we spend more time laughing and loving and sharing because we weren't worried about the money we weren't spending? Would we reach out to our community because we weren't so busy shopping and wrapping and trying to by each other's affections? Would January 1st be happier without the thought of the credit card bill arriving in the mail?

Christmas probably wouldn't be perfect - but I'm not sure we should expect it to be. Gifts given and received should be done joyfully, from the heart. I can't wait for December 1st!

Friday, October 28, 2011


I make decisions everyday. Some are big, some are not so big. Some are wrong, some are right. Some are either wrong or right based on the information available at any given moment. That is what I tell myself . . . but, the truth is that sometimes the decisions I make are just wrong. There is no way to sugarcoat the facts - sometimes, I mess up, and I mess up BIG.

I'd like to find a way to justify my actions, to say I'm sorry for the havoc I wreak . . . but that would mean that I could also find a way to change the actions or decisions I make. Sadly, I can't take back what I've already done . . . and that leads to trouble.

Everytime I throw my hands up in frustration and walk away from a disagreement is echoed in how my 13 year old handles her life.

Everytime I tell a little white lie, maybe to save face for myself, or to justify a decision that was flawed is echoed back at me in excuses for why homework isn't done.

Everytime I try to "rob peter to pay paul" comes back secondfold to haunt me . . . and to make me realize, yet again that the only decisions I should be making are the ones that are honest, thought out and made with my family.

I feel like I walk on eggshells around my family a lot of the time, because I'm afraid that decisions made in the past will come back around . . . and most of the time they do.

I do the laundry, I cook the meals, I put my life into a jar to be opened at a later date. I'd love to put away the lies, the fears and the trouble for later as well , but I know that if I do that what I open up will be filled with bitterness and regret.

There is only so much regret that a person can carry around until a breaking point happens. Then, there are tears and apologies and promises . . . which are only as good as the moment.

Trouble comes from lies, from hiding behind excuses, from not wanting to face reality. For me trouble comes with trying to keep up with the the expectations that I feel I am obligated to. Be the best mom, the best friend, the best hostess . . . the best. But I can't be and then my life becomes a lie - and trouble comes along. So - how do I change tomorrow?

I will tell myself, my family and my friends that honesty is the best policy. Always. No matter what. I will tell them that they are worth more than what they do. I will tell them that filling up days and nights with keeping busy means that days and nights are meaningless and empty. I will tell them that love will keep us all going - no matter what. I will tell them that love will fill their hearts and not make them yearn for the things that cause trouble.

I will tell them that the trouble caused is not worth the effort put into it. That life is more than what we can see at the moment, that living for the moment only causes trouble.

I honestly hate the trouble I cause.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


A few years ago I particpated in a communication class. Our instructor told us that one of the most dangerous words in our vocabulary was the word "should" As in, you and I should never tell another person what that person should do. We were told that effective communicators always used the words "could" and would". We were instructed to delete the word "should" from our daily vocabulary. It seems that telling a person what they should do seems high handed and judgemental and leaves people feeling . . . well, I guess like they should be doing something. It seems to convey a sense of duty or obligation . . . is that so wrong??

So, I have tried to avoid the word "should" in most occasions. I have learned, since that communication class, that there are also other words that (should) could be avoided on a daily basis, especially if you are a parent and are attempting to communicate effectively with a captive audience of children. Below is the list of dangerous words in our house. These words are almost guaranteed to start a tantrum, even if they are not used in the same sentence as "should". Here we go . . .

Clean. As in please clean up your own mess. Please clean up your laundry. Please clean up after your pet. Please, wipe your own pee from the toilet seat. Please clean up your belongings from the car. No matter the context clean is a dangerous word in our house.

Homework. As in do you have homework? Do you need help with your homework? Did you turn in your homework? This is word fraught with danger.

Lights. As in did you turn out the lights in your room, the bathroom, the hallway. Do you want to pay the power bill? Did you turn on this light in the middle of the day? Why is the porch light on? Etc.

Feed. As in did you feed the cats? Did you feed the chickens? Did you feed the dog? This request is often coupled with water. Did you give the above mentioned animals water? Or, did you feed the kids? What, you don't know what they eat? Well, what do you eat . . . feed them the same thing!

Sex. With one teenage girl, one tween and two younger children in the house - who got here, btw, because their parental units had sex, you would think that sex wouldn't be taboo. Oh, but it is! My hubby and I are instructed on a daily basis to please not use the words penis, vagina, tampon, breasts, sex or anything that could be construed as sexual around the tender ears of our children. Sheesh, what else is there to talk about. I mean really has anyone listened to any current forms of music these days?

I could go on and I on, but I feel I should stop now. I think you all get the picture. For the sake of my sanity, could you please share a list of safe words? I think I might need them.