Tag Archives: Colin

Imagination Library

I sent A Shout-out to Books, Libraries, and Dolly Parton to Hellgate High School staff fourteen months ago. Since then, I’ve talked with fathers, mothers, and a grandmother who subsequently registered their children and grandchildren in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Their smiles and enthusiasm were heartwarming and made me wish I’d been able to offer Imagination Library to my Lamaze students years ago.

At times I carted board books and picture books to class, one for each student to peruse as I pitched our public library and its special children’s offerings. I hoped those efforts resulted in some library visits, not only because of my lifelong love of reading and libraries, but because one of my parenting highlights involved my lap, two boys, and good books, which segued to sitting on the couch, bookended by Eric and Colin reading “a page and a page.”

Bedtime reading with Colin and Eric. 1992.
Bedtime reading with Colin and Eric. 1992.

My days and nights of Lamaze classes, OB nursing, and read-alouds are long behind me. I miss the magic of birth, but I love the magic of books. Last week a teacher shared a conversation she’d had with her four-year-old grandson about a “chapter book” he’d recently finished, and about his pride at listening to longer books. We talked about Imagination Library, which prompted me to take another look at its website. Two days ago, the number of U.S. children (birth-age five) registered was 900,712. Today, that number has morphed to 939,462. Beautiful. I hope stories and books continue to thrill those kiddos into high school and beyond.



(mīn(d)-fəl-nəs) n. the quality or state of being mindful; the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis

gas-permeable contact lensesThe importance of being mindful hit home in a painful way a couple of months ago. The instant I put in my contact lens, I realized my mistake. Instead of applying wetting solution, I’d reapplied cleaning solution. The stuff that carries a bold printed warning: Not for use in the eye, cleaner could damage the eye.

I struggled to get my contact out.  I don’t know if the thoughts racing through my mind made my fingers less nimble, or if the soapy solution created more suction than usual on my gas permeable lens, but it took too long to pop it out. Fifteen seconds, give or take. Fifteen seconds, magnified tenfold.

To make matters worse, we were in Brazil. The nurse in me knew that I needed to rinse my eye for fifteen minutes. We’d been advised not to drink the tap water and, though no one had said anything about using it as an eye rinse—who would’ve thought—it didn’t seem like the best idea. But we were nearly out of bottled water, so I rinsed with tap. Two minutes, max. In part because rinsing made my eye hurt worse. In part, too, because I wondered if something in the “do-not-drink-the-water” might be equally damaging to my eye.

I asked my son Colin to look up “contact cleaner in eye” on the internet, unsure if I needed to scout for a place to have a Sunday morning eye exam. His sleuthing was reassuring, so I grabbed money and my pocket English-Portuguese dictionary and headed to a nearby pharmacy.

On the way, I heard someone calling my name, and was joined by two Daves, fellow Missoulians en route to the supermarket. Dave K. accompanied me to the pharmacy, his English-Portuguese phone app at the ready. The pharmacist, who didn’t speak English but who had bailed me out days earlier when I’d shown her the word nausea, nodded when, this time I pointed to eye drops. I hadn’t expected to find that in my little dictionary. But there it was.

After she handed me sulfacetamide drops—prescription medication in the U.S.—I tipped my hand above my eye and asked, “Água?” Reaching over the counter, she pointed to eight-ounce bottles of saline. Thinking that bottled water might hurt less, I paid for the eye drops, then Dave and I continued on to the neighboring supermarket—I to buy water, he to buy water and a snack for his teenaged son.

I did a second rinse with the bottled water when I returned to our apartment. It hurt as much as the first, so I kept it equally short. My eye had watered nonstop since its cleaning solution assault, so  I hoped my abbreviated rinse, coupled with the tears, would be adequate. I followed the rinse with eye drops, which I continued to use three or four times each day, even though inching that bottle toward my eyeball gave me the willies.

I wore my glasses for days; the swelling resolved; and, true to Colin’s internet research, I didn’t suffer permanent eye damage.

My take-home lesson? Be present.

Be present.I had a chance to practice on our way home when our Chicago flight was delayed. Our departure time changed three times as 9:47 a.m. morphed into 12:27 p.m.. I walked, had a bowl of chicken tortilla soup, and perused a display of self-improvement books. Summing up the lesson I learned the hard way in Salvador? A quote I discovered in Frank J. Kinslow’s Beyond Happiness: Finding and Fulfilling Your Deepest Desire, “The mind set firmly on the present is at rest.”

US v Belgium: 2014 Round of 16

World Cup 2014

Brazilians love their futbol. O jogo bonito, they call it. The beautiful game. I had the good fortune of witnessing this love firsthand when, topping my husband’s bucket list, World Cup 2014 drew our family to Salvador, Brazil.

Truth be told, though I was looking forward to seeing some games, I was more excited about spending time with our sons, Eric and Colin. Living five hundred miles apart, our opportunities to get together are limited. Anticipating more than three weeks of family bonding had me over the moon.

What I hadn’t envisioned—something zealous soccer fans will have a hard time understanding—is just how electrifying it would be. To be. In Brazil. For the World Cup.

I’m no stranger to soccer. Rich and I began playing in our mid-twenties and, years later, I became a soccer mom. That status segued the summer of 2010 when our family played together on a co-rec team. Playing short one sweltering July evening, I was assigned to midfield. I still smile at the memory of Colin hollering, “MOM! GO TO THE BALL!”  O jogo bonito it was not.

Fast-forward to June, 2014. In the preparatory reading I did on the plane, I learned new—to me—soccer terms. Matches. Penalties. Pitch. Set plays. I read about the World Cup groups, teams, and star players. I learned that, after sixty-four years, Brazil’s devastating 1950 World Cup loss to Uruguay—coined el Maracanaço, the Maracanã blow—remained an open wound. A 2014 Brazil World Cup victory at Estádio do Maracanã could erase the lingering sorrow.

As we queued with hundreds of others to watch the opening match at Salvador’s FIFA Fan Fest, the excitement was palpable. Brahma flowed; drum beats, cheers, and vuvuzelas created a cacophony of noise; Brasil’s yellow and green ruled the night; and the home team won. It was magical.

FIFA Fan Fest™ -- Salvador

Throughout the ensuing days, the air sizzled as futbol reigned supreme. Soccer jerseys, flags and team colors led to conversations among strangers—filled with either pre-match anticipation and speculation, or post-match jubilation or angst. Whether watching a match at our pousada, in a restaurant, at the Fan Fest, or live at Arena Fonte Nova, it was a treat to gather with others—including more than fifty thousand in the Arena—and be a part of the ebb and flow of groans and cheers, high fives and stadium waves.

Before the France vs Switzerland match, I crafted a rudimentary sign, hoping to connect with our French student, Jordane, across the airwaves. Approaching the stadium, I was on a mission to score face paint to increase my odds. I spotted a young woman painting flowers on her cheeks—mirror in one hand, brush in the other. A young man, whose entire face was painted blue, white and red, supervised her handiwork. They were Brazilians, I learned, supporters of Esporte Clube Bahia, the local team which shares the French colors. As the woman interrupted her artistry to finger paint two flags for me, I told them our French friend was hoping to see us on TV. Her friend laughed and, carefully sandwiching his face between his hands, said, “I want to be on TV, too!”

I hope he was successful.

France v Switzerland. World Cup 2014.

Television cameras did not swing our way during the game. Outside the stadium, though, Colin and I hurried to a random camera to wave my sign and cheer France’s victory. Perhaps someone—somewhere—saw us, but we did not receive reports of a sighting from anyone we knew.

Added sweetness to our World Cup adventures included being joined by twenty-four other Missoulians three days before USA played Belgium in the Round of 16. In Salvador. On game day, Rich, Colin and several of the Missoula crew bused to the Pelourinho, the Historic Centre, where they found a dance-club-turned-game-watching-venue to watch Argentina beat Switzerland.

Joined by a group of boisterous Belgians, there was playful bantering regarding the anticipated outcome of the USA vs Belgium match. Many of the Missoula fans shared a confidence that the US would triumph.

US and Belgium fans share pre-game fun.

Dressed for victory, a faction of Missoulians was interviewed by Norwegian and Ukrainian television stations before the match, and by NBC and BeIN Sports after. ESPN captured them on camera, too; later replaying their enthusiasm on Sports Center.


But a victory was not to be had.

US v Belgium: 2014 Round of 16

Still, it was thrilling to see the US play. Watching them, and witnessing Tim Howard’s record-breaking sixteen saves in a World Cup match, was priceless. They played a hard-fought battle and, though they lost, USA deserves a thumbs up for making it to the Round of 16.

The Belgium team deserves a thumbs up as well. Their fans’ cheers permeated the stadium at the end of extra-time as they reveled in their team’s success. Not wanting to watch their post-game celebration, we scooted to the exit.

As we made our way through the Pelourinho, a Brazilian woman stopped Eric and me. “She wants to talk to you,” she said, gesturing to the school-aged girl beside her.

“I just want to say,” the girl said in a quiet voice, “that I’m mad that we lost, but I think we’ll win the next World Cup.” She lived in California, she told us, and the woman, her aunt, lived in Salvador. Her mom had watched the game with them, too, “but she’s over there.” She motioned across the square before adding, “She’s mad.” We ended our conversation with smiles and a shared hope for a 2018 USA victory.

Two blocks later, we were stopped again in the Praça da Sé. A reporter asked Eric if she could interview him for TeleSUR, a Venezuelan news station. Serendipitous, since Eric had worked in Venezuela a few years ago. The reporter asked him to add my USA scarf to his nondescript blue shirt, then the camera rolled.

Throughout our stay, I watched people from all around the world come together, and I witnessed how quickly a smile or a thumbs up transcended language barriers. A special thumbs up for Joseph Santini, proprietor extraordinaire, and his entire staff of the Pousada Manga Rosa, Portal do Mar Restaurante, and Dolce Vita Pizzaria. They love their futbol. And I feel their pain.

The International Choral Festival

The International Choral Festival marked its debut in 1987. That year was memorable on two accounts; it was also the year I became a mother. Following the success of the first Festival, a second followed three years later. So, too, did the arrival of our second son.

Though anticipating the birth of our first child during the inaugural Festival and being sleep deprived during the second, it was welcome respite to listen to choirs in various locations around Missoula. Since then, we have enjoyed the diversity of the choirs and their music in this triennial event.

The Ninth International Choral Festival was held July 17-20. For the first time, Rich and I served as hosts. We didn’t request a specific age group, sex, or country on our volunteer application. Instead, the thrill of the unknown we felt while awaiting the births of our children was magnified fourfold. Will our guests be males or females? Adults or youth? Where will they be from? Will they speak English?

We learned the answers to our first three questions days before the Festival began. We’d be hosting three young women from Taiwan’s Formosa Singers.

Formosa Singers at Southgate Mall
Formosa Singers at Southgate Mall

Our fourth question was answered when we met Lin Ying-Jyun, Fan Chih-Jung, and Li Szn Fang—AKA Amy, Tiffany, and Rainbow Amy—at Missoula Children’s Theater. Yes.

Hosting Tiffany, Amy, and Rainbow was a treat beyond measure. Sprinkled between rehearsals and concerts, we prepared and shared meals, sang, laughed, and enjoyed learning about their culture while sharing some of our own.

Rainbow, Karen, Amy and Tiffany at UM
Rainbow, Karen, Amy and Tiffany at UM

We reveled in seeing Missoula’s beauty through the eyes of our guests…

Tiffany, Amy and Rainbow at Greenough Park
Tiffany, Amy and Rainbow at Greenough Park
Amy, Susan, Rainbow and Tiffany at Farmer's Market
Amy, Susan, Rainbow and Tiffany at Farmer’s Market

…and at times we were guests, both at Festival events and at a fellow host family’s home for an evening filled with food and drink, laughter and song.

The sing-off winners! Cody, Bob, David, Tung Tung, Meko, Hsin-Hsin, Tiffany, Rainbow, Amy and Tyrone
The sing-off winners! Cody, Bob, David, Tung Tung, Meko, Hsin-Hsin, Tiffany, Rainbow, Amy and Tyron

In addition, the Formosa Singers prepared a luncheon for their host families, introducing us to some tasty Taiwanese dishes and affording us an opportunity to visit with other choir members and hosts.

Rainbow and Dai Rong serving spicy tofu and rice
Rainbow and Dai Rong serving spicy tofu and rice

The final day of the Festival fell on my birthday. There were so many moments of sweetness throughout the day, highlighted by the card the girls made for me with its inscription, Dear Mom.

A special birthday card
A special birthday card
Ju, Amy, Sunny, Alice, Tiffany and Rainbow at the After-Festival Party
Ju, Amy, Sunny, Alice, Tiffany and Rainbow at the After-Festival Party

“When are you coming to Taiwan?” our girls asked, more than once during our time together.

“Maybe in 2014.”

That hope lessened our sadness—somewhat—as we shared tearful goodbyes when our days together ended much too quickly.

The connectedness of our world was affirmed that day, though. As our girls left Missoula, our son Colin spent four hours in Taiwan enroute to Thailand. And according to a recent article in the Missoula Independent, Whistling Andy Distillery in Bigfork is going to be selling spirits in Taiwan.

If Rich and I are fortunate enough to visit our Taiwanese daughters someday, perhaps one of our toasts will be with a Made in Montana spirit. Full circle, indeed.

Powwows Throughout the Years

My introduction to powwows was North American Indian Days in Browning, Montana in the 1970’s. At the twenty-first annual event in 1972, my father, Dan Antonietti, was adopted into the Blackfeet tribe and named an honorary chief. That was, and still is, a big deal.

My Dad worked for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Manpower Administration. In his role as Project Officer for the Bureau of Work Training Programs, he was instrumental in securing monies and programs for the Blackfeet people. To honor and thank him for bringing Neighborhood Youth Corps and Operation Mainstream to Browning, Pete Stabs by Mistake named my father A-pi-na-ko Si-pis-to (“Morning Owl”) in a touching ceremony nearly forty-one years ago.

A Southern-Piegan Indian named Na-to-si (“Sun”) was awakened one morning at dawn by the hooting of an owl. After he fell back to sleep, the owl came to Na-to-si in his dreams and told him to give the name “Morning Owl” to someone he loved. When Na-to-si awoke, he remembered his dream. He called to his adopted son and said, “From now on, your name will be A-pi-na-ko Si-pis-to.”

My dad, Chief Morning Owl, in 1972
My dad, Chief Morning Owl, in 1972
Neighborhood Youth Corps float, North American Indian Days, 1972
Neighborhood Youth Corps float, North American Indian Days, 1972
Julie makes a new friend, North American Indian Days, 1972
Julie makes a new friend, North American Indian Days, 1972

I have attended other powwows since then. In 1991, Rich and I took our boys to their first powwow. Colin wasn’t walking yet, so he and Rich watched as Eric and I moved to the rhythm of the drums and joined the “All Dance.” We modeled traditional dance steps as best we could, foregoing any attempts at fancy dancing. Had Chief Morning Owl been in Missoula to watch us that day, I think he would’ve been proud.

Karen and Eric in the "All Dance"
Karen and Eric in the “All Dance”
Eric, Colin and Rich at the 1991 Fort Missoula Powwow
Eric, Colin and Rich at the 1991 Fort Missoula Powwow
Eric and the dancers
Eric and the dancers
1991 Fort Missoula Powwow
1991 Fort Missoula Powwow

On March 9th, I went to the 12th annual Honoring Our Youth Pow Wow at Big Sky High School.

Grand entry at Honoring Our Youth Pow Wow, 2013
Grand entry at Honoring Our Youth Pow Wow, 2013
Honoring Our Youth Pow Wow
A four-year-old dancer
Honoring Our Youth Pow Wow, 2013
Fancy and traditional dancers at Honoring Our Youth Pow Wow, 2013

I thought about Chief Morning Owl as I watched the dancers and listened to the drummers. In 1979, Dad’s work changed when he moved to the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service. As I sat in the Big Sky gymnasium that afternoon, Mom and Dad were nearing the end of a trip to Washington D.C. The previous week, Dad had attended the National Legislative Service Committee meetings as Montana’s legislative chairman for the VFW. Eighty-five years old, he’s still championing for the rights of others.

A New Job!

In my first post, I wrote that I’d “be replacing the wonder of birth with the wonder of books.”

That was shorthand for two things. One: My forthcoming novel, Nanny on the Run, which will be out this spring. Two: I hoped to begin work as a library assistant. At the time of my writing, I’d applied for three positions. I’d interviewed for one (which I didn’t get), and I had an interview scheduled for another. I was hoping to be called for the third. I didn’t write about these facts, though, because I didn’t want to jinx my chances of getting hired.

By the time I learned that I didn’t get the second job, I had an interview lined up for the third. The old adage, third time’s a charm, delivered its magic and I got the job!

I was hired as the new media assistant in the Hellgate High School library.

Hellgate High School
Hellgate High School

For the past six years, I served as a library volunteer at Sentinel High School—my son Colin’s alma mater. It was bittersweet saying goodbye to the Sentinel library staff, but walking into Hellgate on my first day was another homecoming.

Hellgate High School library
Hellgate High School library

My son Eric graduated from Hellgate in 2006, and I had volunteered in the library for two years. The teacher librarians who were there during my volunteer tenure, Peggy Cordell and Julie Burckhard, welcomed me back.

Hellgate High School library
Hellgate High School library

I’m doing some of the things I did as a volunteer, but I’ve learned—and am learning—to do a lot more. I love my new job.

You Can’t Win if You Don’t Try

A recent newspaper article reminded me of a motto I adopted years ago: You can’t win if you don’t try.

The article described how Jess Parrish, a wood carver, wanted to plunge into the world of ice carving. Ice carvers in his state refused to grant him an apprenticeship, though. The market was small, and they feared training a competitor.

Jess turned to the internet, which led him to the National Ice Carving Association and to his first competition six years ago in Green River, Wyoming. His chain saw burned up with two hours left to go in his event. He left early, not waiting around for the rest of the two-day competition.

Then, Jess received a phone call telling him that because he was the sole entrant in the amateur category, he was the de facto winner. He was encouraged to pursue ice carving, which he did. Four years later, he launched his own business.

Jess Parrish, of Longmont, works on an ice sculpture of a dragon outside Todd Reed Jewelry Store in Boulder on Dec. 1. Parrish has been ice carving for about six years and launched his business, Cool Hand Ice Carving, about two years ago. (Kira Horvath/Longmont Times-Call)

Jess Parrish, right, places huge slabs of ice into place with the help of his apprentice, Joaquin Botello, as they begin working on an ice sculpture of a dragon outside Todd Reed Jewelry Store in Boulder on Dec. 1. (Kira Horvath/Longmont Times-Call)

Twenty years ago, my boys were winners in a local coloring contest. They won first and third places in their respective age groups. Eric, aged five, won a can filled with Crayola markers. Colin, aged two, delighted in the stuffed bunny he won. When we picked up their prizes, we learned one of the reasons they’d won was because there were more prizes than participants.

Cake making 1993
Eric and Colin making a Mother’s Day cake, 1993.

I’ve heard a variation of my motto. You can’t hit the ball if you don’ t swing the bat. Would Eric and Colin have won had there been more competitors? Who knows. What we do know is this. They swung their bats and they hit the balls.

Eric & Colin Buley
Eric: 2006. Crayola tin: 1993. Colin: 2008.

I keep the Crayola tin on my desk as a reminder to swing my bat. And I swung three times in the past month. Last week, I learned that I hit the ball when I received a phone call offering me the media assistant position I’d applied for at Hellgate High School.

I started yesterday. Walking into the Hellgate library, where I served as a volunteer from 2004-2006, I felt like I had hit the ball out of the park.