Tag Archives: Eric

Father’s Day

We lost our Papa in January. In the months that followed, I cocooned myself in his gold and brown sweatshirt, softness and scent comforts on cold winter nights. Colors of Capital High School Bruins, its frayed neck and sleeves evidence of the years Papa spent cheering for his grandchildren.

A special sweatshirt. 2009.
A special sweatshirt. 2009.

On his eighty-ninth birthday, Dad asked, “Do you think I’ll live to be a hundred?” His question earnest, we vowed to have a ninetieth birthday bash if he made it that long.

He didn’t. He died less than six weeks later, five days after breaking his hip. As we surrounded his hospital bed, I was reminded of a family gathering twelve years prior.

Please keep everyone healthy and safe had been my silent plea, Dad foremost in my mind as extended family bid Eric bon voyage. Not yet seventeen, he was headed to Argentina for a yearlong study abroad. I fought tears when Eric said goodbye to Papa, wondering if it would be the last time they would see each other.

Ten days ago, Eric received his MPA from UW’s Evans School of Public Policy and Governance.  Gram with us to celebrate, I felt Papa’s presence, too. And when I saw the photo, I knew.

Papa's presence in a wisp of a rainbow.
Affirmation.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

Queer is not a bad word.

It was a new word for me. Queer. 1967, age eleven, I sought out my twelve-year-old brother, careful to catch him out of earshot of younger siblings. “What’s a queer?” I asked.

Ssshhh!” He flicked his head toward the adjacent bedroom where our mother was putting away laundry. “Mom will hear you.”

His stage whisper so loud, I was certain she heard him, not me. I left, question unanswered.

I had a fallback plan: Julie, our thirteen-year-old neighbor. She would tell me. And she did. I don’t remember her words. Straightforward, they didn’t leave a lasting impression. The shushing did.

I didn’t fault my brother, though. Growing up in the 1960’s, the families I knew didn’t talk about “the birds and the bees.” I added “queers” to the list, and moved on.

Twenty years later, I had my first baby. When I changed Eric’s diaper, I practiced saying “this is your penis” and “this is your scrotum,” determined to say those words as easily as “Head of hair. Forehead bare . . .”

When he was four, I borrowed a kids’ library book to read to him and to one-year-old Colin. It had cartoonish drawings and talked about bodies and making babies, subjects I did not want to be taboo. That same year, Eric traced a panty liner on a piece of paper. He presented his drawing, pride palpable: “I drew a uterus!”

His drawing did look like the knitted uterus I used in my Lamaze classes. I reveled in his artistry, creativity, and in the way the word rolled off his tongue.

Eric and Karen Buley.
Eric and Karen.

Fast forward twenty-five years. I wish I had known to look for LGBTQIA books. That acronym was not in my vocabulary back then, but acceptance, empathy, love, and tolerance were. I have learned that I am an ally. And Eric is queer. He is also a Fulbrighter. A City Year AmeriCorps alum. An Education Pioneer. A TeamChild Board Fellow. And an MPA. A recent graduate of University of Washington, he was nominated to be both a Husky 100 and a Luce Scholar. He is fluent in Spanish; has lived on four continents; and is compassionate, kind, and an inspiration. His sexual orientation does not define him.

On the eve of his seventeenth birthday, Eric left Montana to spend a year in San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina, as a foreign exchange student. Four days ago, I donned a pair of Argentine earrings he gave me, harnessing his courage as I prepared to embark upon my first solo door-to-door canvassing. His political activism began in high school when he restarted an Amnesty International club for his senior project. My activism, spotty throughout the years, kicked up last summer. In recent weeks, it has been on overdrive.

Montana has a special election coming up May 25. Our lone seat in the House of Representatives was vacated in March. I have been working hard to elect Democrat Rob Quist. He represents Montana values, including equity. His Republican opponent opposed non-discrimination ordinances in Bozeman and Butte. But equity is a Montana value, so both ordinances won easy victories: Bozeman unanimously; Butte 10-2.

At a recent Special Election Action Forum, a speaker shared a conversation she had had with her mother. When she referenced LGBTQ rights, her mom asked, “What does the Q stand for?” then said, “Oh. That’s a word I don’t use.”

Her mom is a Baby Boomer, like me. I didn’t use ‘queer’ growing up, either. I do now.

Last week, while tabling on the University of Montana campus, I talked with another Baby Boomer. He expressed concerns about the candidates. I rattled off Rob Quist’s Montana values: public lands, affordable health care, Medicare and Social Security, public education, Second Amendment Rights. He told me he had been in the healthcare field, so we talked about that.

Then I shared the heart of my story. I told him I had never really campaigned before. I said that Rob Quist believes in equity, and I was fighting for my queer son who cried for two weeks after our November election. The current Republican candidate had fought non-discrimination ordinances, I said. I tried to keep the quiver out of my voice when I added that my fight was to elect a man who believes in equity.

He listened, then said that my son should not have to worry about being treated equitably.  He put his hand on my shoulder, and told me he would vote for Quist “for your son. My wife will, too,” he said.

I thanked him, hoping he realized the depth of my gratitude.

I had another tender conversation when I knocked doors two days later. The man told me he had lost his wife the week before. His words matter of fact, I asked about her. Sixty—my age—she died too young. He told me about her cancer and her medical bills. I told him about my dad, who had passed away three months before, five days after breaking his hip. Eighty-nine, he had a good, long life. We talked about affordable healthcare for all.

I told him I was campaigning because I had a queer son, and because Rob Quist believes in equality.

“Your son is what?” he asked.

“Queer.”

“What does that mean?”

“It’s an umbrella term for non-heterosexual,” I said. I told him it was a reclaimed term, not the slur of our youth.

“I did not know that,” he said, words thoughtful and deliberate.

We talked a bit more about his wife’s upcoming celebration of life before saying goodbye.

When I reached the sidewalk, he called, “Tell your son there are people out there who support him.”

“I will,” I replied, voice catching.

Tears threatened as I walked to the next house. His words affirmed what I knew, and gave me resolve. Montana has a single seat in the House of Representatives. I will continue to fight for Montana’s voice to be one of affirmation, safety, and inclusiveness.

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.

An Evening at ROOTS Young Adult Shelter

During my recent visit to Seattle, I had the privilege of volunteering at ROOTS (Rising Out Of The Shadows) Young Adult Shelter. Its mission statement reads: ROOTS provides shelter and other essential services to homeless young adults. We build community, advocate for social justice, and foster dignity among low-income people.

ROOTS provides a safe place for up to forty-five young adults, ages eighteen to twenty-five, 365 nights a year. The night I volunteered, there wasn’t enough space to accommodate all who sought shelter. According to ROOTS’ website, this has become a more common occurrence. “These young people are spiraling out of the foster care system and onto the streets, fleeing abusive homes and failing to find work opportunities to survive in this tough economic climate.”

Those who weren’t lottoed in that night were given a plate of food, a blanket, a bus ticket, and a referral to another shelter if space was available. Of the guests in shelter, their resilience and unfulfilled potential were palpable. Some were students. Others were employed. But none had stable homes.

I helped two other volunteers prepare dinner. Though it was their second night at shelter, it was their first night on kitchen duty. We prepared a “feast” using leftovers, salad, fruit, baked goods, and four packages of egg noodles which we added to gorgonzola cheese sauce we scored from the refrigerator.

While we were preparing the meal, some folks carried in leftovers from a group gathering. Since we had plenty of food, we dated their donations and put them in the refrigerator, where they were sure to be a welcome discovery for the dinner crew the following night.

In addition to the above, several things struck me about my evening at ROOTS.

  • The dedication of staff and volunteers.
  • Preferred gender pronouns on staff and volunteers’ nametags.
  • An on-site resource specialist.
  • Donated clothing and books.
  • A sign which said that you could not use on-site, but if you arrived with dirty needles, they could be disposed of safely.
  • The smooth transition of the room as guests helped arrange mats and bins.
  • Guest access to computers, laundry facilities, showers and lockers.
  • The camaraderie between volunteers and guests.
  • The politeness and appreciativeness of the guests.
  • The opportunity for guests to earn locker privileges by volunteering in shelter.
  • The serenity of the room and its forty-five guests after lights out.

Our opening meeting before guests arrived and our debriefing after lights out were impressive. I was moved by the compassion and commitment of the volunteers, several of whom were in the age group of the guests.

During our debriefing, we were given the opportunity to share concerns, warnings given and an evening highlight. No one had warnings or concerns, but we all had highlights. One volunteer, whom we learned in our opening meeting was there for the first time, was enthusiastic about her desire to return. Others were regulars, evident by nods of recognition as they shared highlights about familiar guests.

When it was my turn, I shared three highlights: being part of a team headed by my son Eric, the evening’s Program Coordinator; seeing the welcoming, safe, inclusive place I’d heard so much about; and having guests help in the kitchen and in the dish room.

I didn’t share one huge highlight though, afraid tears would stifle my words. Working with my kitchen companions, and peripherally with the other volunteers, was deeply moving. To witness their kindness, compassion, dedication and connectedness with the guests was an affirmation of the goodness in our world. I wanted to tell them that they’re making our world a better place. I wanted to say that being in their presence made my heart sing, but I knew I would choke on my words.

I was touched by the guests as well. Through my observations and brief interactions with some of them, I felt so much unfulfilled potential. Two poignant memories stand out. As I was preparing a burrito for a guest, another awaiting his dinner asked, “How’s your night going?” I told him it was going well and asked how his was. “Pretty good,” he said. “That’s what we always say. Pretty good,” he repeated, with a hint of a smile.

What resilience.

Later, Eric had just given me a quick introduction to the dish room and sterilizer when a guest arrived and donned an apron. Wordlessly he turned his back to me and held out his apron strings for me to tie. Eric asked if he wanted help with the dishes but the guest said no, so I went back into the kitchen to collect our serving dishes.

After adding them to the overflowing counter, I thanked our helper for tackling the mountain of dishes. He said he’d done “twenty times that many” and told me he used to work in a restaurant. When I asked where, he hesitated. I’d wondered then if, in my attempt at small talk, I’d overstepped my bounds. He allayed my fear seconds later when he said in a soft voice, “Colorado.”

What a tender moment to be gifted with his trust.

Thank you, ROOTS, for the important work you do. Thank you for providing a safe, welcoming and inclusive place and for being a stepping stone as you raise young adults out of the shadows.

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.

USA!

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.

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.

National Day of Service

On January 19, 2013, I, along with others nationwide, responded to President Obama’s call to action to serve as a volunteer for the National Day of Service. I was the first volunteer to arrive that morning at The Parenting Place, a community-based non-profit whose mission is to prevent child abuse and neglect through strengthening families.

After welcoming me, staff member Megan asked, “What organization are you with?”

“I’m not with an organization,” I said, explaining I’d signed up through the National Day of Service website. I didn’t tell her the rest of the story: I’d been a volunteer in various capacities since my teenaged years, but this was the first time my volunteerism had included the possibility of winning a trip to D.C. for a presidential inauguration.

Megan directed me to an office to store my coat. As I headed in that direction, I heard her tell her co-worker, “They don’t know each other.”

The rest of the group, five women and four children, trickled in. After brief introductions, we posed for a photo before settling in to work. 

iserve: Margie, Rebecca, Josie, Betsy, Karen, Carla, Linda, Aydin, Nicholas, and Nico (not pictured: photographer Katie).

Strangers at the onset, we learned of our connectedness as our day progressed.

Book lovers Aydin, a second grader; his brother, Nicholas, a third grader; and I were tasked with the job of cleaning and organizing the library. I enjoyed chatting with the boys about books, authors, and illustrators.

When Aydin pulled an Eric Carle book off a shelf he said, “Oh, my teacher would love this book!”

“Who’s your teacher?” I asked.

“Mrs. Dungan.”

I smiled. Kathy Dungan teaches at the elementary school my sons, Eric and Colin, attended. She is our friend and neighbor, and had been to our house for dinner the previous weekend. We’ve shared many conversations about education, books, and reading throughout the years.

Parenting Place library
Karen, Nick and Aydin on library duty

Carla—mother of Aydin; Nicholas; and Katie, a sixth grader and our photographer extraordinaire,—sang Kathy’s praises as she described how she has facilitated educational opportunities for Aydin that meet his abilities. We shared our mutual admiration for the 1st and 2nd grade multiage classrooms that my boys, and now Aydin, have benefited from.

The Parenting Place
Carla disinfecting with Simple Green

Linda brought her four-year-old son, Nico, to help. They were champions in converting a back room into a space designated for babies and toddlers. Nico, Aydin, Nicholas and Katie did a wonderful job serving as game testers, too.

The Parenting Place
Linda washing the small pieces and parts
The Parenting Place
Nico, master toy-sorter

Josie and Margie organized the art supplies, then Josie and I moved to the puzzle and game nook. We discovered that Josie’s daughter and my son Eric served as AmeriCorps volunteers 2011-2012 for City Year, an organization dedicated to keeping students in school and on track for graduation.

Craft nook at the Parenting Place
Josie cleaning and sorting the art supplies

While enjoying a bagel, I learned that Betsy’s daughter was packing to leave for a study abroad program the following day. Talking about the challenges of limiting luggage to “fifty pounds for six months,” I shared our experience of weighing Eric’s suitcase—also with a fifty-pound weight limit—on our veterinarian’s scale before he set out for twelve months in Argentina.

The Parenting Place kitchen
Betsy making the kitchen sparkle

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.”

We served together, children and adults, to honor President Obama and the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. No one in our group won the trip to D.C., but we were grateful for the opportunity to serve. We began our day as strangers. We ended it as friends.

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.

Nursing and Books

I have loved books for as long as I can remember. And for almost as long, I have been fascinated with the world of nursing. My mother sparked my interest with her stories when I was a young girl. Later, countless Cherry Ames books fueled my desire to become a nurse. As did my candy striping days. I felt important beyond measure when I walked past the bold-lettered sign at Saint James Hospital: NO VISITORS UNDER THE AGE OF SIXTEEN and knew that, though only fourteen, I had a job to do.

Fast forward to 2012. I’m an OB nurse, I would say. And a writer, I added in recent years.

The former has ended. The latter has not. Less than three weeks have passed since my exit interview for the nursing job I held for nearly twenty-one years. It felt bittersweet as I walked into Community Medical Center to offer parting words that day. Bittersweet, knowing I would be replacing the wonder of birth with the wonder of books.

I said goodbye to my old website this month, too, as library books and You Tube videos taught me about WordPress. Looking at the photos our older son, Eric, helped me stage for my website years ago induced pensive feelings. Those photos captured much of my and my mother’s essence. And though neither of us is practicing right now, we will always be nurses.

So I share the photo that graced my website for six years and helped garner stories for Nurses on the Run.

Karen Buley memorabilia

I share one of our alternates, too. It’s a poignant reminder of the boxes of childhood books my parents moved on my behalf. Not once, but twice.

Karen Buley memorabilia2