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Saturday, January 28, 2017

#momconversation with susie fah, community activist

In our community of Catholic families, I'm what you'd call an underachiever. In other words, I  gave birth to only two children. (The standard is four or five in these parts.) And while I feel I'm sufficiently busy, I'm shocked how these other moms keep it all together. I'd like to think they're closet drinkers. But I know better. They drink wine quite openly.

Susie Wilwerding-Fah was one of the first Earling girls I met when I started dating Doug. I distinctly remember how she confirmed Doug’s cute factor—admitting how she had a crush on him in grade school. (Who couldn’t love that long hair?) I appreciated Susie’s connection with Doug. There’s something about growing up together in a small school that brings you especially close to your classmates. When Susie and her husband, Jeff, decided to move back to the Earling area, we were happy. (More people our age!) The Fah’s bring life to a party. Whether Jeff is busting a move on the kitchen dance floor, or Susie is braiding your hair, they always add that undefinable dynamic that makes you smile through your wine-induced headache the next day. 

Meet Susie Fah.
From the left, clockwise: Stephen, Joseph, Jeff, Patrick, Thomas, Ash, Katherine and Susie.

Quick bio:
5 kids:  Patrick, Thomas, Joseph, Stephen, Catherine and 1 Yorkie named Ash. Hubby:  Jeff J Fah,  Teach preschool at Tri-Center near Neola (Love it!), Grew up on a farm outside of Earling, went to college at Iowa State and lived around that area before moving back to Earling 13 years later to live across the street from my parents.  I come from a family of 8 kids.  Been married for almost 24 years.

Favorite family tradition:  taking vacations with my siblings and their kids, we always have a great time together.

Funniest kid story of late:  I won’t mention which one of my sons did this but . . . two of the kids were sorting clothes and one of them came across nine-year-old Catherine’s bralette/ cami.  Well, he got curious and tried it on.  Jeff walked passed the room and did a double-take.  He was quick enough to snap a photo of it.  Priceless!

Most surprising lesson you’ve learned about being a mother:  Kids want to know that you are there for them (physically and emotionally).  They want to know that you are interested in what they are saying and doing.  If you lend an ear you will learn a lot about them and something about yourself, as well.  I learned a lot about kids through teaching, too.

Opinion on work/life Balance:  Still trying to figure this one out.  I was part time until two years ago.  Going full-time kind of upset my applecart.  I’ve found I am better off letting little things go (like cleaning my house . . . eek!).  I think our kids will remember the more important things rather than stressing over a sparkly clean house.  They know what I turn into when company is coming.  I don’t want them to see that side of me all the time.
A little note about Susie here. While she has her Masters and at one time was a elementary school principal, she changed her career path to teach preschool where she feels she has more impact on kids and has time to be a better mom. This is a great example of the many choices working mothers must face.
Guilty pleasure:  A glass of wine and watching Hart of Dixie with Jeff after the kids go to bed.

Last book you read that you couldn’t quit thinking about:   The Help

Best family tradition:   skiing in Colorado

Favorite or most-used app:  Storm Shield (not too exciting but I have recess duty to think about!)

Who’s your celebrity obsession?  Stef Kramer 
I think she means the actress who starred in that great TV series, Hunter.
What’s your go-to movie?  The Sound of Music

What advice would you give to new parents:  Life goes FAST!  Enjoy every stage because kids grow up!

How do you recharge?  Take a nap, go for a walk or run (jog)

Anything else you’d like to add about being a working mother?  Your kids don’t need to feel your stress if you’ve had a rough day.  Find an adult to use for your sounding board. I try to keep this in mind but I, too, have my occasional explosions.  Jeff might say it’s a bit more often than occasional.  

An occasional explosion with five kids? I think you're justified, Susie!

Susie is an amazing person. In addition to her teaching job and raising five kids, she’s always looking for ways to improve the quality of our community and make memories for our children. She was instrumental to getting new playground equipment for our town and leads an annual Easter Egg Hunt for our parish. Right now she's spearheading a “father-daughter” dance to be held Earling on February 3rd—a night for daughters to get dressed up and be pampered by their doting dads. Thanks Susie for all you do in our community! You're a treasure.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Like a Bridge over Troubled Water

The other day I was channel surfing on XM radio and landed on a song I don’t hear often: Bridge Over Troubled Waters. As soon as I heard the familiar piano accompaniment, I cranked the volume and belted out with Simon and Garfunkel. By the end of the song, I was blubbering—crying my eyes out. You see, this isn’t just a beautiful song from my parents’ generation. It’s a song that holds a particularly special memory for me.

At a pops concert my senior year in high school, I sang this song with my two of my best friends, Nicole Heller and Kira Gaer. I was probably the weak link in the trio. Kira carried a pop star eminence and Nicole had a strong voice of her own. My piano background gave me an acceptable level of harmony instruction and we managed to pull off a fairly decent performance—from what I can remember anyway.
Add Nicole, Kira, and me.
Cannily the lyrics came back to me as if I was still that 17-year-old with my two friends, all caught up in the performance that would probably make us big stars. "Sail on silver girl, sail on by."  As my 47-year-old self drove home in the dark from work that night absorbing the beautifully sentimental song,  I became sadly aware of something. Would we ever have believed, back in 1987, we would've ended up with hardly any contact anymore? Never. We would never have believed it.

Kira, Nicole, and I had that 80's aura, John Hughes-like connection. We loved fashion and pop culture with a transparent goal to emulate Madonna on our audacious days or Whitney Houston on our playful days. We were not opposed to rating boys and did some heavy Bible research on premarital sex. We loved to laugh. And most of all, we loved to dream.

It was a given we were all destined to be rich. Nicole made sure we always drove around with the windows down—messy hair practice for when we purchased our first convertible. I was going to be the lawyer (Claire Huxtable style). Nicole would be the doctor. Kira only considered the medical field as her backup plan. Because she never, ever quit singing. She would be the next Madonna. At the end of one night of cruising our country roads and planning our futures, long after Nicole and I had quit singing to the radio, Kira’s voice went hoarse. She apologized. “Sorry guys. I’m not going to be able to sing for you anymore tonight.” We managed.

Nicole and I stayed in touch after high school, rooming together for a bit in college and standing up in each other's weddings. She married her high school sweetheart and became a pharmacist in Spirit Lake with three lovely children. I think of her often and hope she is well.

Neither of us see Kira anymore. Unfathomably, she died at the age of 22 from non-hodgkin lymphoma. She passed away just as we were starting off our lives. I visit her grave once a year and she still visits me from time to time in my dreams. "And friends just can't be found... " What would she be doing now if she would've lived? Would she be settled in with her family? Like Nicole and I? Navigating work and kids' activities? Mailing off our annual Christmas cards to each other? Or would she be competing against Beyonce for a grammy? I kind of like to think maybe.

Cheerleading days
My teenage self probably wouldn't have been surprised that I turned out to be banker, nor Nicole a pharmacist. But I wouldn't never have imagined Kira, the most vivacious of us all, to be gone. But then again, she did always seemed to be destined for the stars. The truth is, she’ll never be gone–nor will the memories of my best pals and the dreams we dreamed. They will always live in a special place in my a bridge.

Thursday, January 5, 2017


It's January 5th already! How many of you have forgotten all about those nifty resolutions you created on January 1st as you nursed that champagne-induced headache? 

I have to admit, I’m one of those people who love to make a list and measure my progress. So, yes, New Year's Resolutions are right up my alley. Typically my resolutions are fairly cliché–you know! The kind that involves great transformation of appearance...
  • Run a marathon!
  • Master yoga!
  • Eat celery instead of chips!
  • Revamp my wardrobe!
  • Publish a book! (to help me buy a new wardrobe)

Sound familiar? Sound kinda vain? Yeah. I thought so too. So this year, I'm trying a different approach. Instead of making my resolutions so "inwardly-focused," I decided to require my resolutions to benefit others. Jesus-ish.

I've got my list started.
I'd love to help out with these cuties!
  1. Send meaningful mementos to Alex, my college-aged daughter. She'll appreciate the thoughtfulness of a tangible gift more than a mundane cash transfer. I know! Because she has a great liberal mind who doesn't allow possessions to motivate her. I can't wait to hear how appreciative she'll be when I switch out the cash for something like a candle.
  2. Help Cole more diligently with his studies. What teenage boy doesn’t want to spend more time with his mother…learning algebra and science and the mechanics of grammar! It's making me smile just thinking about it.
  3. Be more involved in my husband’s farm operation. I'm positive Doug will love my opinions and ideas. Maybe I don't know much about agriculture, but I'm very creative. I see this really bringing us closer.
  4. Make more of an effort to help my mother with her store without any ulterior motives. In other words, quit asking if she's got any damaged property she needs to get rid of.
  5. Last, but not more interested in my father’s motorcycle hobby. I know…this sounds entirely selfish. I feel a little guilty listing it.
    4 of the 5 recipients of my 2017 resolution targets.

So those are some of my goals this year. Basically I'm planning to be a major pest to my loved ones. It will be fantastic. Perhaps it generated some ideas for all of you as well.

Wishing all my friends the happiest of New Year’s! I hope you reach all of your dreams in 2017!