Wednesday, November 16, 2016

My Big Fat Christmas Tree

“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?”
― Bob Hope

"It's not even Thanksgiving yet, Mom". I heard this all night since I started putting up one of our trees. I have always wanted a massive Christmas tree. There are only a few material things that I have always wanted in my life and a massive tree is one of those things. I like to concentrate more on the intangibles when I create my ‘want’ lists, like love that is pure and strong; kindness that is felt with your heart; a healthy family; good friends that have your back; and laughter that makes your belly hurt. That’s my REAL want list. But ya, I also have that list of wants that can be bought, too. And a 12 foot tree at my entrance of my home was one of them. Check that off! I also have always wanted a huge fountain in front of my home, a front door adorned with topiaries, and a miniature horse if you are thinking of what to get me for Christmas. Oh well, I guess I still have time. So I brewed a pot of coffee and sat under the new addition to my home. There is something about a bright Christmas tree when the rest of the house is dark that makes you feel nostalgic. In the glow of my tree it made me think that maybe it isn’t the tree that I really wanted. I think what I really want is every person that walks into our home to feel the love that comes at this time of the year. I want that tree to blast them with the need for family and gathering. I want them to feel the warmth of this home that is filled with the most important people in my life. I want the kids to walk downstairs in the morning or when they are up late at night and know that this mom of theirs is creating an environment for them to feel peaceful and loved. This is the last year that the boys will be home until they go to college. They will be seeing next year’s tree on their visit home for Christmas on their college break. They won’t be able to enjoy it in the weeks before Christmas any more after THIS Christmas. So I put that damn tree up extra early this year so that they can get it engraved in their minds about what it feels like when that tree is lit. (I also have a Europe trip planned and won’t be home for the December 1 house decorating that we always do, but that’s a different blog post). Anyways, the house is that much more cozier and loving at this time of the year. C. Joybbell C. said that, “Hopefully, our soft moments in life will largely outweigh, outrank, and outrun our dark moments”. This is one of those ‘soft' moments, when the house is filled with the Christmas spirit. Last year I didn’t really want to ‘DO’ Christmas. I kept most of our decorations in storage. I unenthusiastically put up our tree and threw on some decorations and BAM that was Christmas. There wasn’t any particular event that made me less Cristmas-y. I just didn’t feel it. Slightly Scroogesque. How sad I think. I have decided that as long as I have these miniature adults in my home I am going to overdo every single special moment that we share together so that when it is time for them to have their own families, they will remember how it was in this home. They will create their own memories from the reflectance of our time together. Hannah sent me a video of her apartment and their tree. There was a candle lit by their tv; a tree by their window; a wreath on their front door; Christmas decorations throughout their apartment; and pillows to match. And in the one-minute video that she sent to me I could see the smiles on their faces. I could hear the laughter. One of the roommates was dancing amidst the glow of their tree. They got it…..the feelings that come with the light of a Christmas tree. I’m sure some people in some houses put up the biggest tree to outshine their neighbors or fill up their spaces. Not in THIS house. I went big to make a statement to all who enter and all who live here that THIS year we are enjoying every single moment we have together. The message will be loud and clear: In this family we do love; we do togetherness; we do it our way! .”The rest of the year, I wondered if the point of Christmas was just spending money and getting fat and opening gifts. Indulging. But when Christmas finally comes, and that warm, tingly, mints-and-sweaters-and-fireplace-fires feeling gathers in the bottom of your stomach, and you're lying on the floor with all the lights off but the ones on the Christmas tree, and listening to the silence, you see the point. For that one instance in time, everything is good in the world. It doesn't matter if everything isn't actually good. It's the one time of the year when pretending is enough.”

p.s. Be prepared for the next blog entry title, “Get this damn tree out of my house”.

Monday, October 31, 2016


“I walked over to the hill where we used to go and sled. There were a lot of little kids there. I watched them flying. Doing jumps and having races. And I thought that all those little kids are going to grow up someday. And all of those little kids are going to do the things that we do. And they will all kiss someone someday. But for now, sledding is enough. I think it would be great if sledding were always enough, but it isn't.”

They bus in. Literally hundreds of them. The streets are lined with cars. Little red wagons are overloaded. Strollers carry the entire family as mom and dad push them from house to house. Sometimes a wine glass can be seen in the hands of the parents. Flashlights light up the street like fireflies. Carefully the parents wrangle their little ones to the next door. Dads can be seen choosing the next ‘perfect’ house. The streets are alive. I sit at home without a single trick or treater ringing my door. In fact, I don’t even have a potential ghost or goblin preparing for the night. But I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember the organization needed to haul my little ones around in our red wagon. I remember timing dinner and forcing them to eat before the big outing, as they anxiously waited until the sun went down to begin their hunt. I remember the hours of choosing the perfect costume. I remember mapping the perfect routes. I remember pulling my Parker home in a red wagon because he simply couldn’t walk another step in his Superman outfit. Once home I remember the piles of candy poured out on the floor as they counted their prizes. I remember getting home in time to hand out candy to the ‘older’ teens that would come out and think ‘ya, they are a little too old to be trick or treating’, but would gladly hand over the goods. I remember being so glad that Halloween was over. I remember being exhausted from the night. We quickly adopted a tradition of going to our neighborhood ‘Bloody Bistro’, which was actually a house full of actors that created an elaborate Halloween set each year. I could also recite exactly which houses handed out glasses of wine to the parents, which was always my favorite neighbors. I remember loading up the golf cart when they were older so that we could hit more houses in less time. As I write this I can hear the shreaks and laughter of children in the neighborhood. I remember what it felt like when Halloween meant something different than it means to me today. I see the faces of the parents walking with their children and I want to place my hands around their cheeks and say “Cherish this. Cherish this with all your heart”. Every step. Every doorbell ring. Every piece of candy. Every piggy back ride around the block. Every little costume. I want them to know that their little monster or Superman or ballerina or cowboy will grow into an adult someday. I want them to know how quickly that ‘someday’ comes. I want them to know that someday they will be sitting home on Halloween and hear the sounds of young families out their door and will remember. I caught a glimpse of a family on a golf cart tonight. The dad drove their three kids in the back of the golf cart. The children appeared exhausted. The dad was driving fast, as if to race to get home, and probably trying to catch the last half of a Monday night football game. But one little boy in the back sat slouched over his bag of loot in a giant old man mask. I thought to myself, yup they age THAT fast. Before you know it. Before you even realize it.  

I have walked through many lives so far on this journey called life. I have nursed babies that turned into toddlers that learned how to walk, then learned how to drive, then drove away.  When you are in the midst of being a young family all you ever want is for them to grow up so that you can have some time to yourself. You are so over the diapers and the bottles, dishes and drama, the homework and teenage years. You long for more time alone. Until you actually wake up one day and you are what you wished all those years for: alone. And you quietly open a fun sized Snicker bar and prepare to dress your dog up as a football player and remember the days that passed by in the blink of an eye.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Waves

“Every one of a hundred thousand cities around the world has its own special sunset and it was worth going there, just once, if only to see the sun go down.”

We used to visit Washington, Pennsylvania every summer growing up. No, not Washington like where the President lives. This is far different. I am not even sure it can really be found on a map. It is a town where neighbors know each other; families never leave; sidewalks are broken; grocers know everyone by name; and where my dad mowed grass so he could earn money for college. My grandparents lived there and never left. The houses have big porches. Neighbors sit outside and wave and talk to each other across their yards. The simple life. Generations where people found their place in the world and then simply never left. My grandmother had wind up chattering teeth in a top drawer of her sunroom. It was the first thing we would do when we got to her house. A ritual. A way of showing how we missed the things and the people in that home. And at the end of the trip, as we drove our station wagon down the street, my grandmother would stand in the middle of the road and wave. She would stand in that road until she could not see us anymore…even when she was a teeny tiny little speck in the road as we went up the hill, she would still be there waving. I always wondered what she did as we turned the corner. I always imagined her sitting on that front porch and crying, but I hope she maybe was happy for the visit, or maybe relieved that three kids were finally gone. Maybe she waved in the middle of her little street until she was a tiny speck on the horizon to make sure we were 100% gone!!! It was a time where you couldn’t scroll through a camera on your phone and look at all the good times you had. You literally had to wait about a week to get any of those pictures back. So she didn’t even have that option to keep her company in our leaving. We went many places growing up. Summers in Barbados; trips to NYC; Ocean City, Maryland; San Diego. Making memories and rituals in every town along the way. Naturally I, in turn, show my children the things that I loved, as I was a child. Trips to the beach to catch the sunset and make s’mores in a fire pit as we watch the end of the day sink into the ocean. And the cycle continues, and then you see your kids doing the same things in their life that you introduced them to. So often my kids say things to me about something they did or said and it is EXACTLY what I did at their age. The other day my daughter said they were the last ones dancing at a club because they were having too much fun and didn’t want to come home. BINGO DONE THAT! In fact they say that many of the people who died when the Titanic went down is because they didn’t want to leave the dance floor. Some people simply can’t stop themselves from enjoying life. The puzzle pieces that are put together piece-by-piece make up who you are today. Eventually somewhere along the way the feeling of a particular place is so good that you never want it to end. Miami is one of my happy places. I introduced it to my girls several years ago. It is a place where the tempo is as good as the sunsets. It is a place where when you have nothing to do you can just sit in the sand and be. It is a place where a piece of my heart will live in the next month. My Ashley. Spreading her wings. She found ‘her place’ she says. They say you can’t tell your kids they can do anything they put their hearts to and spread their wings and fly, only to have their wings clipped by the people in their lives. It’s Ashley’s story that she is writing, not mine. As I laid in bed for many sleepless nights with the feelings only a mother can understand, I was sad for what I was losing; what I was going to miss; what I would feel like. ME ME ME. This wasn’t about me. She can’t live her life so that I feel comfortable. My friend Carol’s beautiful daughter Emily is in the Peace Corp in the middle of Africa. She lives in a mud hut with a family and is learning their language a million miles away from her friends and family. Carol and I were talking (Hi Carol I told you that you would make the blog some day) about how hard it is. Our relationships will be changed when they return. I mean who the hell are we supposed to go to Starbucks with now???? But families grow up and move away and evolve. That’s what our ultimate goals as parents are, right? To raise our children to ‘find their places’ in the world?! Or at least TRY…or at least WANT to try…to change and grow and prosper?! And if that plan doesn’t work out they can come back home and start all over again! Now I understand why my grandmother stood in the middle of the road until she was a grain of sand out our back window. She wanted to soak in every last minute of every last second with all the love and faith she had in us until we disappeared to live our new lives. Good to the last drop…..

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

my gift to you

Thank you for your birthday wishes…now here is my gift to you…

“It's not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It's our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.”
― L.R. Knost,

My friends took me out to dinner. We laughed and cheered and snap chatted our way through it. They are my village that helps me raise my boys…followed by a trip to the cabin for a mini vacation to reflect and relax with my dearest of friends and my husband…we made up our own words in Scrabble just to win…I mean THEY did…to top it off I sat with my kids and husband for a beautiful dinner…I got flowers from them and cards filled with the most precious of notes telling me how much they love me and I will keep them in my memory box forever…the best gifts of all are the ones from the heart….and I sat and counted my blessings... and I watched parents on tv reading their final texts from children caught within a nightclub with a crazy shooter. I watched interviewers talk to young people who crouched in bathroom stalls as they tried to get their last calls in to their parents. One young man interviewed was asked what was the first thing he did when he got away from the gunfire and he said, matter of factly, “I called my mom”. One young man knew not a soul in the place as he had just moved to the city and managed to carry a young woman out who had been left behind to die. I watched families filter into a gymnasium to hear the names of the dead as they waited for the glimmer of hope for please please please don’t say the name. I watched a mother search for ‘Christoper’…her only son…his partner killed…she scoured the hospitals, morgues, the entire town for two days…blankly staring at the cameras begging for help from the world to find him.

I counted each moment of it, thinking about every moment of my life, the good and the bad ones. I see how powerful yet weak, bright yet dark, beautiful yet ugly, joyous yet grievous; is a one single moment. One moment makes the difference. Just a one moment. The power of a single moment.

Make your moments count every second of your life. Love one another. Visit one another. Tell each other you love one another. Show your love. As Lin-Manuel Miranda said, “when senseless acts of violence remind us that nothing here is promised. Not one daywe live through times when hate and fear seem stronger, we rise and fall and light from dying embers, remembrances that love and hope last longer and love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside.”

I watched the news this morning. They found ‘Christoper’. His name was read in the gymnasium.

I love you all. Thank you for sharing your lives with me. Love one another whether you are white, black, blue, purple, gay, trans, puppies, whatever…love is love.

Watch out for each other.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Changing Tires

“Are we running away from home?” I asked.
My mother had laughed. I couldn’t see her face, but her laugh I could always conjure—rich, ringing, like bells calling you to a wedding. “No, silly goose. You can’t run away from home. It’s not home if you want to run away from it.” She paused to brush a strand of hair from my face. “You can only run away from a house. Home is something you run toward.” 
― Michele JaffeGhost Flower

I can't tell you how many times I say that when I was their ages the LAST place I wanted to be was home. Not that I didn't love my home or my parents…I did tremendously. I just wanted to be a teenager and live my life without a chaperone. There was some excitement in hiding from the parents and seeing what you could do when no one was watching. I remember driving to San Diego for an overnight trip only to return exhausted the next day just to feel the road under my feet and freedom. That's what kids do…they test their boundaries and carve out a niche they can call their own. Kids often think “parents are like God because you wanna know they're out there, and you want them to think well of you, but you really only call when you need something.” ― Chuck Palahniuk that's why I tell my kids the stories about my teenage years…so that they don't drive across states to feel the sand in their toes; or seldom come home to visit because they are having too much fun; or living a crazy independent life (while your parents are still paying for everything of course). I tell them because that shits dangerous. And all of this was done without a cell phone (gasp). My girlfriend Laurel reminded me of a drive home from San Diego when I was riding solo and I got a flat tire…and cried…somewhere in the middle of Juniper Springs….all alone. I had forgotten all about that day. I had no cell phone or GPS or emergency car service to locate me…I had to figure it out…BY READING THE OPERATOR'S MANUAL…and change a tire!!!!! If my kids told me this story and it had been them instead of me I would literally DIE! It would be followed with "you are never doing that again" and a long lecture on going anywhere that far alone! But I survived. Regardless, It was endless pursuit of 'finding my self'….my life without a chaperone. Howeverrrrrrrr, I am witnessing a change in this new generation, at least within my own home. They like me...they really like me! They want to do lunch and take 21st bday trips together…and have friends over (even when they have their own apartments)…and workout together…and I am not just talking about my own kids…their friends often want to hang out with me even when my kids aren't around. Ashley had a good friend come over last night. He is in town from UofA. All the college kids are back now. Everyone got so big (as my grandma used to say, "or am I just shrinking" insert monkey covering eyes emoji). So this kid says, "Ash, I wanted to come over to hang out with Parker and your mom". AND YOUR MOM. MOM. See what I mean? They WANT to be around adults these days…what happened to our youth? Or is it the parents that have changed? What came first the chicken or the egg? I joke to my kids (and sometimes say it when I'm mad) "Why are you here? You have your own places now?". Truth is I wouldn't have it any other way. Ya being awoken at 2 am to disco music blaring on the patio can get a little much, but I know where they are…they are right outside my door… right where I could see and touch them if I want/have to. They aren't on some distant highway changing a flat tire…. and I watch them grow up and their friends grow up… and I like what I see…and we talk about dumb teenager stuff and we talk about politics…and we make ramen and we make steak on the grill..and we listen to gangster rap and classic country…ying and yang…teenagers crossing over into my little adult world... and they like it there. So when I wake up and throw a blanket over the extra bodies that have crashed on my couch…clean up a kitchen of pizza and ice cream… turn off TVs and radios that have entertained the neighbors throughout the night, I can't help but feel how truly lucky I am…I know where they are…I know who they are with….and they wouldn't have it any other way. And I let them think they are living life without a chaperone as I quietly watch from the sidelines.

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