Sunday, December 19, 2010
Friday, December 17, 2010
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Reberb10, December 15 – 5 Minutes. Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010. (Author: Patti Digh)
The enlightenment spreading through Abby's eyes as I finally shift the way in which I explain something, and she finally shifts the was she receives it.
When Hubby and I first started dating, we lived in two different cities. Surprise visits were the best. thing. ever. The other night, the kids and I had dinner at one of dear friend's homes while Hubby had a work dinner. His dinner finished before we got home, and he came over to our friends' house to surprise us. I didn't hear the doorbell, but as I passed from one room to the next, I peripherally saw Hubby waving wildly in the front door's side windows. The giddy delight that bubbled up seemed to come from 1999, the year we first started dating, and the time of many surprises.
Bear hugs from Henry.
Forgiveness leads to brightness, enlightenment and freedom.
My children's love, at times, crushes my lungs with its power and force.
New kindred friendships bless my minutes and days.
This lesson: when I focus my energy on something, it grows.
(Oops. That was 6 1/2 minutes.)
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Monday, December 6, 2010
Reverb10, December 4 – Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year? (Author: Jeffrey Davis)
My year has been littered with wonder, laced with exquisite luminosity and ordinariness. I love the myriad of ways wonder arrives...in gallant leaps, in gradual steeping, with practiced patience, like a seasoned parent. Wonder dipped and bounced throughout each day, frequently sprinkling its stop-you-in-your-tracks splendor.
The juxtaposition of 2010 against past years made me realize that in the past, I didn't tap into wonder as much as I could've. I felt it--the wonder reached me--but I know that many moments passed, carrying wonder in its midst, when I could've experienced more but did not. Thankfully, wonder can hide under layers and layers of expired, antiquated beliefs. Unforgiven grievances. Road blocks.
Wonder's tenacity permeated the finicky caverns of my sometimes fearful, or negative, mind and allowed for wonder cameos. It radiated through melancholy and doldrums. Wonder provided the pinnacle of belief and the tenacity of hope.
Wonder sits in the midst of explicit ordinariness. For me, there exists an intrinsic relationship between wonder and gratitude. The more I give thanks, the more awe and wonder I experience.
So, I've contemplated wonder. Why has this year been so laden with wonder? I believe it began with forgiveness of decades-old hurts. And a purposeful cultivation and prioritization of self. Wonder--a splendid, phosphorescent jewel, just waiting to wow me. (I do wonder (predictable pun intended): do I cultivate it, or does it cultivate me? Carefully plodding and awaiting my recognition of its power?)
And so I sit, in wonder. Of each day I wake and stretch. Of the evolving complexity of my seven-year-old daughter. Of the constant progression of time. Of the smell of baking cookies. Of the power of the wind. For the much-needed embrace. Of forgiveness. Of darkness. Of the multitude of permutations of the sun's light.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
"Sit down. No, I will not cut the crust off of your toast. Don't touch your sister. A touch is not a hit. Sit down. I'm not serving candy for breakfast. I don't care that your brother looked at you. The next person who removes their hiney from their seat will enter their schools hungry. Now SIT DOWN."
(I'm pretty sure that I have an amazing opportunity for improvement here, but...I'm so ensconced in the cadence of our rituals that I'm finding it hard to feel the rhythm of a new way.)
Anywhoo, the morning proceeded as usual. I asked them to please just get along. And to get ready for school. Kids went upstairs to brush, comb, wash and dress. Arguing began. Luckily for me, from my perch at the breakfast bar, the floor between us muffled the actual words. Abby then appeared in the kitchen to announce the following transgression:
"Henry stuck his tongue out at me."
As I chewed my cereal, I sat in awe. And chewed on this thought: Really? She's tattling on her four-year-old brother for that? (Side note: I've been encouraging my children to work through these arguments on their own. Another side note: You can see how successfully I've deployed said encouragement.)
So, I told Abby that I thought she was being ridiculous and tattling.
Folks, that's when the wheels fell off the bus.
Her voice went up two octaves. And the rampage began:
"You don't love me as much as you love Henry. (Sob, sob.) Everyone likes him more. (Drip, drip.) You don't love me. No one in this house loves me. I'm going to run away from EVERYONE and from this house."
And my lovely maternal response? Silence.
And Abby screamed, "Why aren't you answering me?!"
So I said,
"Are you done? Cause if you're not, could you go somewhere else and cry?" (Another aside: Does my response seem harsh? Mean? Well, let me tell you, it may have been. But it was better than the response running through my head. Yup. Much better. I am just SO done with the wha wha wha whining. Every morning I'm asked to mitigate some grievous, outrageous event that is neither grievous nor outrageous. Usually totally benign. And I'm done. I'm toast. DONE.)
"NO!", she hollered. "I'm telling you HOW I FEEL!!!! You don't love me and aren't even saying that you're sorry I feel this way." Huge tears continue their descent.
And I responded, "I'm sorry you feel that way." (And I then thought that maybe I should actually feel sorry that she felt that way. But it all seemed so nonsensical to me. Henry's tongue sticking out to nobody loves me? Huh? Maybe this is how hubby felt when I was preggers. Huh. Spinning head. Check. Crazy irrationality? Check. Hormones? CHECK.)
Where does she pick up these theatrics?
The good news? I stayed calm. The bad news: I stayed calm. She saw my actions as insensitive, uncaring and mean.
The storm clouds passed. I offered a conciliatory hug with these words:
"I love you."
When she got out of the car, I told her that there was one thing she needed to remember today: That I love her.
I've spent my quiet hours today digesting her outburst. A ploy? Displaced emotion? Her truth? I'll excavate, gently, trying to find clues providing insight and tender awareness. I'll try my best. I'll look for that different rhythm, a new synchronicity to guide us through. And I'll love her. Whether she thinks I do, or not.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?
(Author: Gwen Bell)
As I reflected on 2010, I cringed, I cried, I giggled...a small smile tugged at my lips. Many fabulous and descriptive words danced and shouted in my mind, cajoling and begging for selection.
I can best describe your year! Choose me! they yelled.
Shhhh, I told them. You're all lovely, but I can only choose one of you. (Ummm, yes, I just admitted that I talked to words.)
Finally, the most appropos, the most singularly accurate word came to me:
In past years, I skirted the edges of living presently. Although I physically attended each moment, I didn't mentally inhabit each moment. Many moments I spent thinking about the past or the upcoming, and in so doing, I missed the Now.
But in 2010, I inhabited Now. The ugly nows. The epiphany nows. The blah nows. The euphoric nows. The grieving nows.
There are so many wise people and objects whom I wish I could thank for this awakening. The writers I read, the books I inhale, my children, the trees, my friends. I must especially thank Karen Maezen Miller. During her Boston Plunge Retreat, she welcomed us to Now. And then asked, "Have you ever been anywhere else?"
Yes! I wanted to shout. Many times, too many times, I wasn't in the Now because I was There, rehatching, rethinking, redoing...or I was There....planning, worrying, wondering. Not Now, but Then.
Her words reverberated with truth, and acted as a catalyst, a spark of sage connectedness in which all the messages and reminders culminated, returning me to my Nows. I was in that moment. And this one. Now. Wicked winds. Hypnotic candle flame. Classical music. Warm glow of my favorite lamp illuminating my white desk top, littered with cookie crumbs. Words flowing. Fingers typing. Now.
As for the future, in 2011 and beyond, well, I'd like live presently, in each Now that each of those years delivers. Perfect, on time and satiated in the present.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Monday, November 22, 2010
I am from a Bicentennial celebration of the Liberty Bell, a brick ranch, a Georgia colonial, and the wafting scents of sauteed garlic and onion. I am from everywhere and nowhere, from many sturdy oak-lined streets with well-traveled sidewalks.
I am from zinc oxide and a plethora of satin swim team ribbons.
I am from the red tulips of Maine, the blizzard of 1979 and countless grains of white sand lining the blissful shores of Lake Michigan.
I am from homemade cinnamon rolls, ingrained curiosity and an English teacher. From Three Dog Night and the Muppets. From unchaperoned games of Ghost in the Graveyard, and parents who rang a cow bell when the time arrived to come in from the dark.
I am from the the incense filled vestibules of Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris, lit prayer candles and and an unwavering cadence of strength.
I am from a family who staunchly believes in Santa Claus. From a love of shoes, Waterford crystal and twisted corkscrew willows.
I am from devout Catholics, an almost-nun and baptized atheists. From the intoxicating scent of crisp sheets line-dried on a sunny day and Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends.
I'm from the oldest of five and the oldest of two, from him and from her. From chicken paprikash with handmade spatzel, countless potatoes and a staunch love of college football. From metallic foil wallpaper and gold, wide-whale corduroy couches.
From a woman who worked for the Red Cross in Korea, wearing crisp white uniforms with quaint hats. I am from nurses, pilots, dentists and electricians. I'm from careful, faded love letters, intricate unions and complex dissolutions.
I am from monogrammed sweaters, Bermuda bags and a well-read copy of The Preppy Handbook. I am from hippies, Republicans, Democrats and Vietnam vets. I am from a myriad of exhalations, sacrifices and shoveled walks. I am from a raven-haired, violet-eyed homecoming queen and hearty immigrants. I am from each experience of my many families, and profound belief in something more profound than me. I am from each step to now and the hum of a faithful dishwasher. I am from them all; I am me.
Thanks to Lindsey, and the many other bloggers whose execution of this exercise inspired me to write my own. You can go here to find the Where I Am From template. The original poem, Where I Am From, by George Ella Lyon, is beautiful and can be read here.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
My pal Lindsey posted a fun Vanity Fair questionnaire yesterday with her responses (as she said, "Vanity Fair has two questionnaires every month – the famous Proust Questionnaire (meaty questions, back page) and the lighter list in the Culture section in the middle of the book."). Lindsey and I delved into the lighter fair and because I love the trivial not-so-trivial, here are my answers. Would love to hear your answers, too!
Where do you live: New Jersey
Favorite art: Picasso (a new addition after seeing his work in Spain), Georgia O’Keeffe, My daughter's paintings, Monet
Pets: Not now...but still miss our big red dog Ruby
Favorite neighborhood restaurant: Oh, if only there were restaurants in my neighborhood....
Favorite cocktail: dry Cabernet Sauvignon
Who inspires you: Those who choose to smile. Musician/songwriters: not only do the write the words but also build the entire song?...crazy. Gifted writers. Strength in the face of diversity. People who share their experiences with raw honesty.
Necessary extravagance: My life coach.
Favorite place in the world: Can't pick just one. Driving in my car, music blaring, singing like I'm with the band. Snuggled in bed with Henry. Laughing with Abby. Cozy-movie watching with hubby.
Designer: J Crew, Tory Burch
Jeans: Ummmm....new favorite? Brace yourself: Faded Glory, WalMart. Curvy Bootcut. $12. You're welcome.
Watch: Swiss Army
T-shirt: Gap Supersoft
Day bag: since I don't have enough space to bore you with my multitude of purses, let's just say there are many.
Evening bag: Dark green patent leather croc clutch from Forever 21
Favorite city to shop: Chicago
Lipstick: Lip gloss (currently love E.L.F. glosses from Target. $1!)
Mascara: Max Factor 2000 calorie (no longer made so searching for replacement)
Moisturizer: Cetaphil at night, Olay spf 30 at day
Perfume: Winter: WISH Sugar Pastille. Summer: Bath and Body Works Cucumber Melon
Soap: Lever 2000 and Unscented Dove
Nail-polish color: IF my hands are painted, super neutral or a new fav, Sally Hansen Complete Manicure, Commander in Chic. Toes--anything dark and fun.
Who cuts your hair: Right now, me. Had so many bad hair cuts in the last year I'm utterly petrified to have anyone else cut it.
Who colors your hair: Brenda. (What's that? You're shocked to hear that I'm not a natural blond? Thought so.)
Friday, November 19, 2010
Monday, November 8, 2010
Last week, Henry got sick. A raging ear infection took hold and he couldn't tolerate food or water for 36 hours. (The upside to a kid throwing up in a different spot every hour: house, couch, family room, bathrooms and bedrooms (and all linens) are now very, very clean.) After watching Henry writhe and throw up for more than a day, we bundled into the car, with bucket in tow, and headed to the ER. An expertly administered IV coursed Zofram, antibiotics and saline into his limp little body. Henry and I curled up in that tiny little ER bed and he lay limply on my chest.
Just six hours after we returned from the ER visit, Henry migrated from his gray-faced, listless heap on the couch to standing. He chased Abby. He laughed and pleaded for food. A satisfied smile played at the corners of my mouth. After 48 hours of his palpable misery, I gave thanks for the return of his health.
I went upstairs to put clean sheets on my and Hubby's bed and the flannel sheets made their debut. I pulled the red flannels from their quiet resting spot in the linen closet and spread them out. I took solace in their tightly lined creases, whispering promises of a cozy, warm November slumber.
Both kids bathed. I could hear the strains of their individual chatter and singing. Peripherally, I spied a stripe of resting sun peeking through a frigid, charcoal-stippled evening sky. One of Abby's watercolor paintings cheerfully beckoned from the laundry room wall. I stood, surrounded by the sturdy solace at the final curve of sick days. Alive with the evidence of life: warmth generated from the constantly spinning dryer. The click click clack of a zipper hitting the sides of the dryer drum hummed to me. I folded the five sets of clothes Henry wore yesterday. I folded many well-loved pajamas.
I garnered incredible solace handling all of their laundry--knowing what each stain represented, what each of their days held, and knowing that they returned to me at the end of each one. I stood, saturated in the almost primitive workings of my home, my family. I stood, steeped in peace. Because I knew, with clarity, that these days will pass. My future holds many days of not knowing what they wore or where they were or what stained their clothes. My relationships with them will grow and morph, mirroring the children themselves. I know that when I look back on these years with my children, I will miss the complexity, simplicity, sureness and uncertainty of these times. And know that our current rhythms will be replaced by other shades of unrest, growth and certainty.
Full. Contended calm. It was enough.
Friday, November 5, 2010
Friday, October 29, 2010
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Hypnotized and spellbound by the crimsons, goldens, purples, brazen oranges and firey yellows, I stay still. Struck by the stark newness of the trees' ornamentation, a rumbling of nostalgia washes over me.
Humbled by the ancient, predictable yet always glorious dance.
Friday, October 22, 2010
So, outwardly I looked. Seeking accolades from my parents, teachers, friends, bosses, boyfriends, strangers walking down the street. I placed the fulcrum of my happiness under the lever of other's unpredictable cadences. Understandable, I guess, but in retrospect, not very smart. Not really smart at all.
When I accomplished something, or reached a big goal, I looked to others to celebrate me. Not too surprisingly, looking for validation in exterior places littered my life with many disappointments. And ultimately left me empty. Because I so busily looked (and looked and looked and looked) for acclaim, I forgot to look within.
So. With careful recalibration and awareness, I stopped. I now rejoice and celebrate my wins and successes. If others want to join in (and bring presents), I'm certainly not going to stop them. But I own the celebration. It's critical for me...and I've realized, critical for my children. I want their compasses to encourage inward celebratory introspection rather than outward validation.
Recently, I met a huge goal of mine. So, after much mental high-fiving and giddy excitement, I drove myself to the store. I walked (maybe even strutted) into the jewelry department and located the necklace. The one I've coveted. Simplistically gorgeous, perfectly commemorating my success.
I bought that necklace. I wear it proudly. Everyday. It will forever remind me of my accomplishment. And, it will act as a talisman of this truth: that looking frantically for things outside ignores the wealth and bounty within...and leaves me with. out. anything.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Today, like many days, I remember him.
At his funeral, one of his aunts read this excerpt from The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry:
In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night... you, only you, will have stars that can laugh!
When I look at the night sky, I see you shining in the stars, sweet boy. I see your bright light and your sparkle. I wish we'd had more time together. Please continue to shine for us. Your mom and dad, your sister and brothers miss you. Your whole family misses you. I miss you.
Thank you for the laughing stars.