7/31/12

I'm packing my glass slippers, and living the dream...(aka BlogHer12, here I come...)



I’m heading to a little get-together this weekend, in an incredible city!   







Remember when I took Bitchy and Sassy there?  I still haven't recovered....and this time, I'm heading there ALONE!!


I am rooming with some lovely ladies who were kind enough to offer me a spot in their room. 

I hope to meet new friends, embrace and laugh with old friends, and see the city as I’ve never seen it before.


 



Frankly, I hope to spread the word about my project, and learn about the projects of others.


I will spend time with an intern who has a special place in my heart, and another high school friend who laughed with me for two weeks in Europe during our senior year in high school.   She lives in an adorable apartment on the west side, and I know that we will spend many hours laughing and reminiscing about wonderful moments. (At least those we can REMEMBER..)

And so, if you are in NYC this weekend, please, please look me up.  I can’t wait to give you a hug….







See you Sunday…..

It's a bird! It's a plane! Oh crap, it's a bird.


I was a bit distracted today as I made my way to the grocery store.  I made a right turn out of my neighborhood and merged into two lanes of traffic.  I had to quickly make my way to the far left turning lane, so that I could make a left turn into the shopping plaza.

I noticed a car stopped beside me with an little old woman at the wheel.  Her even OLDER husband, who was ninety if he was a DAY, was leaning forward and flipping me the bird.

He shook his hand at me and flipped me the bird for at LEAST five minutes as we stopped at the light.; flipping, flipping, flipping.  I’m pretty sure he was shouting some pretty interesting things to me as well, but fortunately all of our windows were closed.



I turned into the grocery store parking lot and laughed.



I wasn’t offended in any way that he was flipping me the bird.

Frankly, I was impressed that he could even get it up
(And that he could keep it up for so LONG was impressive...) 





Good for him.






7/30/12

Getting Old? Pffft, don't make me laugh...



I've been thinking long and hard as of late about a certain fact of life that is haunting some people I know -- an inescapable but frightening fact of life. I'm talking about getting old.

I am a 52 year-old woman. I have outlived my mother by four years and am approaching the age at which my father passed.

Yet I feel incredible!

I feel more incredible than I have in at least 20 years, and I am shouting that from every mountaintop I climb.

My journey into this new-found confidence and happiness began as I approached my fiftieth birthday. I realized I was not the woman I wanted to be; I was not the woman I knew my parents and children could be proud of, and I was the only one to blame. It was then that I decided I was the one who had to take the steps that would force me in the right direction.

And I did.

It's been a bumpy path, this one to self-respect and happiness, but it's gotten me back on the road I had ignored for so very long. Here are the things I've held close to my heart, and have learned lately.
Remember you are important, beautiful, flawed and perfect at the same time.
  1. Laugh at your mistakes, learn from them and move forward.
  2. Everyone else is walking their own path. You can hold their hand along the way, but we each have our own pace. (Some legs are longer than others.)
  3. Great things happen when you step outside your comfort zone. If you are unhappy with the direction your life has taken, you are the only one who can change it.
  4. Stay busy. Gather your friends around you and try things you have never done before.
  5. I've decided I don't care what other people think. Oh sure, I respect their opinions, their feelings and who they are, but I can't waste a minute worrying about how they feel about me. As long as I love myself, I can respect myself.
  6. In order to shake up your life, and squeeze the life out of every moment, you have to be able to say "yes". Say "yes" to your neighbor, your co-worker, your children and anyone else who invites you to step out of the box.
  7. Rest is NOT for the wicked. A healthy body begins with sleep. (And isn't that grand?)
  8. Your body really is your temple. Fill it with things that feed your soul and your mind.
9. Staying active is the best way to trick your body into finding the shape that it needs to be. A hike in the mountains, a walk with your dog, a stroll through town with your daughter or son can make the biggest difference in your life.

Getting old doesn't scare me one bit. Cause frankly, it's a WHOLE lot better than the alternative.


Pfizer is dedicated to make sure that we can ALL work through the aging process with companionship and tools to live long, healthy, fulfilling lives. Join the conversation at GetOld.com, a site designed to both encourage you to think about your own perceptions of aging and to connect with people and their thoughts about it. You can share your opinions, listen to and read what others have to say and get tips and tools to make the process a little less scary.

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7/28/12

Sometimes the grass IS greener. (Left turns are awesome- even if they hurt a bit.)



I received an email from my new (NEW) principal.  They were interviewing for another second grade position on my new team, and would I like to be part of the interview team?

I said yes!


The first, and I’m sure not the last, mistake I made in my new building was showing up on Monday for a group of interviews that were set for Tuesday.   Yeah. 


The good news?  I was all spiffed up and shiny when I met my brand new boss, even if I was a tad early. Mr. Brown was brought over from the Winchester Middle School, and just happened to have been the go-to man for all discipline issues in that particular middle school.  


He knew Golden Boy, and he knew him well.   (Gulp.)


After a pleasant exchange, some hand shaking and a bit of “getting to know you” questions, he admitted that while he knew Golden Boy, it wasn’t a bad thing.  He said that the Boy was a very nice boy, and that he was not in trouble as much as GB had led me to believe.   I left the building with a very good feeling.

I went to the interviews the next morning a bit nervous and a bit excited.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, and hoped for the best.


At the end of the five-hour interviewing marathon, I walked out to my car.  I sat in the seat reflecting on the incredible morning.  While we interviewed vary capable and talented applicants, I was most excited about what happened in between. 

We participated in amazing conversations about school, our practices, our hopes and dreams for the year and our students, our plans for school and much more.  But what was even more important?   We laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed - all of us, Mr. Principal included.


I drove home smiling, and thanked God for this new adventure.  My heart is filled with excitement and a huge amount of happiness.  And you know what? Inside this heart of mine, there isn’t one single ounce of anything else.    (I refuse to waste one minute on any other emotion...)





Karma?  I think I love you.


7/27/12

It's the little things I miss....(Words that rhyme with dunk.)

I'm waiting for Golden Boy to be dropped off, and have been reading old posts while preparing to delete some...and came across this lovely reminder about why I love my boy so....



Today’s conversation with Golden Boy (11) in Dick's Sporting Goods. 


“Mom, come here! I found the goggles I want. They’re over where they keep the “protection.”


I looked at him,  “Protection? PROTECTION??? What do you mean protection???”


“You know, with the jock straps, cups and jock straps. “

Oh Lord I was trying SO hard not to laugh…

 “I guess you need to protect your eyes, and your junk in your trunk.” He added.

 “Junk in your TRUNK?” I said, wide-eyed.


“ Yeah. My JUNK. The junk in my TRUNK!”




“Honey, if your JUNK is in your TRUNK, then we’ve got bigger problems than finding goggles….”






(click here for a chance to win $250.  It's free money, people.  FREE MONEY.) 



7/26/12

We talk about everything else, why not this??(Getting older and getting BETTER...)




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This is sponsored content from BlogHer and Poise.
We’ve talked about many things over the years, my friends and I.

We worked in the same elementary school, had children that were close in age and had that unique ability to make each other laugh until we cried. That’s hard to find.

We’ve talked of fumbling tooth fairies, soccer and hockey teams, summer sports camps, strange childhood illnesses, prosthetic limbs, under-age drinking violations, birth control, college applications and what to do with a somewhat empty house. We’ve covered almost any parental topic available- and then some.

Most of our conversations over the years have certainly revolved around our children, but not anymore.
We’ve discussed several issues as of late that have forced us to look inside ourselves. They’ve ranged from painful divorce, mood swings, hot flashes and the big change. These discussions have been particularly difficult for a variety of reasons, but I think it’s because of this fact. Most women, at least the ones close to me, don’t always notice the changes that are occurring within themselves.
They don’t notice the anxiety level, the quick temper, and the mood swings that one would rather attribute to the post-teenage children that refuse to move out of the house. We’re finding that it’s not until someone who loves us points out the fact that others around us are suffering- and there’s no need for that to happen.


I had the ladies over for a luncheon several weeks ago so that we could all talk about what was happening as a group- instead of repeating the same conversation over and over with each friend. Apparently these symptoms are contagious- or we’re all the same age. Pick one.

We compared symptoms, complaints, doctor’s suggestions, great info we’ve gotten from resources that are both accurate and inaccurate. We simply believe the things we WANT to believe, and smile.
We all agreed on one thing- that we are in charge of how we feel, and that we need to take the proper steps in helping us all enjoy this next incredible part of our journey. We need to celebrate the fact that we are still here to enjoy it- and help ourselves feel awesome.

While we shared info about prescriptions that were helping, we also shared what products were helping us with our changing bodies. I was so excited to tell them about what Poise is offering, and they are excited to begin helping themselves feel better. The Poise brand’s revolutionary new feminine wellness line currently includes five products to help with the symptoms of menopause. Two that my friends and I will be looking for are the Roll-On Cooling Gel that will help us feel comfortable and refreshed when a hot flash strikes or alternatively, the Body Cooling Towelettes. These feature a portable, re-sealable package. They’re going to be easy to use anywhere we go.

We cared so much about our bodies (inside and out) when we were 16 – and we should care even more now that we’re, um, well, older than that.

Sometimes, we just need a gentle reminder.

Poise brand wants to help women approach this life stage with confidence by being the first to start The 2nd Talk, a whole new way to talk about menopause and other wellness issues for women over 40 and introducing a new, first-of-its-kind line of over-the-counter menopause products designed to work naturally with her body and provide comfort from symptoms.
Poise wants to rally 1 million women to pledge to have The 2nd Talk by World Menopause Day on October 18. Join the conversation at The2ndTalk.com.

We left the luncheon feeling that we were not alone; and proud that we had pledged to each other that we were important enough to help ourselves.


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7/25/12

...cause it's the right thing to do.




Things aren’t so happy here in the happiest of valleys.


I am finding it so difficult to wrap my heart around what is happening here.  Sometimes, just sometimes, the depth of horror , shock and sadness is so painful that there are just no words.



I am finding it so very troubling, however, that there are so many folks here - and across the land - that are finding it so easy to shout across the heavens their opinions- one way or another.


There are many, many, many people whose lives and hearts have been broken as a result of many acts too horrific to even put into words.



And so I watch, I listen and I read




And all the while I remember that innocent child who stood in a shower and wondered if there was anyone in the world who was going to save him.




And I think that if only ONE PERSON had shouted something THEN, this tsunami of pain and grief would never, ever have been sweeping through this valley; and the lives of so many innocents would have been entirely, entirely different.








If only.


Fashion hurts. (The shoes should come with a warning. And Band-aids.)



We spend Friday night in D.C. walking through DuPont circle, visiting top “hot spots” with our 22 year-old daughters.

We wore incredibly adorable shoes that turned on us at about 11:00 that evening, punishing our feet for even considering wearing them on this crazy, long bar tour.




We walked, laughed, walked, laughed, groaned, laughed and walked some more. 

We followed our energetic daughters to an upscale wine bar called Veritas, The Mad Hatter, The Sign of the Whale and The Public Bar. Lucky for us, Public had a line so long that we were forced to run (in the man-eating shoes) across the street to the Lucky Bar – the one we intended to visit in the first place.





The girls deftly wound their way through what I am convinced was an illegally huge crowd, dragging these moms behind them.  And while they received many admiring glances along the way - the mothers who were keeping up with them received several rounds of applause.

After locating the rest rooms at the far corner of the tippy top floor of the Lucky Bar, we found a lovely open spot on a bench located right beside the men’s room.


How convenient.


We waved the girls off to enjoy some time exploring the club, and rested our feet. We spent the next 30 minutes meeting and laughing with many young, attractive boys that I’m convinced were raised by fabulous parents.  After discovering we were moms enjoying a night out with our daughters, we were treated to several drinks, accolades, flattery and endearing compliments.  If I could, I would send lovely notes to the parents of these young men, for they were kind, respectful and very, very sweet.

Finally the girls returned and we stood to make our way out the door to finally grab a cab home.  We smiled, waved to the young men and thanked them for making our night.

“MOTHER, what are you doing?" asked Bitchy in a stern voice.  "You should NOT be talking to strangersnothing good ever comes of it."


I looked at her. 


“Oh, I’m not so sure about that!” I said, reaching into my purse to pull out a plastic dragon light saber with long streamers that flashed different colors.  “One nice young man was so impressed with us, he reached into his pocket and handed me this light saber.   I’d say that was something real good.”




We used the light saber to hail down a cab, and laughed the whole ride back to Foggy Bottom. 






(And ladies…the very best place to meet men?  It’s the bench right outside the men’s room. Who knew that lines would be so much fun?)




7/24/12

It's easy to dish out, but much harder to follow yourself. (A.D.V.I.C.E.)





We give our children plenty of (unsolicited) advice over the years.  It’s our job, frankly, to guide them along the way as best we can.


We think, perhaps because we’re older, that the mistakes we’ve made and the knowledge we’ve gained will certainly help us help our own children lead happier and somewhat easier lives.


Some children will listen and heed most of that advice. (Well, kind of.) You know, the advice like “Don’t touch a hot stove,” or “You have to wear socks with your sneakers,” and "Do NOT pierce that," and perhaps “Look both ways before you cross the street.” 

But then there’s the other stuff.   The “Make sure you follow your gut instinct,” or “Always insist on being treated with respect,” and “Do the right thing,” and also “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”  There are so many, many important things we try to teach our children. 

However, in all honesty, the lessons they learn all on their own are often the ones that teach them the most.  And while it hurts to watch, we know in our hearts that these experiences will be the ones that help them become the person they are meant to be.  

Now that I am older, and living a new life on my own, I am finding that it’s hard to follow the very advice I’ve given my children all these years.  In fact, I’m doing the same damn thing that they did:   I’m ignoring it.


But no more.




Today I am going to remember the lessons I’ve learned, and I’m going to try to follow my own advice.



I’m going to treat others the way I want to be treated.
I’m going to love and approve of myself.
I’m going to remember that I deserve to be treated with respect.
I’m going to be happy with the person I am so far, and strive to be a bit better than the person I was yesterday.
I’m going to work hard to realize my dreams, and still be happy with what I have today.
I will live for today, but hope for an even lovelier tomorrow.
I’m going to say yes to any invitation, and enjoy whatever new challenges come my way.  (Even if my knees try to convince me otherwise...)




And I’m going to remember that while it’s important to wrap my children in love and support, it’s equally important to remember that I need a bit of that myself.











It's asking for it that's the hard part. 











7/20/12

If you hang on tightly through those painful teenage years, you get little prizes now and then...


Thanks to Sassy and her pesky little appendix, I spent last weekend in the Urgent Care Center, the Emergency Room and a lovely room at the top floor of the local hospital.


This weekend Bitchy planned another kind of weekend for this mother.

Remember last year?  Well, the girls have planned to kidnap the moms again.   They've planned for us to see this particular band, see these particular sights, and spend an inordinate amount of time searching for great photo ops.  ("Mom, if you say Sugarloaf ONE MORE TIME, you are NOT coming to the concert.")

I'll also get to see Clyde, who has something cool planned for us.



If are in the area- give us a shout.  We'll be the moms who will be desperately trying to keep up with the daughters.  (And we'll try to look @(#*  good doing it...)


Here's a taste....enjoy...






And THIS year?  It's Yeah for the girls....yeah for the girls indeed.


7/18/12

I stopped at the grocery store on a whim...which is always how it happens....


I’ve been a classroom teacher for over 24 years, and can remember most of the names of the children I've taught.  (Well, usually.  Kind of.  MOST of the time...)


Over the years I’ve watched many of them grow into incredible young people, and feel lucky that I can keep track of most of them through their parents, and others in the somewhat close-knit community.

But you know, there are always some that truly touch your heart- children that you know are amazing souls.  You can do your best to teach them all that you should, but in the end they are the ones that teach you some incredible things.


His name was Liam.


His mother was from New Zealand, a witty, lovely woman- and his father was an amazing Irishman with a quick wit, a ready smile and a brilliant mind.  He had an older sister that he admired, which was quite a unique for a fifth grader to actually admit.

It was my first year at Smythe and Wesson Elementary and I had an incredibly talented and amazing fifth grade class.  (Which was unusual, because usually the NEW teacher gets all the, um, challenges.  Let’s be honest.) They not only wrote and directed their own PLAY, they also wrote music and turned it into a musical that they performed for the other fifth grade classes and then their parents.  Frankly, I had to just step back and watch.

They were also the ones who (astutely) recognized the fact that yes, I did indeed come to school wearing fashionable pajamas from Victoria’s Secret that I thought was daywear.  (“Mrs. Smythe, are you sure they’re not pajamas?”)

I’ve seen many of them over the years, but never Liam. I have wondered and wondered about him, and ask about him each time I see his lovely mother.  Apparently he met a lovely woman and moved to Paraguay, doing something or other phenomenal – of course I wasn’t surprised.  

But I always remembered the sweet, red-haired young boy who taught me so much about the brilliance and empathy of a ten-year old child, who could not only punish a soccer ball but compose music, as well.


In twenty years, I have not had the opportunity to see him.




Until today.


I was running out of Shmegman’s, our local grocery store, and ran smack into Liam’s mother. I noticed she was with a young man and woman, but hugged her instinctively not thinking.  She smiled, and held me at arms length.  Her eyes looked at me, and then behind me as she smiled as if sharing a secret.

I turned slowly and watched the handsome young man take off his sunglasses.  My eyes filled as I looked at him- and then I wrapped my arms around him in pure joy. 


We laughed, talked a million miles a minute at the same time, and laughed again.  At some point he introduced me to his wife.  


HIS WIFE.


When we ended our incredible reunion, I turned to leave.  But I simply had to say it.  “Liam, you know you were always one of my all-time favorite students…”



He laughed as he said, “And YOU, Mrs. Smythe, were always my favorite teacher.  I just told my wife that the other day.  You were number one.”



I laughed as I walked to my car.










Hey Wall Street- let’s see you give your corporate heads that kind of bonus.  Doesn’t get ANY better than that.





I like to think I'm charming. (Easily distracted...spontaneous...talkative...they're charms, right?)




I like to think that I am someone who marches to the beat of her own drum.  I have certain, well, let’s call them charms, and although they serve me well as an adult they provided my parents with many headaches when I was young. I think I might have been called a spirited/challenging child.

I remember one day in middle school algebra, our teacher, Mr. Shaffer, discovered I was reading a novel behind my math book while he was teaching a very important lesson on, um, well, math!  (I was so engrossed in Nancy Drew’s latest adventure that I couldn’t possibly wait until I got home to finish it.) Upon this discovery, I learned that he could throw a mean eraser, and actually hit a book inside a book from the whole way across the room!  (He was mighty talented.)   I also recall spending that class period, and many more that year, in the hall.  In fact, I planned and performed many “shows” for the class outside the room as they were inside “learning”. 

I also recall a similar incident from my fourth grade classroom in Catalina Isle, Florida.  We were studying the life cycle of plants, and our teacher wrote the word photosynthesis on the board.  I immediately noticed that she had misspelled the word.  (I learned it while attending kindergarten in Nice, France.  Don’t tell me HOW I remembered such a word, but apparently I did.)  When I tried to correct her, in my most helpful way, she immediately kicked me out of class, and I spent the rest of the afternoon in the hall.

One of the constants through these school years was the fact that no matter how many mistakes I made, and no matter how many punishments I had to endure, I still managed to LOVE school.

I’ve come to realize that the reason that I love teaching, and particularly the challenging students, is because I was one myself.   I never stopped talking, was always interested in what little Mary or Little Johnny was doing, and could not for the LIFE of me sit still.   In fact, for six years straight my teachers would say “If D. would talk less and study more her grades would be phenomenal.”  (Okay, I might have embellished the last part, but the FIRST part was always the same.)

Fortunately for me, in kindergarten we talk constantly!  The teachers talk, the children talk, and usually it’s all at the same time.  However, the adorable part about the kids talking is that they have their own language, and a kindergarten teacher is fluent in what we call kindergartenese.   So, with this school year but a memory, I’d like to leave you with the most recent installment in our kindergartenese manual.  (Swallow that coffee.)

“Mrs. Smythe, they are still working struction on the pool.”
“My brother congratulated from preschool yesterday.”
“Can I go get some Bweakfix?”
“My favowite food is basketti.”
“My mom uses pukons when we go to the store.” (I think that one MIGHT be coupons…)
“Lasternight I went to Pizza Hut. Or maybe lasterday. “
“I think my furchina is itchy.”
“My mom says my fork and spoon are my youpencils”
“I got a new baiting suit!”



Now, pass the sunscreen, find the cabana boy and let me put my feet up.  I’ve got to rest up for next month, cause I've got some serious unpacking to do. 







(Oh sure, it's a repost, but we're still recovering from Sassy's appendectomy, more trips to D.C., and my project called "Say Yes to Everything".  And THAT is what the pic at the top is for.  Frankly, it's disausting.) 


7/15/12

No wonder the Advil didn't work. (Which is precisely why I'm no doctor.)



Dear Sassy,


You didn't really need that annoying appendix, anyway.







Love,


Your incredible mother who will never, ever call you overly dramatic again.







(Well, not for at least a week.)

7/13/12

You knew I had to speak. (Children should always, always, always come first.)



Ill winds mark it's fearsome flight, 

And autumn branches creak with fright. 

The landscape turns to ashen crumbs, 

When something wicked this way comes... 



....R. Bradbury....



We all think we can recognize the face of evil. 


We think he’ll be draped in velvety blackness with horns peaking out of his head and eyes that would pierce your heart.  We’re convinced that evil could never infiltrate our lives without our knowledge.  Never, ever.


We’re dead wrong.


Evil is a tricky bastard, concealing himself with a disguise that even those with the purest of hearts wouldn't recognize.   And even when we catch a faint glimpse of evil from behind its mask, we convince ourselves that surely we were wrong.  We hope for all that is good, and expect that others feel in their hearts what we surely feel in ours.

Because we don’t want to believe: we don’t ever, ever want to believe in evil.


But it’s here. 


Evil is always, always here. 


It hides among us in the most unimaginable places and performs equally unimaginable deeds, all while we are carrying on our own business.


The most horrific acts can cripple a person and a family.   But today the horrific acts of one man crippled not only the innocent victims of his evil and their families; but the lives of many, many others of their community,  university and across the nation.


There are no words.


There are no words that excuse the actions of an evil man.



And there are no words that excuse the inaction of men who ignore evil.





I’m pretty sure that’s all I can muster right about now.



Let us pray.





(Keep your eyes open, my friends, because when something wicked this way comes - you’ll never see it coming.)

7/12/12

Sometimes, it feels like things are back to almost back to normal. (Except I never really know what normal IS.)




Dear Sassy,

Okay, let me see if I have all the facts straight.

In the last three weeks or so I’ve:


1.     Driven you to the beach while listening to horrifying music for 12 hours.
2.    Purchased several replacement items of clothing for you that you may or may not have ruined in the washer because you always forget to take your chapstick out of your pockets.
3.    Arranged for more than several deep tissue MFR treatments AT OUR HOUSE so that you wouldn’t have to take off work, or miss any other exciting activity you might have planned.
4.    Given you money for various other incidental items that you’ve had to purchase here and there when you just “didn’t have any cash” on you.
5.    Paid to register your car AND keep your sorority dues up to date.



So yesterday when you texted me to pick up your medicine when I was finally relaxing at the pool with a friend and I said, “Please get it yourself,” your response confused me.

“YOU are my MOTHER!!! You NEVER EVER do ANYTHING FOR ME!”





Sweet Cheezus; surely that was meant for someone else.





As if I needed another obsession (aka I really needed another distraction.)

I've declared Thursday "Pinterest Says It All" day.

And as I prepare to head downtown to enjoy an amazing Arts Festival,  I wanted to share some wonderful thoughts of the day...





















Now, get off the computer, get outside and enjoy the day. Remember, don't waste a MINUTE of it!    (I don't plan to.)


7/11/12

Always hide your antique tools and prepare to rip off your skirt.



It happens as I watch the neighborhood children chase fireflies in those early moments of the evening; my heart returns those summers spent in McLean, Virginia.  I miss them - the days of chasing lightning bugs with neighbor kids; catching crayfish in the creek behind our house; throwing our rabbit up the tree to see if he could climb; playing hopscotch and jacks with my sister, Beth, and Suzanne on the sidewalks in front of our houses while an occasional car would drive by and beep hello.

We were fortunate to have many children in our neighborhood, and we all got in plenty of trouble together.  We rode bikes, played Mystery Date and dress-up with ball gowns from the Goodwill, played every kind of tag imaginable and collected insects in jars for our bug collections. (I can still hear the way my mother would scream each time she discovered the jarred (dead) bugs on our porch.)

I remember one summer afternoon I felt it was incredibly important to clean out the creek.  “It was filthy!” I told my mother as I returned from scrubbing moss off the rocks and cleaning out all the debris that had provided convenient camouflage and housing for many a mystified creature that day.  I think using the soap might not have been such a great idea.  

The creek cleanup occurred a few days after the “tool searching” party, as my parents used to call it.  It seemed my five-year old brother thought it would be fun to bury many of my father’s antique tools in various places in our back yard.  There came a point when my parents and all the neighbors just gave up and turned it into another kind of party altogether.   Oh, and if you are now the owner of that property you might want to rent a backhoe; they are some very valuable tools in your backyard.   Somewhere. 

One of my brother’s best friends that summer was a cute little fella named Sam Riley.  He was behind my brother’s brilliant scheme to teach our rabbit to climb a tree.  (Unfortunately for the rabbit, they were persistent.   We held the memorial service that evening.)  One afternoon Bobby and Sam were playing Army near the creek and Sam jumped into a hole to hide from enemy fire. An army of hornets, very angry hornets, immediately greeted him.  The boys were screaming and my mother and two other neighbor moms raced out of their houses and ran to the creek.  They ripped off their skirts, shirts and whatever they could use to beat the hornets off the boy.  The ambulance arrived and Sam thankfully survived.  

These little boys were also the ones that decided to break into the house next door that belonged to my brother's other friend Robbie on the afternoon that Robbie’s parents were attending a function.   My brother decided to show off to his friends how his father had shown him how to get into the house if you locked yourselves out. (My mother had a habit of that.)   However, when he and his friends successfully invaded the house he made the mistake of answering the phone when that particular neighbor called.  Yeah.  He got into a little bit of trouble for that.

So, as I sit here and watch the boys in the yard chasing down fireflies I smile and laugh, and silently thank them for nudging me down this path of tender and precious summer memories.


(It's a repost, I know.  Forgive me..I'm trying to finish other writing projects that I promised myself I would finish this summer...and you know what I'm talking about...and I might be busy doing other things....but we'll chat about that later....)

7/9/12

Some memories need to be tucked away...(They're not all glorious.)



I have a haunting memory that occasionally creeps into my thoughts and reminds me how fear can haunt a child’s dreams. When we lived on Lemon Road, we had in our neighborhood a man that would roam the streets. I never knew what his real name was, but we all called him “The Weasel.” He dressed in dark clothes, a trench coat clutched tightly around his small, skinny frame. I don’t recall his face; but I have an image of him walking with his head down, a worn fedora on his head, his coat held tightly against him. 

It is seared into my soul.


We were told by our moms to stay away from him – but no explanation was ever given. When we saw him, we would RUN like the wind to hide in the back yard or in our garages, convinced he would steal us away if he could catch us.


It was at night when I was trying to sleep in the cozy canopy bed my father made me that I would truly fear The Weasel. I was convinced that he was lurking in the dark corners of my room and I wouldn’t allow myself to fall asleep.

When I couldn’t take it any longer, I would crawl out of bed, slide across the floor and sneak into my sister’s room. If I was very careful I could sneak into her bed without her even knowing. .(Fortunately for ME she is partially deaf, and wouldn’t always hear my clumsy attempts.) I was awakened most mornings by her hitting me with her pillow and yelling at me to “Stay OUT of my room!!!”

I amassed a number of fears those early days as do many, many children of that age. I was afraid of snakes, going over bridges, being in the dark, sleeping in my own room, lightning, thunder, the Easter Bunny and my closet.


I can’t recall the precise moment I left those fears of youth behind and slipped on that dangerous cloak of invincibility. You know that cloak, don’t you? We’ve all worn it for a time. It renders us fearless during those tumultuous and painful years of adolescence. We try it on when we are perhaps twelve or thirteen, and we grow into it- until finally it fits like a glove.

We wear it when we hop on our bikes and zoom across town, and when we finally earn those car keys and carry the lives of our friends and ourselves in our hands.

As we grow older, a different kind of fear seems to slowly edge into our soul. The fear that every parent, sibling or friend tries to keep buried inside – the fear of unexpected pain and tragedy when something happens to someone we love. It starts as a seed when you watch your child play with their toys, or when they learn to ride a bike and cross the street. You know they will have a scrape or a bruise, and it hurts to see them in pain.


That fear grows as they do, and when instead of a bike you hand them the keys to your car then you know real fear. It’s what we feel when they have donned their own invincibility cloak.  Only by now WE know it doesn’t work.



That knowledge that grips my heart when I hand her the keys to the car? I swallow it like a bitter pill, and pray that she will be delivered back to me, safe and sound.



(It's a repost, but connected so well to the memories I stole back last weekend..can't stop thinking about it..)

7/5/12

Won't take nothin' but a memory...


We lived on a lovely street in McLean,Virginia.   

We moved there from Nice, France when my father was re-assigned to the Pentagon.  Our family made our way across the country on a large ocean liner, and my sister and I wore French bathing suits that consisted of bottoms only.   (Yeah. Thanks, mom.) 

We moved to Lemon Road in the sixties.  We spent what we all agree were the best years of our lives there laughing and bonding with neighbors who were more like family. We celebrated every holiday in the large expanse of a backyard with most of the neighbors; barbecuing, playing tag, volleyball, catching fireflies and torturing each other while our parents sipped martinis and laughed loudly until well into each night.  They really, really were the best days.

I went to Virginia several weeks ago and my awesome cousin invited me to stay with his family for a night.  

"I know you're busy, but please stay with us at least one night. We'll come home from our trip early, have you for dinner, you can stay the night and then zip home the next morning."

I was so touched by his offer and so excited to spend time with them that I immediately said YES! 

Not long after I arrived at his gorgeous (gulp) home and after laughing and chatting with his family he looked at me.   "Well, Vodkamom, are you ready?" 

"For what?" 

"To go to Lemon Road, " he said with a smile.   Yes.  Oh yes, I was ready. 


I stood, grabbed my purse, shoved it full of courage and followed him out to his car.   I buckled up, trying to wrap my emotions into a neat little ball that wouldn't explode upon impact. 



It took five minutes to get there.   (Which was not nearly enough time to finish the to-go cup he had so thoughtfully prepared for me.)



Five minutes to reach the one place on earth that held my most precious memories.  



Five minutes. 


He parked the car across the street and we slowly walked up the driveway.  "Are you going to knock on the door?" He asked in a surprised voice.  

"Yes I am." I replied.  "I have to."


The young woman who answered the door smiled at me as I tried to explain who I was. 

"I know you!" She said.  "We emailed each other after a friend of mine from your hometown sent me a column where you mentioned our house!  Remember?  I am so glad you are here!  Do you want to come in? We're packing for our move to London, but we'll be renting our house for two years until we return. This is going to be our house for a long, long time." 

My cousin (Clyde) and I followed her through the house as she chatted about their plans.  I gazed around in wonder, wrapped in a time-warp I was unable to evade.  

I saw my mother baking cookies and my father smoking his pipe in the living room while reading the paper.  I could hear the sounds of a long-ago childhood and it melted my heart.   

We walked out the back door to the yard that led to the creek.  I stood quietly and Clyde turned to me. 

"I'm going to take a short walk to the creek, if that's okay," I said to them softly.  "I'll be back in a minute." 


"Are you going to cry, vodka?" 


"Yep.  I'm pretty sure I am." 


I walked slowly down the hill towards the creek, releasing the tears that had been hiding behind my eyelids since I entered the house.   I didn't try to put a name on the tears that flowed, but allowed them to run their course.  They flowed as I stared at the creek, glanced either way through the neighborhood as my eyes reached out to steal back my memories, and back up at the back of the house that held me for those lovely years.





(My father built the deck, seat around the tree and the railing along the hill.)


(Oh, Clyde.  You KNEW I would cry...)




Yes Miranda Lambert, you always say everything so well. But this song?  It's the one I was humming as we drove slowly away from Memory Lane.   






And again, I wipe the tears.