Archive for the ‘love’ Category

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celebrate good times, come on.

April 13, 2013

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If I had a candle for each year, my cake would appear more like a blowtorch than a sparkling collection of flames.  But no matter.  It is still my birthday.  Or, a better way to say, it is still a mom-birthday.

You know.

A birthday that started at 5:35 a.m. with the wake up of the youngest child, followed by working on her math homework, her news journal, and baking the cookies she’ll take to school on Monday for her own celebration.  Which took us to 7:15 am.  Then there is the class her brother has later on, followed by his rehearsal.  And an unexpected problem cropped up at work for my husband, so he will soon be heading out to deal with that crisis.  And the errands that need to be run in, around, and after this. And it’s easy to look at the day that way.  It’s easy for the child still in us to wonder why the day isn’t ours alone. To revel, to reflect, to celebrate, to relax. To be just us, instead of being all of the roles we play. And it’s easy to be disappointed.

But we don’t have to. We have a choice.

We can look for the Pixie Dust moments. Like the moment this morning when my daughter jumped into my arms and told me she had looked and looked for the very best Mom in the whole world, and decided to be born into our family so she could be with me.  Or the moment a few hours later when my son peeked through the railings of the stairs and, before saying another word, broke into song, singing me birthday wishes. Or the moment when my husband gave me paddle board lessons as my gift.  He’d been listening all along.

In a full life there are all kinds of moments. And we absolutely have a choice as to which ones we collect and which ones we let go. Which ones we focus on, which ones we retell- both to ourselves and others. Choosing Pixie Dust moments isn’t about pretending the rest doesn’t happen, it’s about deciding which ones matter.

So happy birthday to me. Waking up early means I get even more hours to gather all the small joys that add up to a life well lived and well celebrated.  More hours to see and know how much I love, and how much I am loved in returned.

And happy birthday to you, too.  Whether you celebrate tomorrow, next week or next fall, take all the small moments to gather your joy.  And if you’d like a little help along the way?  Click here, sign up and I’ll send you {5 ways to add Pixie Dust to Your Parenting}.

So here’s to us. Every day. Every day parents who work hard and love deeply. Parents who, underneath the shell of obligations and responsibilities of adulthood are still tender-hearted kids. Here’s to the magic of Pixie Dust.

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broadcast news

March 1, 2013

My VW wagon hipster-mobile {hey.  it isn’t a minivan.  Let me ride in glory.} is old school enough to have a tape deck.  It holds only a single CD.  There are no fancy buttons on this sound system.  Honestly, the only one I want is ‘repeat’ so the kids and I can sing our hearts out to Katy Perry’s Firework without me being completely paranoid about the next song starting before I can hit the ‘back’ button.  {I don’t count ‘back’ as a fancy button.  It is the digital analog of R<< and we had that one in the 80’s}.

{you don’t have to feel like a waste of space
you’re original, cannot be replaced}

Yes.  I own this CD.  Before I owned this CD I knew three things about Katy Perry.  1.  Her hair was occasionally Cookie Monster blue.  2.  Glee did a cover of ‘Teenage Dream’  3.  I cried every time I watched the ‘Night of Too Many Stars’ duet of Firework with Jodi DiPiazza, an 11 year-old living with autism.

{If you only knew what the future holds
After a hurricane comes a rainbow}

So yes, I own this CD.  It is out of character enough that seeing it in my car actually made my friend Kelli burst with surprised laughter as she slid into the passenger seat recently.  In my defense, the holidays were crazy.  In my defense, the one song I had heard was fabulous.  In my defense…you are right.  No defense.  Just epic fail.  Parenting style.

Because you see, I didn’t buy it for myself, I bought it for Cole.  Have you seen the cover art?  Enough said.

I thought it would be great to give our kids music for Christmas this year.  Instead of simply downloading something from iTunes, I thought it would be fun for them to unwrap it.  And it was great.  Or at least my choice for Eleanor was.  Jack Johnson’s Curious George soundtrack has been delightful.  Cole’s was Katy Perry.

{Maybe you reason why all the doors are closed
So you could open one that leads you to the perfect road}

So you see, I own this CD and it lives in my car.  And what felt like 12 times this morning I hit the ‘back’ button so my daughter and I could belt it out on the drive to school.  It was a lovely way to spend the time together.  And as I listened to her pip-squeekingly earnest rendition, I thought about all the messages in our children’s lives.  I thought about where they come from.  About what we say and what we leave unsaid.

{You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine
Just own the night like the 4th of July}

When our children are very small the only messages they get are ours.  As they grow, the chorus of voices heard includes teachers and peers, and parents of friends.  As they learn to read and have more media exposure, the voices grow louder, sometimes drowning ours out.  But what about those first messages?  The ones that come from us?  What if we were to create a soundtrack over the course of a day?  What would the tunes be?  And how about the lyrics?  Sometimes it is a spoken word piece filled with angst and worry.  Sometimes a sweet ballad of reassurance.  And sometimes we channel our inner boy band, singing a pop song full of catchy lines a bit light on substance.  And sometimes, it is instrumental.

The wordless tunes.  The songs we stumble over.  We hum along, hoping it will be sufficient to fill the void.  The void created by topics we don’t want to address.  The subjects that make us cringe. The ones we wish would simply go away.  Your past.  Your partner’s past.  The loud sounds coming from the house next door.  Grandma’s funny smelling breath, even early in the morning.  Why we need to wait to buy groceries this week.  The people on the street corner holding signs.  And what the signs mean.

If the music to these songs are purely instrumental, it doesn’t mean your children aren’t hearing lyrics.  The are.  It’s just that the verse is coming from other sources.  They hear jokes at recess.  Swap stories on the bus.  They see it on social media.  Just because they are no longer two and no longer asking why every 37 seconds doesn’t mean they aren’t curious.  They are.  And they will listen with radio ears to any broadcasting frequency.

Have you watched a broadcast in the middle of a breaking story?  When no one knows the outcome and the details are sketchy?  Even the most experience journalists trip over words, have awkward pauses, make bad connections to a reporter in the field.  It’s okay.  We understand.

So do our kids.  It’s okay if we begin with ‘this is really hard for me to talk about, but let’s have a conversation’.  It’s important for them to hear ‘I’m not sure where I stand on this issue, but here’s what I know’.  It’s freeing for them when you start with ‘I used to feel this way, but I’ve changed my mind’.  It lets them know we are still growing up, no matter how old we are.  Introducing topics doesn’t have to mean a lecture series.  In fact, it is the law of inverses.  They listen more intently the fewer words we say.  It can simply be woven into the fabric of our everyday discussions, for the more often we talk about these subjects, the easier it becomes.

Why not be their 24 hour news source?  Why not be the channel they turn to first?  And what about the human-interest stories, the ones we broadcast in between the news cycles?  Is there a track you have on repeat?  And is it the one you want them to hear over and over again?  Keep me posted.

{Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon
It’s always been inside of you, you, you
And now it’s time to let it through}

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shakespeare in love

February 14, 2013

Fair warning.  {especially to all the new evolving peeps.}  This is a slightly off-beat post.  Previous Valentine writings {here and here} were sweet reflections on love.  Please click on those if you’d rather read that genre of post today.  My feelings won’t be hurt.  I promise.  No broken hearts on 2.14.

This one is, instead, has more of a 10-Things-I-Hate-About-You vibe.  Mr Willy Shakes meets goofy with a nod to deeper truths.

I took one part high school writing assignment style + actual middle school dance events = valentines 2013.

Because sometimes, you just have to step out of the box.

Our play begins in the dark of night
On an evening’s end
No more winter light.

A gathering of youth portends
Of evil thoughts and heartbroken ends.

The stage’s been set so long before
By glances and looks of hearts deplore.

So now, as our curtain is pulled aside
Feast your eyes upon young love’s tide.

Enter first Lysander, fast and brave
Noble heart and fair locks wave.

It is for Hermia his heart beats true
Always quick her mind, and fleet foot, too.
A young woman full of compassion’s ride
Witness her care for creatures- fur and hide.

The intimate two become a plural ‘us’
When met by humor’s persona Demetrius.
So beset his heart, for Hermia it is aflutter
And thus our tale tastes slightly bitter.

Two persons more do appear
Not connected, just as Orsino fears.
As for she?  We’ll wait and see
What is Olivia’s motive?  Her vision?  Her dance?
To bribe his friends or be coy on romance?

What sound is this?  What clock does chime?
This year is not 1609?

But twenty-13 me thinks, it’s true.
Time to lay aside quill and rhyming, too.

The players remain, so aptly named
Full of symbolism and in a place where privacy reigns.

{intermezzo.  Hermia has made an appearance before here.  But all the other players are new to you, sweet Valentine audience.  And so, without further ado, I present to you their tale.}

On a crisp fall night my son Cole Lysander attended his first middle school dance.  It involved nerves, excitement, and a new doublet and hose pair of slacks, dress shirt and tie provided by his wise fairy grandmother.

Wait.  Autumn?  You wonder.  Last fall?  Why did I wait so long to spill the beans act as scribe?

Well, like any good Bard, Lysander took his time relating the tale.  Details slipping from his tongue in quiet moments, punctuated by long silences.

Six.  There were six slow dances that evening.  The ever-egalitarian D.J. concocted a brew of equality- a mix of girls asking and boys asking partners to dance.  Lysander and Hermia each asked each other once.  You remember the middle school slow dance, right?  That awkward pose of hands on one another’s shoulders, then shuffle-sway left, shuffle-sway right.  Mirrored repeats until the music dies, and the awkward transition back to tempo.

Ever hovering is Demetrius.  Prowling in tightening then expanding circles around the couple as they shuffle-sway, shuffle-sway.  Pacing, his agitation fully evident, even to other students.  A third slow melody begins.  Demetrius’ chance arrives.  He dances with Hermia.

Great joy!

But then he is left wondering:  why were her palms fully on Lysander’s shoulders, when only her fingertips touched mine?  He questions Lysander.  No gentle answer can be offered.  Questions circle questions of intent, reason, repercussion.

And the three other slow songs?  I asked.  Lysander did not dance.  Why?  He had exited to the outdoor theatre to attend to Orsino.  Orsino, found prostrate on a picnic table, bemoaning his fate.  For his true love Olivia had denied him a dance.  Lysander, not wanting to leave his heartbroken friend, remained by his side.

Enter an unknown courier.  A tween with a purpose, but here no name.  Messages hastily ferried back and forth as time marched steadily towards the end of the night.  Would Olivia reconsider?  Would her position soften?  A return volley.  Yes. Only…Only if another young man would dance with her fair maiden friend.

Did they dance? Memory becomes murky.

All actors reconvene upon the primary stage.  The dance floor.  And just before the bell did toll, the D.J., wise and bold, proclaimed “Give a hug.  To the one you love.”

Two stood side by side.  Yet neither body turned.  No arms embraced.  But one hand reached, as a pendulum swings, crossed the boundaries between bodies and squeezed.  The fingers of cupid’s mark.  Reflexively and with full heart the squeeze was echoed and returned.

True love, dear Bard?  Is this how it begins?  No crowns, no titles.  No princes, no kings.  Just love and hearts.  Rulers of all things.

{intermezzo}

I was intrigued by how many romantic truths were being played out on one evening, with five actors, ages 11 and 12.  On their tiny sixth grade stage were all the complex themes of love and loss that will reverberate for years to come.

Sometimes we just click with another human being, and there isn’t any explanation why.  Sometimes, the fit only happens from one side.  We’ve all been there.  {well, I know I’ve been there.  I hope I’m not alone.}  Where you pine for someone who, seemingly, has no interest in returning your affections.  How is it that one set of hormones can be off the chart in love and the second set is flatlined?

And what of the girl that said no?  And then changed her mind?  On the one hand we could easily say:  it is only a dance.  Be polite.  Why not say yes?  But on the other hand:  good for her, a young girl becoming a young woman, for standing up for herself, for her body, and saying No.  I don’t want to do that.  I don’t want to be touched in that way.  By you.  Or maybe she was shy, and didn’t know quite how to handle it.  And by inviting his friend and hers she was able to mask her feelings behind the numbers.

Then there is the power of friendship.  When do we willingly step away from pursuing our own happiness to attend to the suffering of a friend?

I think my imagination was most caught in the squeezing of hands.  The D.J.’s directions were clear.  The message was strong.  And yet, these two moved their bodies not an inch.  They stayed true to themselves, and found a way to communicate the beating of their hearts without having to participate in a way that was culturally expected.

How will things change in the years ahead?  From sixth grade to age 16?  I suspect each actor will swap roles for multiple stagings of this play.  Each will become the other.  Lysander becomes Orsino morphs into Demetrius and back to Lysander.

And you, dear Valentine reader?  To whom does your heart belong?  Hopefully, no matter the other actors in your play, you live the words of the original Bard.

To thine own self be true.  Happy Valentine’s Day.

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indigo love

January 23, 2013

To all of my new readers, welcome to a-few-words-Wednesdays!  Mixed in with longer blog posts I sprinkle in the words of others- short shots of emotional espresso that I call indigo-orange.  (wondering why?  Read about it here).

 

As the elementary school calendar tips us head long into Valentine’s Day activities- I thought we’d celebrate this Wednesday with a quote about love.

 

‘Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.’

Maya Angelou

 

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happy hollydays

December 24, 2012

 

Readers, meet my Mom.  Mom, meet my readers.  Her name is Holly (née Green).  You can imagine that Christmas is of particular importance to a woman who grew up as a little girl named Holly Green.

If you were to pass my mother on a sidewalk, here’s what you’d see:  a petite woman with elegant silver-white hair coiffed in a stylish bob.  What you might not recognize from looking at her is the college student who marched for civil rights and met Martin Luther King.  You might not glimpse the university senior who finally acquiesced to be set up on a blind date with my Dad one day in December and was married and volunteering in the Peace Corps by June.  You might not see the young mother who made us powered milk and had a living room that sat empty for seven years until they could afford to furnish it.  In short, she is a polite yet immovable force.

Especially at Christmas time.  Consider this vignette from a time when I was a little girl.  The family service at St. John’s Episcopal Church on Christmas Eve was in direct conflict with the Christmas party thrown by my parents’ dear (Jewish) friends.  Holly was unwilling to give up either event.  From one year to the next, the church service was mysteriously shifted to begin an hour and a half earlier.  Plenty of time for Holly’s kids to be in the nativity pageant and then drive the dozen blocks to the Soule’s party.

How did she manage the great switcheroo?  It is a glimpse into her mastermind.  She can explain things in a way that makes everyone else in the room believe the idea is in their best interest and that they helped craft the solution, even though she was the force behind it all.  As my brother-in-law Doug said at our wedding “General Schwarzkopf has nothing on Holly”.

Another one of her gifts is the ability to take an ordinary experience and transform it into a symbolic gesture that deeply emotionally resonates.  As my brothers and I like to joke- Christmas isn’t over until she’s made somebody cry.  In a good way.  So if you get a gift accompanied by a typed letter with a purple ink signature at the bottom?  Fugetaboutit.  You’ll be reduced to a puddle by the end of the first paragraph.  {Remind me sometime to tell you the story of the framed bell and the quote from The Polar Express.  But bring your Kleenex – I recommend the Costco-sized package}.

I’ve learned a long list of lessons from my Mom over the years — how to:  sort laundry;  view life;  buy children’s shoes half a size too big;  look for the best in everyone, even when they can’t see it themselves;  sew a straight line;  see the world as a village; believe in effort and redemption.  I may not have learned to cook, but I learned the recipe for humanity.

So this Christmas as I reflect back on the Eve’s of my childhood, I wonder.  Why did she feel so compelled to have the service changed?  We could have easily slipped out a side door after communion.  Why stay?  I suspect it is this.  Because to her, the end mattered most of all.  When all is said and done in the service– after the greeting, the readings, the sermon;  after the prayers, the benediction, the blessing;  after it all comes the dismissal.  It is here that her wisdom can be found.  It is here that her vision for the world becomes translated into words.  It is here her life’s work is revealed.  It is here, at this most poignant time of year, she wants us to remember:

Go in Peace to Love and Serve.

 

 

 

 

Merry Christmas, Happy Hollydays.

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some assembly required.

November 19, 2012

My family tree looks like an inverted March Madness tournament bracket.  Orderly lines, 90 degree angles, grands begetting parents begetting off-spring.  My husband’s side of the family, in sharp contrast, looks more like the frenetic X’s and O’s hastily drawn on the sidelines of football game moments from the end of the fourth quarter when a come-from-behind win is possible only through the miraculous completion of a Hail Mary play.  Madcap arrows pointing every which way, scribbles of ideas launched at the very last minute.  The players include ex’s and oh’s…and fulls and halves and steps and surrogates.  There are twists and turns and betrayals and triumphs and stories untold.

And when I met them, I didn’t quite know what to do.

But then I heard my husband laugh.  I had never heard it sound quite like that before.  And in all the years since it has been confirmed- the uproariously joyful sound erupts only when he is with his brother.  And by brother I technically mean his ex-step-brother from a marriage that imploded in the late 80’s.  Exploded might be a better description to help you imagine the collateral damage.  But technicalities don’t count.  These adult boys have known one another since they were five (or five and six, but that’s an entirely different story).  The point is, they have been brothers ever since.  They will be brothers forever because they choose to be brothers every day.

And when I stood in the kitchen recently, I didn’t know quite what to do.

Then I remembered Rebecca.  At age 42 I may not have ever baked a pie, but I had watched it done over the Fourth of July in Kentucky at what we all call Cousin Camp.  It was not hand-me-down knowledge, but hand-me-sideways from my husband’s ex-step-aunt’s daughter.  I strapped on my fabulous retro apron and got to work.  Baking pies as if it were a family tradition.  Because it is.  Because family is the collection of people to whom we give love.

But when the phone rings, I still don’t know quite what to do.

It could be from any of them- Kenya to California, or one of the Kentuckians in between.  The phone rings, the caller ID lights up, I smile knowing who is on the other end of the line.  Then I reflexively toss the phone to my husband.  I assume they are calling for him.  He is their family- why would they want to talk to me?

Ingrained assumptions are tricky to recognize, habits are hard to break.  We go through the motions, repeating patterns set down decades before.  We follow traditions that began for reasons we no longer remember.  So what now?  Life doesn’t come prefabricated out of the box.  We have to put together the pieces.

We are fam-i-ly: my ex-step-brother-in-law and me.  (Although I find it much easier to call him Doug).  And Beth, and David, Rachel, Peter, (Sophia!), Nathan, Rebecca, Katie, Sam, Allie, Derek, Quinn, Della, Beverly, Sandra, Lauren, Terry, Phil, Rafi, Gabe and Jamila.  I love you all.

As I sit down on Thursday with my play-off bracket family, I’ll be thankful for my Hail Mary clan.  And you, dear reader?  Who will you assemble?  Whose call will you answer?  Who do you love?  Keep me posted.

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both sides of the aisle

November 9, 2012

When I was in 9th grade my English teacher did four things I will never forget.

  1. He kicked a student out just before we got to the ‘good part’ of Franco Zeffrelli’s 1968 ‘Romeo and Juliet’ movie version of s-e-x.
  2. He threw his keys at anyone he thought wasn’t paying sufficient attention.
  3. He always crossed out the first paragraph of every essay I ever wrote.  Without reading it.
  4. He’d ask a question, call a name, then make you wait before your opened your mouth.  (Or maybe did that only to me – the audio version of number 3.)

Method?  Madness?  Mix?  I was scandalized by the first (can a teacher kick you out in advance of your behavior?), I stayed focused because of the threat of the second (no goose eggs on my forehead, thankyouverymuch).  I learned how to edit from the third, and adopted think then raise your hand from the forth.

But sometimes I think too long before I speak.  Why?  Well, we’ve established here how much discord makes me greatly uncomfortable.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love dialog, the exchange of ideas, a good tête-à-tête.  But I need to know we are doing it in connection.  The back and forth of a deep heart-to-heart.  But standing on the cliff of a conversation and awaiting an echo that never returns?  That makes me uneasy, bordering on queasy.

The balance is that if I don’t speak, there is still a message.  The meaning of silence speaks volumes.  So where’s the middle ground?  For me, speaking after thinking.  Speaking after reflecting.  Speaking with a full heart.  Speaking with respect.  So I am publishing this with thought, reflection, love and respect.  For all people.  Because I know voters on each side of this issue.

But I also know a little girl.  And a little boy.  And I want to dance at their wedding.

I’ve been to all kinds of weddings.  Indoor weddings, outdoor weddings, catholic weddings, country weddings.  Ill-fated weddings where the groom was still drunk from the bachelor party.  Twilight Zone weddings in which the priest lifted a straight arm 135 degrees in the air and invited the congregation to do the same as he blessed the bride and groom.  It looked like Germany circa 1939.

And, oh, the dresses.  I’ve worn long dresses and short dresses.  Cream dresses and shiny green dresses.  I’ve been bedecked by brides in softest pink, darkest eggplant, and garish turquoise.

I’ve had my hair professionally coiffed into a chic chignon.  And I have had it teased, ratted and topped with a whale spout on one side.  (sorry, no pictures, nothing to look at here folks, keep moving).

And then there’s the music.  I once attended a ceremony in which the instrumental interlude during the church service was Captain and Tennille’s Muskrat Love.  No Lie.  There have been boom boxes, swing bands, DJ’s.  YMCA, It Had To Be You, and of course, the Macarena.

I’ve been to receptions that were depressingly dry.  Receptions at which the groom snuck outside to hide with his friends and another where the bride stuck her bottle of beer down the vee of her gown.  All the better to hug everyone without spilling, don’t cha know.  Parties that lasted long into the night, festivities that lasted longer than the unions.

There are so many ways to say I Do.

So I want to say to the parents of this little girl and that little boy – my RSVP, all these years in advance, is yes.  I will.  I will be there.  I was there when your children learned to toddle and run and read and play.  I am here as they transition into tweens, and are trying out fashions that can only be defined as statements.  I will be there when they become teens, and challenge us in ways we cannot yet imagine.  I’ve made meals and I’ll bring wine.

I am a villager, part of the circle raising these children.  And when I arrive at the ceremony and someone tries to determine along which aisle to seat me by asking ‘which side are you on?’ I want these children to know:  I am on the side of love.

Because while they may someday plan a gorgeous ceremony, their hearts will not be pledged to one another.  For I think this girl will find a beautiful bride and that boy a handsome groom.  And I will be there to witness and dance and laugh all in the name of love.  Come with me.  Wear whatever you like.  Coif your hair however you please.  As people in their village we’ll YMCA the night away.  And as for the Macarena?  Well, I’ll keep you posted.

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