Would You Like Some Whine With Your Cheese?

English: Individually wrapped slices of Americ...

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ON PARENTING: TODDLERS AND TEENS

I’m looking back, way back to when my children were small and life seemed uncomplicated and I felt deeply loved. Our two children, twenty-one months apart, were in grade school, only one school year apart and we were busy all the time.We had just acquired two goldfish that my son and daughter won at a school carnival, aptly named “Ball One” and “Ball Two.” Hard to forget those names. There was also a time when my son named his snail TJ for his and his sister’s initials with the sworn promise (including a pinky swear) from her that the next year she would return the favor and name the snail JT. She ended up naming the snail Sarah Allie after her teacher and I don’t things were ever quite the same after that. That innocent little snail became a reference for many years to come.

When my daughter, the baby of the family, now seventeen, was little, she was terribly shy. No one but I existed for her. “Up” she whispered to me, her arms outstretched for me to pick her up. I always did with great pleasure and pride. The feeling of being loved is a rare gift. At 17, she barely nods in my direction now. I admit that I mourned that loss of affection. Once in a while we will have an easy, fun, conversation, most often I feel like I’m walking on egg shells getting icy death stares from her.

I know it’s the teenage years but ask any mom how she feels about this stage, with sons and daughters, and if she is honest she will tell you that sometimes it really stings. Sometimes one’s child is so intentionally mean that you need to escape behind the locked bathroom door, run the water quickly and sob. You get over it, you have to, there is no choice. You are the parent, not a friend, you need to set the example. Bold, provocative taunts are so direct, they bore into me like lasers. Ouch, yes, they do hurt. We are parents, not robots. We have feelings too.

When our older son was little he was everyone’s friend. Outgoing, verbal, a politician. In restaurants he would wave to strangers and if they didn’t wave back, he was sad and confused. When he was two and a half he used the word “compromise” to one of the members of our baby birth- class reunion. This other dad refused to believe him and asked him on the spot, interrogating him like a lawyer; without skipping a beat our son said “if Mommy and Daddy say I have to go to bed at seven and I want to go to bed at nine, we compromise so I go to bed at 8 in the middle.” Suck on that disbeliever. There were no more follow-up questions from the parent as he headed sheepishly back to his own drooling toddler.

The introduction of a baby sister to our son when he was only twenty-one months old was fairly easy for him, after all, she bought him a “cozy coupe.” There were a few occasions when he asked when “we would be returning her?” or “giving that baby back?” but that’s understandable. His position as first and only child had been usurped after a very short time.

I vowed that if I ever had a son, it was my calling to make him a loving and kind young man. He is everything I hoped he would be and more. We can read each others emotions in a blink of an eye or laugh at something no one else understands. It is different but equal with my daughter as we look to each other with “girl power” over the boys. My daughter has a close relationship with her father which makes me proud, I too was extremely close to my dad when he was alive. A daughter’s first relationship should reflect the one she had with her dad, and I couldn’t be happier.

I love both my children the same amount. It’s like saying do you prefer your left arm or your right? They are both part of me. But, connecting with them on an emotional level is different; it has to be, each child has their own, unique personality!

They are children no longer, they are adults, making their own decisions and know that we are here for them, always. Whenever they want to come “home” to ask for advice or to be a child again during college breaks, we look forward to seeing them. I usually get so excited the night before seeing them that I can’t sleep. We will miss you both next year. We love you and we like you and we are so proud of both of you. Truly and of course, Equally.

To Reach A Hidden Heart

heart

I’m a mom, a fifty-four year old, plump (not so pleasantly),  kind, giving person but I laugh too loud. Sometimes because I have only fifty percent hearing in my left ear, I also don’t always hear things perfectly. I wear old mom jeans, sneakers instead of  gold strappy sandals, or even unlaced Keds, because my feet hurt and ache constantly. I have plantar fasciatis and just walking in any shoes is uncomfortable.  I have Fibromyalgia, Hashimoto’s Thyroididtis and numerous other ailments. I’m old.

I don’t wear flirty skirts because (see above) it would just look plain silly. I can’t wear tight shirts (well, I could) but the stomach bulges would hang over my jeans. I used to have pierced ears but I think they closed so I don’t wear much jewelry anymore. Most importantly, I don’t wear make up from Sephora or MAC or Bobbi Brown. When I wear lipstick, which I do almost every day, I consider that enough. Should I be ashamed of these things, proud or just accept them? I’m okay with it but I have an almost seventeen year old daughter who most probably wishes, I was a cooler mom. A much cooler mom.

It’s not as if I stay in the kitchen and make home-made oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies because I don’t. I spend money at the supermarket and look at every single product, especially new ones.I bake brownies from a box (Ghiradelli) and the only thing I bake from scratch is an amazingly moist banana-raisin -chip loaf. My son adores it and appreciates it, my daughter won’t even try it because she hates any type of raisin and anything resembling a mushy banana. The only banana flavor she eats is mixed with strawberry in a pink container that has artificial  flavorings called yogurt. Sometimes, if my husband makes a smoothie (with ice and ice cream) she will drink it; when I make a smoothie it isn’t cold enough.

More importantly I wear my emotions like I would a soft new white scarf. Actually, you can see how I feel miles away. The worst offense, I’m mushy. My daughter is not. She keeps her feelings inside of her so even when I attempt to tone down my mushiness and delicately try to give her a compliment, she turns inwards. I wear my heart on my sleeve, you can see my emotions a mile or two away, my daughter keeps her feelings way deep inside her. I’m trying to connect with that but I’m not having much success. I know she loves me, I do know that and of course, I love her more than anything (read this kids: I love you both equally.)

When my daughter was very young, I was her world. She needed a lot of comforting and she could find that only in my arms, her tear-streaked face blanketing my neck like a worn-out washcloth. Now, she’s an amazing young woman, sure of herself, has a lot of friends, talks to me about them but her feelings are buried down deep. She is like my husband before my constant influence on him for the last 24 years. I want my daughter to know how much I love her, how proud I am of her, how I know she is incredibly intelligent and kind but I’m not sure I’m getting through. Yesterday, we spent the day together and I delicately told her how happy I was to spend time with her each week. I got this as a response: “ok.”

I feel frustrated but I guess my job as a mom is to make sure she knows I love her and that I will always be here to listen if she wants to talk. If I turn down my emotions any more I will be mute. The only thing I can do is wait and see what happens and accept her for who she is. I am happy that she talks to me about her friends, I am thrilled she is affectionate with her friends; I hope they can reach inside her wall and feel her beauty, her heart and her strength. I hope someday I will have the same privilege too.

my day by sherry

Hopscotch

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my dday waas verry diffrent from yesssterdat, funnyhow ur day cann be really bad andd scary and u  want to  just cry an cry. thaats what i felt like   today. mommy and pops were all tryin  to  preetend to b hapy but i culd know thaat its was just becaaause  i was stil their. i felt that in my bakk as i walked out the dorr so i culd catch the lellow school bus. my hair waz in 2 long braidss, my feet werr flyin in my new red lite up ssneakers witch ar so ammasing!!! andd i had a baloni and merican cheese sandwitch in my hello kitty! lunch boxx.i dont know whats goin on really but i know it feels kinda wrong and badand sad. i hav a brover who is just makin me feel jumpy and sad and mad andd that shouldnt happen. isnt family suppo two be nice tto family? no iguess thats not just so for some peepel, everyone is different i know.my teacherr told me that. i was sitting on the playground when  jessie came over to me and u know what, she didn’t do anythin but sit right down next to me and that was relly good. it was plenty, she asked me to play wit her like jump rop or hopsscotch or use   chawk but i didnt want to play or jump rope or hoppscotch.i just wanted someone to know who i wasss and what i was feeling like and jessie was all quiet and she put her arm around my neck and then we both smiled. smiled like we had won the lottery like on tvee or something cuz that is just how it felt. we both felt happy for no reason, well, no special reason at all. after that we held hands an went bakk incide. me and jess, we are best freinds now.

wen i gott home my brooter  said some  baad words and slamme the door an every ones voics were sso loud and screamin. my brother sam, i am, is 14 and hes in some kiind of badd truble, somes ttimes gronups dont listenn enuf but i no something was wronng and when i came baaak from skool, i was not  so hapy anymore andd at leaast i knew tht tmmrrow woud be sccool again  and i woud ssee Jessie aand she wood still be my bestest friendd. so i no thaats  really good an i donnt hav to say a word if i don’nt wan to.

Father’s Day Without Fathers

Potato Salad

For those of us whose fathers are deceased or for people who never knew their fathers at all, Father’s Day is tough. Just like Mother’s Day is for people who do not have a mother any longer or who did not know their mother. I am inundated with advertisements and gift suggestions to get my father: electronics, shavers, cologne, new tv sets, ties. I wish I could get my father a gift but I can’t, he is dead. People say “I lost my father ten years ago.” Lost somehow implies the possibility of him being found and unfortunately, we all know that is not true. I did not lose my father like a wallet or a cellphone, he died.

This isn’t a blog for ideas for gifts but rather a suggestion on what you might do to remember your father. Honor them, not with flowers or chocolates (unless your dad had a penchant for some special type of chocolate.) Honor them with your memories. I go to the cemetery around Father’s Day to pay my respects. to clean the gravestone, to rearrange the stones that adorn it, to talk to my dad. This year I went four weeks early because my mother was having a procedure done and I visited the cemetery at that time. It’s okay.  I gave thanks for him being there, in spirit, from signs and messages I received from him.  I knew he was watching, I knew he cared. I don’t doubt that for a second.

Make a collage if you like to do that, sit and sip your father’s favorite drink, eat food that you both used to love to eat; eat his favorite food (German potato salad) or something the two of you used to share. Share a memory with someone who cares or just tell it to yourself, or your sibling. Siblings add details to each other’s lives that perhaps one of you has forgotten. Talk to your dad, you can go to a quiet place or you can go to a favorite place that you used to go to with your dad,  it doesn’t matter. After you talk, listen. Be aware that you can get messages from those who have passed if your heart is open and YOU are open to receiving messages.

This year my son’s High School Graduation falls on Father’s Day. I couldn’t be happier. I know my dad will be there with his grandson that he adored. I know that he will be watching him cross the stage for his diploma. His spirit will be there with love and pride, of that I have no doubt. Love comes in many forms, in different ways; leave your mind and heart open and I guarantee, you will feel the love. It can be in a form of a soft breeze on your cheek, the shape of a heart in the clouds, a memory of a time that was special to you and your dad. Honor those who are no longer with you. Hold up a glass and make a toast to the past, to the person, to the memories that live in your heart.

The Start Of Good-Bye

In two weeks my son will graduate from High School and head to his summer job, after that he will be going to college. This is harder than I thought it would be. It’s also brand new and I’ve never been too good with change.

Simple yet elegant prom corsage

I literally want to sink my head into my folded arms on my cheerful, flowery bedspread and cry. I want to cry loud and hard enough to erase the pain of change and sadness, new beginnings and endings. I want to cry for all the graduating seniors that will say good-bye in two weeks to their life-long friends, their girlfriends, their boyfriends, their parents, siblings, dogs, pets. I want to cry for me, I want to break down in unwavering sobs because it feels like I am losing my son to the future and I know that things will never be the same. Already, the “Seniors” have changed you can see it on their faces. Next year, my baby, my daughter will graduate High School as well.

I am a fluctuating emotional mess, happy, sad, crying, excited and miserable.  It is after prom and before graduation; it is the time in-between. The Pre-Prom party was at my son’s girlfriend’s lovely home. For me, it was like a Hollywood set, the girls with their glowing, shiny faces and beaming smiles, the sun streaming down on the back lawn highlighting their hair. Girls in long dresses of all colors: fuchsia, beige, royal blue, gold, gorgeous girls, each one of them, with the light in their eyes dancing, their faces sparkling. Their wrists adorned by delicate  wrist corsages awkwardly put on by their dates. I have known some of these girls since they were four. The young men in their tuxedos, stand tall and proud, handsome and mature. It felt like the tuxedo added years of wisdom and maturity to them.They stood brave and beaming, handsome and charming, strong and proud, very proud. Each one had a boutonniere shakily attached by nervous girls with manicured fingers.  My son posed willingly with the three best friends he has grown up with, solid friends, forever friends. He posed with his girlfriend, he posed with his family. This was a boy who refused pictures taken of him since he was nine.

These were not boys and girls anymore, here stood young men and young women going off very soon, to follow their dreams. Even though as parents we try to be prepared for the good-byes, it still hurts us. Like pieces of our heart literally being chipped off never to be repaired exactly like it was before. Our hearts still work but differently. With the young men and women’s new-found freedom, so too, comes pain. As a parent, not being able to prevent that pain is horrible yet I know, being a good parent means just that, letting them go solve their own problems, make their own mistakes.

As a mom, I am on an emotional roller coaster. Am I grieving beforehand like I usually do? Merely picturing graduation makes me wince. When my son actually leaves for college, I hope I will be just fine but anticipation is truly my downfall. I look at the photos I took of Pre-Prom over and over as if I will learn something new each time. Yet, every time I see the photos I see the same thing, utter, unblemished joy and happiness. As a parent, I wish that these things would continue but I know in a mere two weeks a lot of that joy will become heartache. It doesn’t seem fair does it? That is what growing up is all about, I’m afraid, there are always trade-offs.

These youngsters have precious little time to say good-bye to all their friends, girlfriends, boyfriends, best friends. I don’t envy their losses but I am happy for their new adventures. Tonight, on a dark and windy evening, I dread my own loss. My son is one of the nicest people I know, he is moving on and I will miss him. I love this boy of mine and in addition, I truly like him. Follow your dreams, first-born, the world will be a better place with you in it. That, I know, for certain. We will always be here for you, will always love you and support you unconditionally, when you are ready to leave, place that in your heart forever.

If My Pet Could Talk

Kissy Face White Puppy Dog Love, Kahuna Luna c...

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True, True Love

I’m Callie and I am a nine year old “mixed breed” or mutt as some would say and my mom is the best mom EVER. I’m her favorite child because she says that I just give unconditional love and my siblings are both teenagers and they have something called “attitude.” I don’t. I just love to lie on my mom’s bed and we talk and she rubs my belly and I lick her face. I know when she is sad so then I just go up to her and kiss her cheeks and she puts her arms around my neck and cries some more but it’s now like a happy cry. She doesn’t leave me alone all day and I’m so lucky. I’m a lazy dog and I definitely fit in with THIS family. My mom picked me, yes me and not my stupid sister at the shelter and it was love at first sight. I told my sister not to eat all the electrical wires there but she didn’t listen. Hey, sometimes my Mom and Dad say that about my HUMAN siblings too about how they “don’t listen.” I listen and I crawled right into my mom’s lap and stayed there and never left.
At meals, I always sit next to her, my chin rests on her leg. I don’t bark, she likes all her children to be polite but when I look into her loving eyes, she always cuts a piece of food (or 3) for me and hides it in her hand so Dad won’t see it even though everyone knows she does it and that she’s a sucker for me! My mom loves food and she shares, my new favorite are ginger snaps and my mom was surprised but I LOVE THEM. She puts half in her mouth and the other half she lets me have because I go right up her mouth and the cookie and eat it. We share. My mom was also surprised when I liked blueberries but she stopped letting me lick hand lotion off her hands because some mean woman at the vet’s office said it wasn’t healthy. Who does she think she is? It was good for my pretty coat of hair.

My mom and my sister always have a birthday party for me, every year on March 1st. They invite my good human friends Margaret and Christina and John, but my brother and father are NOT INVITED on purpose because they think it’s stupid. I don’t even care. I get presents and a special meal and they sing the “Happy Birthday Song.”

So, Dad, I know you are the alpha male but ‘ll tell you now, it’s not MY fault I shed so PLEASE put away those stupid sticky tape rolls and stop with the vacuuming already, that vacuum machine scares me and there’s only so much noise I can take. My mom now puts a clean sheet on top of the bed so we’re all happy.

My mom is the best; I love her and she loves me. There is nothing she wouldn’t do for me and there is nothing I wouldn’t do for her. It’s Love, True Love. Lick. Lick.

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Losing Dawn

Farmland near Queniborough. Unploughed stubble...

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I will never look at the afternoon winter light in the same way again. My friend Dawn died today, February 11th, 2011 when the sky was blue, the sun shone through wind-swept trees next to ice and black snow, nudging a path. From inside, it looked too pretty for someone to have died.  The sun was low and beamed on the bare empty branches like gold necklaces or a child‘s long, blond, sun-streaked hair.

I knew for a long time that my friend Dawn was dying. All of us in the neighborhood, walking partners and friends knew how her breast cancer metastasized to brain cancer. Hearing the words from my friend Margaret that Dawn had passed away a couple of hours ago in her house, was still shocking. Shocking in a mute, surreal way. It’s not as if I thought she would make a miraculous recovery, but if we didn’t see or hear about her, she was still okay and that was soothing and comforting. Intellectually, I should have known better; I didn’t. Knowing someone is going to die is so very different from their actual death. I couldn’t feel a thing.

I remember writing: “Praying For Dawn” on my blog and I made a copy for her. She read it and loved it and told me her family read it too. She even left me a message on my answering machine to say “Thank you,” I never erased that message.

Her daughter had just started college in Vermont as a February Freshman a few days earlier yet there was a car from Vermont  parked outside their house. Dawn and her husband John have three children, her daughter, age 18,  the eldest, her middle son, 16 and their youngest a boy age 14. There is no doubt in my mind that Dawn refused to die until her daughter was at school, just like my father lived through Christmas and died five days later, ten years ago.

What do you say when it’s actually over? Sometimes, nothing. The call I got from my friend should have clued me in but it didn’t. When she said “are you sitting down?” you would think that I would known immediately but I didn’t. My first thought was about my friend’s mother who is in her eighties. I, very slowly,  sat down. Thirty seconds later it hit me, “Oh Dear God, not Dawn,” I whispered into the phone. “Yes, she said and paused, Dawn passed away today, two hours ago.”

She died in her house, around the corner from me. Her parents who live on the Cape had come down a lot these past few years.  Margaret and I used to see them walking arm in arm, crying as they tried to walk slowly around the corner, holding on to each other for support. It took every bit of self-control not to run to them and hug them but they didn’t want to see Dawn’s friends, friends who were living when their daughter was dying. Would you?

Before my father died he used to say that “nothing is as important as your health” all the time and I remember it. I too, know grief. Now, I am grieving for my friend and her husband, children and their extended family. I am glad my friend’s pain and suffering are gone but knowing someone is going to die and them actually dying are two very strong and separate emotions. It’s the feeling of in between; it’s too new to comprehend and yet it was about four years in the making. Four years when I first noticed her bald, shiny head and twinkling green eyes standing outside wearing a cap in the pure, naked sunshine.

I laid beneath a sheet, two fraying cotton blankets, one dingy white, one blue, a thick burgundy colored comforter and an old beige puffy down comforter. l huddle beneath these blankets and still my hands are freezing and so too, my toes. I dig deep down inside the blankets and try to cover myself but I still don’t feel warm, I think I will never feel warm again.

In Memory Of Dawn

My Boredom Cures

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Books, Movies, TV, Blogging, Music, Writing, Computer, Books…..Still bored after all those options? Get a grip! I’m generally not bored, and I’m generally not fussy. I’ve always been able to occupy my “alone” time. In childhood, our mom said I was happy to play in my room all by myself but that my older sister needed to be entertained all the time. I see that with my own children now: my oldest child needs to be entertained and my second born is more content and doesn’t mind alone time (though she probably wouldn’t admit to it). Maybe it has to do with birth order.  The first-born child does get undivided attention, where us second born (or babies) have never known anything else except sharing. We’ve never had undivided attention. Maybe it’s a coping mechanism or just maybe we are more content. Or it’s simply a personality issue. Alone time, to me, doesn’t mean I’m bored, it means I’m comfortable with myself.

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When Old Friends Become New

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I’ve known my friend Meryl for as long as I can remember. We lived in the same neighborhood, attended the same schools starting with elementary school; we had what is now known as “playdates.” We had mutual friends but we grew apart over time, there was never any fighting, we just drifted apart.   That was over 30 years ago; just recently we reconnected.

Meryl, is my history and I am hers. How wonderful for her to remember that my dad, now deceased, had a telescope and would let us look through it; how heart-warming to hear her say ” your dad was so kind.” We talked about horseback riding (which terrifies me) and I suddenly flashed back to a strong image of pictures that she drew. I hadn’t remembered it or thought of it in at least thirty  years. The memory came back to me like a flash:”You drew horses, didn’t you?”  She smiled widely “Yes I did.”

I  remembered a cold winter day, in third grade, wearing a gray parka and walking from my apartment building to her beautiful white house. Her house definitely had better snacks than my house did, and that is something that you don’t forget! Her room was huge and I remember sitting on her bed and us talking.

Now, my husband and I are now very good friends with Meryl and her husband, Paul. It’s very hard sometimes to make new friends, especially close friends that like each other equally. We’ve all had friends where one or two people don’t get along; it’s very awkward. We feel so lucky, so blessed to have another couple where each one likes the other equally, not to mention that we all like to eat good food….together.

There’s a comfort level with an old friend, history, school pictures, adventures we had together. There is history with having a sibling (and we each have a sister) but there is no fighting, resentment, emotional baggage that comes along with it.  Meryl has become my sister without being a sibling. It is both incredibly comforting  and exciting to have a new, old friend: someone to confide in, someone who supports you, someone who really knows the adult and the child within.

*Dedicated to Meryl and Paul