Plane Seats

Remember when they used to board the plane from back to front? There were no boarding zones, no abhorrently long lines. The plane was boarded efficiently and only a few (those in first class) were given any special attention. Granted, that was also the era of smoking sections, but that’s not my point.

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Zone 5.

I was often guilty of waiting until everyone else boarded because I certainly didn’t want to sit on a cramped plane for longer than I had to, especially with children. But people flowed on board with friendly smiles and mostly courteous manners, ushered by flight attendants (stewardesses back then) that didn’t have to body slam or limbo their way around haphazardly boarding passengers to help folks out. And that’s not my point either.

My point is that travel is now like our culture, it’s all about your money and how much you’re willing to pay. Cheapest tickets? You can’t choose seats unless you pay a fee. Cheapest tickets? No carry on. The more you pay the earlier you can board. The more you pay the better the seat you get (Row 35 Window, instead of 36 center). The more you pay, the more you can bring on board, making even someone with only a “personal item” have to carry that thing in their “personal space” (i.e., lap) for the entire flight.  And don’t forget you have to pay for your checked bags, your food, your WIFI. I’m surprised that the toilets aren’t coin operated. Everything is measured by how much you can or are willing to pay. And, as in our culture, those with least get body slammed, crammed, shut out and always come in last.

We are so money obsessed. In SoCal last week, one of my charming Uber drivers told me that all he wanted was a lot of money. He was going to work hard all his life to make a lot of money so he could have nice things. As we passed the hilltop, oceanfront mansions of the OC, he was sure that those places cost about 1.2 million. Ever watch House Hunters? Those houses have to be worth tens of millions. But regardless, Mr. Ubers’ only goal was lots of money.

I hope that Mr. Uber wants to travel, and I really hope that he makes enough money not to be in boarding zone 5.

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The view over Iceland.

Diamonds are a girls best friend.

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I lost one of my diamond earrings a few days ago. I was sad. The earrings were a gift from my dad many decades ago and they had become my “go to, everyday” earrings. Touching them, wearing them, seeing them always reminded me of dad.

I carefully put the remaining single stud in my jewelry box knowing that I would always keep it there, all by itself. It’s solitary status among the sparkling jewels reminiscent of so many of the traits dad and I have in common.

Yesterday I found the lost earring, right on the floor of my bedroom. I had walked there every single day, several times a day. However, there it was plain as day, missing its backing, but calling for me to find it in the knots of the carpet.

When I picked it up my first thought was “dad went away for a couple of days, but he’s back now.” I am wearing the earrings once more and I’m not sure if I’ll ever take them out again.

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Love Wins

My imagination has been running wild lately and I would like to put a halt to it. Hannah leaves for college in a week and here is what I have been imagining:

  • Roommate troubles
  • Wild & raucous parties
  • Orgies
  • Hemorrhaging money
  • Her first drunk dial home
  • Wanting to go anywhere but home for the holidays
  • Lost cell phones
  • Academic probation

19023330_10155464312578216_2640556330581430746_oI have no idea where any of this is coming from. Hannah has always been a great kid, a solid student with awesome friends. Why does a mom’s brain always go to worst case scenarios? It is a paralyzing pattern fueled by my crazy imagination. Well . . . maybe also fueled by personal experience and her three older siblings.

But I will break this pattern with brain training. Here is a productive (and healthy) image:

  • Hannah will build her communication skills with her roommates
  • Her parties will be civilized and infrequent
  • She will get a small job and save money
  • She will call us every week (sober)
  • She will miss me
  • She will excel

This is going to be tough.

My human brain also runs rampant with worst case scenarios, but lately the most horrifying thing is that those images are not my imagination.

  • Neo-Nazi’s and other white supremacy groups are marching in the streets in battle fatigues and armed with assault rifles
  • Two leaders of nations with nuclear capabilities are playing a horrifying game of chicken
  • Russians hacked our elections
  • Healthcare for women is under attack
  • #notmypresident is a spineless, infantile, misogynistic, ignorant, demagogue

We are living in horrid times. I am feeling as nervous, scared, anxious and uncomfortable as I was right after the election. This is not the world I want to launch Hannah into. And frankly, I don’t need this added stress just days before sending my youngest off to college. Can I just call everyone home, snuggle, watch movies, play games and hide from the world? A few good rainy days (or even weeks) forcing us to stay inside would be helpful. So would potato chips, popcorn, Milk Duds and Reese’s.

But no. What I need to do right now is more brain training and set an example. I must be a kind person and send loving energy into this ugly world and hope that the ripple effects keep Hannah as well as Emma, Ross, Max, Kate and Carter – and everyone else I love safe.

  • I will shower my family with love – always
  • I will do my best to look everyone in the eyes and smile
  • I will not shadow my heart with judgements and prejudice
  • I will use my voice to stand up to bigotry and hatred whenever and wherever I see it
  • I will advocate passionately for reproductive rights, gun violence prevention and climate justice

I live to support my children and grandchildren and help them find their way to peace and happiness. Through all this we will do our share to make this a world of peace. This part should be easy.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.  –Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.20729363_10155696593743216_7517340660322051388_n

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Homemaker at Heart

Some say being a homemaker is passé these days. Having lots of rooms and others to decorate and clean them is often what makes a house a showpiece. However, I thrive on making our home an oasis in the world for my family.

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When the children were small, laughter, play, exploration and safety was the fabric of our home. Imagination thrived as dress-up, art, books and nature consumed our daily lives. We were in awe of each other and the wonders of the world. Our busy days ended when we curled up on the couch each evening. The days fell away as the warm blanket of love wrapped us all together. We grew sleepy and magically drifted to the place “Where the Wild Things Are.”

As years passed and play and exploration no longer required parental supervision, I strove to make our home a respite from the stress of growing older. In our home, friend fights, mean teachers and occasional lapses of judgement were tucked in with the promise of a return to brighter days. Even when the children tried their hardest to push us away, we stood strong, tall and together, each evening making repairs to the walls of our fortress, keeping our home intact so the children would know they are loved and safe.

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As the children have grown to be adults, some with children of their own, I continue to strive to make our home a combination of all these things – a place to play, a place where judgement is left at the door and we can bask in what really makes a home – family.

When Hannah leaves in the fall I will miss the ritual of getting up and making breakfast each school day, reminding the children (and myself) that each day brings new adventure, dreams to fulfill and new stories to write. I’ve been doing that for almost 30 years. Soon, I will be having breakfast alone and planning how my home will nourish me now. I will continue to make our home a respite from the world. I will be planning our family celebrations.

I have lived in many houses, but it is not the structure that makes the home, it is the faith, beauty and love inside that binds a family.

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The Beginning and The End

'17 Flower Assembly-38.jpgI cried last Friday. It started with that choked up feeling in my throat. That feeling that I know will soon spill over from eyes and down my cheeks. Dabbing away those first few tears, throat sore and swelling, I hid behind my camera as she knelt to the kindergartner that was handing her a flower. By the time the girls were singing the Alma Mater tears were rushing like a spring waterfall and I could see that many of the seniors also felt overwhelming emotions with graduation on the horizon.

I remember the trepidation Hannah felt when she went to Laurel School for the first time those many years ago. But last Friday I could feel her excitement as she got into her uniform for the last time. Over the years, she has loved every Laurel School tradition that has grounded her in this amazing community. Last Friday’s tradition is the one that marks the beginning and the end. This ritual is so special as each kindergarten girl is invited to give a single flower to each senior girl on her last day of classes, thus launching each generation into a new and exciting chapter in their lives.

But this is also a beginning and an end for me. It is time for me to define myself as more than just a parent. I’ve started to look for myself in the mirror again and I’ve been easing myself into periods of uninterrupted leisure. For Mark and me, it is a beginning that we never had. We have only known each other with children around and I relish the thought of getting to know him as if we were young and carefree. Our dreams of travel are getting bigger and grander as we peruse the guidebooks.

On the other hand, after a full 30 years of raising children, my baby is about to launch (throat swelling starts here.) My time will no longer be dictated by “who has to be where” and “what do we have to eat?” I am not young and certainly not carefree and when I look in the mirror I make sure the lights are soft and dim. One more child is entering the big bad world of adulthood and she will ride the roller-coaster of life mostly on her own for a while, hopefully confident in the knowledge that mom will always have her arms out to catch her.

I cried this morning and I choke up almost daily. I think I’ll go buy myself a flower.

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Night on the Beach

The sun was sinking beyond the horizon as we sat on the beach to watch. The colors were muted, hazy, dreamy, glowing orange and yellow.  The sand was warm yet cooling as the time slowly slipped by. We were nervous at first, sneaking glances at one another, not sure where the conversation would lead. There were probably others on the beach taking their evening strolls, but for us, it was our secret kingdom. The vast beach was our own personal dominion with the wonders of the ocean waves and endless views helping to calm our minds as we settled into boundless and broad conversations. We talked and laughed, told stories about ourselves and revealed our truths.

images.jpegWe decided to build a sand castle and though it certainly wasn’t a showy place, it was a fortress. Strong, yet vulnerable. Plain, yet quirky. The sand castle we built held our thoughts and dreams. We dreamed of travel to lands afar, we told of battles won and lost and adventures still ahead. The tide rolled toward the moat, filling it, wearing it down and sometimes breaking a wall, but we rebuilt it, several times that night.

The night grew dark yet the breeze was still warm. I stretched out on the sand feeling its warmth on my face as I drifted off to dream of Kings and Queens, dragons and fairies.

I woke to start a new life with this man. In the sunshine of a new day we knew that we would build our castle, our fortress in the real world. Always our oasis in the storms of life, sometimes our castle needs a bit of reinforcement and fortification, but ours together – always.

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The Kindness of Strangers

 

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Tuesday was a gorgeous, sunny spring day. The morning was warming up quickly yet still a bit of a chill in the breeze.  I had an appointment in Shaker Square and as usual I was early. I parked my car and headed out in one of my new favorite outfits, hair washed, make-up donned and feeling confident this meeting would be mutually beneficial. As I made my way around the square for a time-eating stroll, a large, disheveled, toothless man stared me down. As he approached he tipped his head toward me, smiled wide and said, “gooooood afternoon beautiful.”

I know in these days of rabid feminism (of which I often participate) I should have been appalled at the frank objectification of my looks. I know many would admonish me for even looking at the person who gave the impression of being homeless, let alone broadly smile at him and respond right back with a “good afternoon to you too”. I also know that his well-intentioned compliment made me stand a little taller, smile a little broader and made the sun feel just a bit warmer.

We are always so quick to judge people by their looks, their clothes, their demeanor. We often try to look beyond words for other meanings, nefarious or otherwise. But on this beautiful spring day a kind man on the square made me feel good, not just because of his words, but because we were both eager to accept the kindness of a stranger.

As I came around the other side of the square I saw my new friend once again approaching me. I smiled and waved to him like we were old pals, he tipped his head  and we said hello, again. The folks coming and going around us at the rapid station gave us quizzical and curious looks but we were just happy to see each other again.

Spring is in the air. There is still kindness in the world and I remembered to keep my judgements in check that day. I hope I made his day as much as he did mine.

Sweet Life Blues

Nervous, anxious, keyed up, antsy . . .  I was running at full power once the last-minute decision was made to finally go to the 40th reunion of the opening of Vegetable Buddies. I went by myself and I was filled with angst, much like I was all those years ago taking the train or driving to South Bend for weekend visits. I wonder if Niles still has an AMTRAK station. But I digress, this time it was going to be a whirlwind 24 hours.

I got to the Doubletree around 4:00 and I needed to burn off some of that manic energy boiling up inside me. I went for a walk/run down the St. Joseph river, had a light dinner at a local restaurant and got back to my room in time to take a shower and get ready. I love travelling by myself, but this time I was rudely reminded why I don’t like to stay in hotels. This lone traveler was put in a very nice room on the 5th floor with a beautiful view of the river. I sat down to admire the view and the first thing I heard was the running, screaming and laughing of at least 5 children under the age of 10. Still full of angst, I lost my attempt at a Zen moment at the window and got into the shower. I was immediately assaulted by pounding on my door. Even my cries of “go away”, “cut it out”, “get lost” didn’t disturb the rug rats assault. Just as I put a towel around me to go scare them with my ½ naked appearance, the pounding stopped (however, the squealing and screaming did not.) I finished my shower, got ready to go and I bravely headed out the door (fully dressed) to find that the children were so obnoxious because their parents had sent them out of their rooms and closed the doors behind them. But, I digress again, still feeling those nerves I suppose.

The original Vegetable Budddies was about great music and it was the institution that defined a group of my friends. The people that I met, the music that I heard and the experiences I had there have influenced my life since. At Buddies beer flowed, pool balls clanked, romance bloomed and burned, lifetime friendships were made and back rooms held stories that we don’t want our families to ever know about. Buddies was also the hangout for a local community in need of a decent music club, an alternative to the horrifying era of disco and an oasis in the shell of a city that was South Bend at the time.

Both these groups of people made it this past weekend to the 40th reunion. I arrived at Buddies just as the club started filling up. A bit uncomfortable at first but jitters quickly melted when I spotted someone I knew and it just got better from there. The “VIP” section was filled with past owners, past employees, past frequent flyers (this group included me), and many of their families. The talk was full of reminiscing and exclamations about how we have all aged (or not so much). The last time I had seen many of these folks was 20 years ago. With some it had been even longer.

As I ran into more and more people I knew, the exclamations of “OH MY GOD” and heart felt compliments were tossed around like love bombs to long lost family members. And yes, there was a long-lost family member. Nearly 90-year-old Margaret was there. She was my brothers second mother, she was, and is my inspiration to always be kind, always share love and often wear braids.

We talked about what we are doing now but very quickly got to the task of trying to remember how Buddies was laid out “back in the day.” The wall was here, the bar was there, the pool tables over there, food came out of a hole in the wall over there (what was the cook’s name again?), remember those bathrooms? . . .  We googly eyed the mural, the corn man, the concert posters and teary eyed the memorial wall. On the memorial wall was a poster with photographs of the “Buddies” that didn’t make the journey with us long enough. My brother is on that wall. There is another poster with an ongoing list of those that have left this plane. What we did not discuss was the fact that we were all getting closer to making that list.

I had great fun wandering outside the VIP section as well. I met a lot of people around our age, most of them were South Bend lifers. They didn’t know the former owners and couldn’t remember all the bartenders, but all of them were there to relive the magic, to hear yet another amazing concert and to reconnect with old friends. The conversation on that side of the club was predominately centered on favorite concerts. Among those mentioned, John Mayall, Dr. John, Muddy Waters and Luther Allison came up frequently. They also had stories not to be told in the presence of family members. I talked to someone that hung out at Buddies every weekend, “yes for the music, but mostly just because it was such a cool place.” However, I did have to disengage a couple of guys that started talking about nursing home options in the area for their parents. I pointed out how inappropriate that line of talk was on a night like this and steered them back to great music.

And the music was great, just like shows in the original Buddies, the musicians this night felt the love and energy of the crowd; they rose-up with the love and energy of the crowd. There was dancing, clapping, shouts of yeah and whoops of joy and understanding. I’m sure they played longer than they had intended and the crowd was grateful.  By the end of the night we all basked in the glory of that love and energy. I didn’t sit down once until the show was over.

I walked back to the Doubletree around 1:30 a.m., my path lit by the glow of the almost full moon, contemplating how I was going to exact my revenge on those thoughtless parents that let their children loose on my angst filled afternoon. Opting to share the love of the night I let the monsters sleep and felt like I had so many years ago – like a dragon slayer, ready to take on the world but waiting for the right moment.

As I said before, the original Vegetable Budddies was about great music and it was the institution that defined a group of my friends. Those people that I saw, remembered and felt this past Saturday night are my family. We share a common love of music and each other. We lived together in an era that was full of stagnation and bad music but found a few years of joy, love, craziness and of course music. Those feelings of freedom, love, creativity and experimentation have influenced my life ever since.

Vegetable Buddies defined an era for us, gave us life-long friends and taught me to get to know people, all people, and really listen to their songs.

Thanks Andy.

Ode to a Friend

Dear Priscilla,

cbkSo I drove by the Euclid Tavern the other day.  It has truly been decades since I even thought of that place, but when I did I was instantly carried back to a certain Sunday in 1995.

Back then, Mark didn’t know us very well and he erroneously gave us his tickets to a Sunday Performance of the Cleveland Orchestra. When he so graciously handed them over he told us about the regulars that he had known for years, that he only saw on concert days.  He knew their intimate mid-concert sleepy noises, he knew their proclivity for splayed legs, but he didn’t know their names.  He was so proud of his occasional participation in this elite social circle.

You and I, however, were on a great adventure that day.  With abject disregard for socially acceptable behavior in the confines of the great concert hall known as Severance, we headed out in our leathers (I do believe yours was borrowed), jeans and heels to the nearest bus stop.  Smiling at strangers and chatting with vagrants we were a bubbly pair waiting for the #5. Waiting, waiting and waiting – at least an hour until some kind soul informed us that the bus didn’t run on Sunday. So we walked, and walked and found more friendly faces to smile at.  By the time we made it down Murray Hill we were parched.

Having just finished law school, I of course knew the best dive bars in the area.  The Euc was the closest, so cheap beer it was.  Upon entering on that sunny Sunday afternoon, we knew we had found “our place”.  Our feet peeled off the floor with a tug at each step and that sour hoppy smell of last night’s party assaulted our noses with a familiar odor reminiscent of college days.  The light was dim, the music was loud and the sunlight streaming through the open door carried in the promise of redemption.  We were the only people there at the time and the biker-girl bartender (generously, yet arguably tastefully tatted up) slammed a couple of beers on the bar. And so we were off to solve the problems within ourselves and to share our adventures with the world. (Do you still have our notes on napkins?) It was 1995 when we first decided to document our adventures.  It’s now 2015.

When I passed by the Euc the other day I noticed it had a bright and shiny new neon sign.  However, when I looked inside it was still the dingy, poorly lit space with uneven, sticky floors and I swear I smelled a Moosehead.

I was instantly struck with the thought that the Euclid Tavern stands as the perfect metaphor for our lives.  It’s been there forever – and yes dear Priscilla, we have known each other long enough to admit that we have been together forever.  We too have shiny new signs.  We have reinvented ourselves many times over the decades.  Not always in a good way, but always with a shiny new sign. And we remain the same inside: dark, craggy and sometimes stinky but always with that ray of sunshine we call redemption, or hope, or change, or whatever is needed that day.

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