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

Orange_logo.jpg

 

https://support.climateride.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.participant&participantID=5915

 

SGL-logo.png

http://www.smartgunlaws.org

 
Unknown.jpeg

 

http://www.plannedparenthood.org

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.

P3111842.JPG

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.

P5284088.jpg

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.

P4163736 2.jpg

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.

P9021527.jpg

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.

Gold Star Day

Well last Saturday was certainly a gold-star day. Remember the feeling of getting that star on your grade school paper, or the taste of the glue when you were allowed to put one wherever you wanted it? Perfection.

My grandson, Carter, was born last Saturday morning. A snowy, blowy, cold winter morning made brighter by the birth of a child. So ironic that this new, beautiful life was brought into my world on the one-year anniversary of a day that almost shattered my faith in humanity. Carter was born on the anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting.

That morning, Mark and I were at the hospital with the in-law’s, joyfully anticipating Carter’s birth. We were able to cry, congratulate, hug and love our growing family as he entered the world.

By noon, Mark and I were home celebrating with a champagne brunch.  After a short nap we returned to the hospital with Hannah, Emma and Kate, where for the first time since the same date last year, I truly felt that all was right in the world. We were actually the larger, more boisterous family! A photograph in that hospital room showed every one of us at our smiling best – no scowls, no closed eyes, no one turned away.

I am enough of a realist to know that moment of perfection was fleeting, but I am also cognizant enough to know that particular moment was divine – that despite all the cruel, crazy evil in this world we can find our moments of perfection in the birth of a child.

I was given the true gift of Christmas last Saturday.

Carter & Gramma

 

www.bradycampaign.org

www.mayorsagainstillegalguns.org

www.momsdemandaction.org

www.americansforresponsiblesolutions.org

Road Trip

 P2091620

    I love a good road trip.  Airplanes sure get you there faster, but travelling by car offers so many more fabulous opportunities to grow, to love, to heal and to sing. Whether I travel alone or with companions, I treasure each adventure and all the experiences that each trip brings.

To be in a car with my offspring offers opportunities for them to share hopes, dreams, fears and adventures that they otherwise would keep to themselves or not even contemplate sharing with a parent. There is something about looking straight ahead, out a window or at door handles that allows them to share their inner most feelings.  It may be because they cannot see mom’s facial expression reacting to every detail of their love life, school life, social life, or lack of life that they are expressing.  It could be that they feel trapped and think the only way out is to reveal tidbits of their psyche.  Regardless of the motivation, I love hearing the details of my children’s lives.  On road trips we also find common ground in belting out songs that we both agree on.  We make sure to compliment each other on our vocal prowess and pay nominal tribute to each other’s favorite musical genres.  I also love it when my children nap on a road trip.  For no matter what their age – infant, teen, twenty-something – there is no more peaceful view than that of a sleeping child.  All worry, concern, fear and emotion turn to calm when your child rests peacefully.

Family road trips are a blast.  The car is overflowing with energy, lethargy, dread, anticipation and sometimes dog breath.  Our usual route is the dreaded I-90 across a bit of Ohio, less of PA and the interminable New York State.  There is name-calling, finger poking, game playing, raucousness and laughter.  Someone is usually singing aloud with their headphones on or torturing us with “The Song That Never Ends.”   Then finally comes the book on tape and occasionally silence when all but the driver (me) have exhausted themselves with play.  That silence is usually broken by someone (not me) breaking wind, reviving the boisterous shenanigans of the entire car-full.  Sometimes on road trips with the children we convince each other to step out of our comfort zones.  I’m sure my children will never forget the time I goaded Ross to moon a busload of Catholic schoolgirls or when we created a condiment laden “iced tea” for Max.  But road trips with a carful are always fun, exciting and a test of family ties.

Road trips with my husband are full of adventure and remind me of why we fell in love in the first place.  I love that we can talk about the same things over and over only to come to the same conclusions each time.  We exhaust ourselves with comments about family members, co-workers and friends; then sit in a comfortable silence until the adventure begins.  We meet people along the way, marvel at the sights and sounds and make new memories for future reminiscing.  When we road-trip together we leave behind the routine, the mundane and the tendency to take each other for granted and re-connect.

But the most rejuvenating road trips for me are solitary.  For hours I sing to my favorite music.  I stop for pictures, snacks, and wildlife, even yoga – whenever I feel like it.  I love the exhilaration of driving down long stretches of road with nary a thought to my plans.  I let go of the everyday and notice the minute details of the passing landscape.  I experience each new moment as exactly that – new, unique and wondrous.  I usually open my window to let all my senses take part (even in winter).  I love the feel of the breeze and I want to smell the air (even when it’s foul like last night passing some unknown manufacturing plant).  I love the challenge and freedom of setting my own coarse, of meeting my own passing acquaintances and letting go of most of my responsibilities.   For me, it’s restorative. Each solitary road trip keeps my “run for the hills” instinct in check.  I get to run for the hills for a short while, find my center, then run back as fast as I can to the life I built . . . to the life I love.

I love a good road trip.

_2239312