Saturday, November 26, 2011

Hey! Look Out for That Curve Ball! Or...I'm Still Thankful

Sometimes, life throws curve balls.  Knocks ya down.  Just when you thought you'd been through the worst of it, and made it out the other side.  I've been preoccupied lately, so much so that I didn't even have the inclination to write a Thanksgiving blog.

Then I realized, that curve balls and all, what doesn't kill me makes me stronger.  I should be quite strong enough by now, God, thanks very much.

All of us have stress in our lives - career, kids, significant others, family members, friends, health, bills.  Even our futures don't seem as certain as they once did.  When I was a kid, they greatest responsibilities I had were school, homework, getting home by the time the street lamps cast their light on the blacktop.  I had chores, sure, but I never worried about my future.  I had a lifetime to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I didn't question whether or not I'd finish school, start a career, get married and start a family.  It was a given.

Now that I'm "here" in grown up land...well, it's a heck of a lot more stressful than I ever anticipated.  In fact, some days, it's down right miserable.  How I long for those days of skipping rocks across the creek, throwing rocks at my neighbor's window, playing Kickball and Ghost in the Graveyard in the cul-de-sac.

But I digress, hope everyone's Thanksgiving was happy.  And (full)filling.  It's a little belated, but hey, being thankful isn't just for turkey day, right?

I am thankful for my childhood.  For those innocent memories.  I am thankful that, while my kids' childhoods are different, they are still innocent.  They are busy making memories, spending time with friends, figuring out what they'd like to be when they grow up.

I'm thankful for all that I've learned in the past 39 years, too, because it makes me a better mom, a more compassionate person.  And, hey, if nothing else, at least I've got some good writing material.

I'm thankful for Connor.  For his awesome, dry sense of humor.  His strength getting through surgeries, his patience with his little sister, his understanding of his brother.  For being child #1, because somebody had to come first, so I could practice.

I'm thankful for Jack.  For his smile that lights up a room, for his ability to know just what to say when I'm feeling down, and for his yummy pancakes. For being the middle child, because that is no easy position to be in, and it takes a strong personality to stand out in the crowd.  He certainly does.

I'm thankful for Ella-Bella.  For her great, big hugs.  For showing me that I can parent a girl, and really love it.  For being #3, because after her two brothers, she's not gonna get away with a damn thing (Although, I do believe that she loves being the baby).

I'm thankful that I can, occasionally put together a string of words to create a coherent, and sometimes, if I'm lucky, entertaining sentence or two.  I'm thankful for a supportive family and wonderful friends, which includes a writing group of really fantastic women who push me, make me think, and never fail to make me laugh so hard I pee a little.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

On this day, 1999

My middle child, Jack, is twelve today.  12!  Hard to believe.

From the moment he came into this world, very late (or early, as it were) on a Saturday, I had a feeling he'd be a whirlwind. I was 37 weeks along when I felt a contraction while getting ready for bed.  It was about 11:15 at night.  Back labor is not pretty.  By 2am, I was 8 centimeters and barely had time for that sweet, sweet epidural.  He was born just 27 minutes later. Fast and furious, he didn't waste his time being born.  The only thing he slowed down for was sleep.  From just 3 weeks old, he was sleeping through the night.  He played hard, and crashed hard.  That was a blessing. To this day, he never has a problem falling asleep.

He was also born with a confidence, a self-assuredness that continues to surprise me.  We always have a "Jack story" to tell at holidays and get-togethers.

Like the time when Jack was two, and heard me on the phone.  I was in the middle of a conversation, saying "Can you believe that son of a ..." I stopped short of saying a bad word when I saw him toddle into the room.  He stopped, looked up at me, and said "bitch, mama.  Son of a bitch."  And continued on his way.

Or the time when he was five.  His older brother was at his friend Nick's house.  Nick's mom and I were making plans to all meet up for dinner.  It was a well known fact that Jack had a crush on his mom (Kris).  So when our phone rang, and her name came up on the caller ID, I handed the phone to Jack.  He said, "Hi Krissy!"  "Hi Jack!" she said, "Hey, buddy, I'm gonna get Nick and Connor and we're all gonna meet down at Wings for dinner, okay?"
Jack responded, "Okay, but why don't you leave that husband of yours at home."

Or the time when he was six, and I took him to get a haircut.  The hairdresser was young and pretty.  Jack was talking her ear off.  "We're just about done," she said to him.  "Okay," he answered.  "What time do you get off work?"  She smiled, "eight o'clock.  Why?"
"Do you like Sponge Bob?" Jack asked her.  "Sure!" she played along.
"Well, you wanna come over and watch some Sponge Bob with me?"

Or when he was in the third grade, and one of the girls in his class was getting picked on at recess.  She was surrounded by a group of girls, frightened.  Jack stepped in, took her hand, told those girls to deal with him next time, and walked her out of there.  When he got home from school, I asked how his day had been.  "Fine." was all he said.

Later, I got two calls.  The first was from the Principal telling me that Jack was called in to tell his side of the story.  She told me what a fine young man I was raising.  The second call came from the girl's father. He called to thank me for raising a brave, young gentleman.  He was grateful that Jack had been there that day.  Jack thought nothing of it.  He saw someone getting picked on, and he stepped in to help out.

Jack has a compassion for others who can't stand up for themselves.  He is a protector by nature and won't accept anyone making fun of kids who are different, and won't let their differences stop him from sitting with them at lunch, or helping them with school work.

There are certain people who just light up a room.  That's Jack.  He has a way of making everyone around him feel special.  His energy, confidence, charisma and charm are unmatched.

Happy Birthday Jack.  You are so special.  I have no doubt that you are going to make something very big of yourself.  We butt heads, we argue, I get thoroughly exhausted - mentally and physically.  And some days are just a pure challenge, I'll give you that.  But you are the child of my heart.  

When I was growing up, my mom used to say to me, "Just you wait!  You're going to grow up and have a child just like you!"  Back then, I just rolled my eyes.  Now I know exactly what she meant.  That's my Jack.  Creative, passionate, energetic, and sometimes, just not fully understood.

What a huge responsibility I have ahead of me - to mold you into the very best of all that you are.  I am so lucky to be the one who gets the pleasure of watching you grow into the amazingly talented, confident, compassionate man I know you will become.  And then, maybe, helping you get through those years of raising one of your own...; )

Thursday, November 10, 2011

1 + 3 + 4 = Glutony, or "Gimme a G!"

 The Luscious 4-Berry Martini @ Charlie Gitto's
 Scrumptious Banana Cream Pie
Death...By Chocolate ; )

I've been famished lately.  I don't know what to attribute this to...I have teenage and pre-teen boys in the house who routinely make their way through the fridge and pantry, but lately I've been right there with 'em.  Could be the sheer amount of hours I've been working lately.  In the office, at home, early mornings, late nights, and still trying to pursue the NaNoWriMo project (oh please, I'm rolling my eyes as I write this.)  Although, my oldest is having surgery next week, so I'm hoping I'll have ample "hurry up and wait" time to write a few thousand words.

But I digress, I was speaking of Glutony.  It all started last Saturday night.  One bar + three girls + (who knows how many) four-berry martinis = a LOT of laughs, a few turned heads and funny looks, a few conversations with other bar flies, and some fantastic food.  And lots of it.  I think this is what I needed to de-stress my mind and re-energize my soul after a week's worth of work, work, work.

Thanks, girls, for the friendship, the laughs, and the fun (not to mention the s&p shakers and that mini-gourd)!  See, girls' night really is good for your health!  And it helped to make up for the fact that I missed my Wednesday night WWWP group.

Speaking of girls' night old high school classmate of mine recently posted on facebook about desperately needing one of these nights.  Jo - I hope you lose the mom-guilt (or catholic guilt...the combo is fierce, I know!) and plan that trip back to the Lou just for You (hey, I'm a poet...).

So tell me, what helps you de-stress your mind and re-energize your soul?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Writer's Advice Taken - OR - My NaNoWriMo Quest

On his website, in answer to the question "Do you have any advice for writers?" Chris Cleave (author of the phenomenal "Little Bee") writes, in part, "...think of yourself as a storyteller, rather than a capital-W Writer or a capital-N Novelist."

I've been working on an idea for months now.  I've jotted notes, written paragraphs, organized chapters, even created an outline.  Thought I had it all figured out.  So last night, as I continued my NaNoWriMo quest (National Novel Writing Month - check it out here), I remembered Chris' words, and decided to give it a try.

Stilled my fingers.  Closed my eyes.  Pictured myself sitting in a cozy chair, telling a story to a good friend.  And began typing.  400 words later I hit on something.  And realized that it had worked.  I actually had butterflies in my stomach.  This is exciting.  If you ever find yourself stuck, try this technique.  Sometimes, we find ourselves trying to mold our story/essay/book/poem into a pre-created mold.  That doesn't always work.  Instead, clear your mind of rules and expectations, and just...tell your story.

I am now at 2,900 words and still telling my story ; )

Got any good tricks for writing or writer's block?  What's your secret to getting an idea down on paper?

The Best Is Yet To Come, and 44 other Life Lessons

I've received this email a few times, most recently this morning.  Many of you may have already read it, but I think it's worth reposting.   

Written by Regina Brett, 90 years old, of the Plain Dealer, Cleveland , Ohio. "To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me. It is the most requested column I've ever written. My odometer rolled over to 90 in August, so here is the column once more:

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.

8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.

12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.

16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

17. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.

18. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.

19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words 'In five years, will this matter?'

27. Always choose life.

28. Forgive everyone everything.

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

33. Believe in miracles.

34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.

35. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

36. Growing old beats the alternative -- dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood.

38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.

41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

42. The best is yet to come...

43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

44. Yield.

45. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift."

I wondered for a moment if, had I received this at age 20, would it have made a difference in my choices, in my life's path?  I don't think so, no.  At 20, I would have rolled my eyes, and deleted it as quickly as I'd scanned it.  Today, I nod in agreement to each and every line.  I think I'll print it out and stick it on the fridge.  Maybe my own kids will be more open to these life lessons...

What's your favorite lesson?  Got any of your own to share?