Thursday, May 30, 2013

Sunglasses

I have never been a wearer of sunglasses. I don't particularly like how they look on me, or how they feel up against the bridge of my nose, and since I usually try to stay out of the sun, I've been known to use that as an excuse for not wearing sunglasses. But a while back, the optometrist informed me that I should be wearing shades regularly, especially when I run.

So yesterday, when the kids and I headed to Walgreens to pick up new swim goggles, I looked at the selection of sunglasses. Some were pricey, others were not. I simply wanted a pair that didn't look too awful and that felt pretty good. I didn't really care about the fashion statement I would make. Thus, I came home with a very dark pair that passed muster with me and the kids; the frames are purple and black (quite cool to them), comfortable and retro (quite cool to me).

I slipped the pair on this morning when I went out for a short 3.5 mile run. My usual route was now shrouded in darkness, and I had trouble seeing the people I usually waved at, but I found myself enjoying the new view and lack of wind sliding over my eyes. I looked around at the trees and the flowers that skidded by, spoke a soft whisper to the birds that tweeted, and wondered if they recognized me. Wearing glasses was like wearing a disguise, a new way of approaching the world, and seeing what I hadn't seen before.

And then I thought of my mom. A simple act of wearing sunglasses brought me back to when I was a kid, when, much like I did yesterday, Mom would slip over to the pharmacy and grab a pair for the summer. She didn't spend much on the glasses in case one of the kids or the dog sat on them, stepped on them, or (and you never know) ate them. I remember her sunglasses as being large and funny-looking to me, especially when I tried them on my small face. But they must have pleased her, for the thing I remember the most was that when my mom wore her sunglasses, it was as if she owned the world. Gone was the woman who second-guessed herself and questioned her role in life. Gone was the woman who preferred to sit at the side of the pool and observe. In her place sat the lady who put on a pair of shades she liked and didn't care what people thought of those glasses. It was as easy as that: slip on the glasses and slip on a new attitude.

I'm not revealing anything that my family doesn't already know about the women in my family: We all could use a shot of confidence from time to time. Those sunglasses fit the bill for my mom. They did the trick, at least in my mind. Because I can't truly remember whether or not the situation was as I described, or whether that is simply my interpretation of the events. I sort of hope for the former, but I am leaning toward the latter.

So here's my challenge to you, whether you are 12 or 37 or 68 years old. Go find whatever it is that makes you become the extraordinary person you want to be, whatever makes you feel at peace and gives you confidence and makes you feel that all is right with the world. Find it, grab onto it, and slip it on, every day.

Here's to finding those sunglasses again, Mom.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Bikini Bottoms

This is it. The kids have been out for roughly less than a week and the day is upon us. The weather has turned upwards, the sun will shine today, and yes, the pool WILL be open. I have no excuse not to go and 4 kids that are begging to do so. So this is it. The day I drag out the swimsuit from the depths of my drawer, shake out the dust, and pull it kicking and screaming over my body.

I think it goes without saying that most women in the continental United States would have the same feelings I do today. (I say the US because I think there are probably countries out there, especially those without constant inundations from the media, where the women have healthier  and less distorted body images than we do here. I don't have data to back it up, but I wouldn't be surprised to find out that the hunch is indeed a fact.) It's not that I, and women like me, can't appreciate ourselves. In my case, the legs that are able to run many times a week, the arms that at one point were able to hold two babies at a time (and can still haul a 40 pound almost 5 year old) or the hips that have managed to make my form look more womanly than when I was 12. But as most of you are aware, it isn't the good things that we concentrate on, it's the bad things. The varicose veins on my lower legs, the dimples in my thighs that are beginning to peek out, the extra skin that gathers around my middle.

The funny thing is, I bet most of you who know me don't see those issues, at least on me. You might be able to identify them on yourself, or you might find something else to pick on somewhere on your body, and its anyone's guess whether or not they're really there. But I know that when I look at other people, I don't see all the imperfections they'd likely put on a list of things wrong with the body. I see their sparkling wit, beautiful eyes, infectious laughter or effervescent energy. I remind myself of this every day, that I am my own worst critic. You still ain't going to find me in a bikini, though.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Reasons Not to be Happy

Try as I might to stay positive, sometimes it's hard not to complain, like when your kids are out of school and you need to have a clean house so the appraisers can come by and you're hosting book club too, but then you get this headache that seems to stem from either seasonal allergies or a slight cold that came out of nowhere and your ears are popping, your nose is running, and your brain feels foggy and all you want to do is crawl into bed and not come out until everything is better.

Yeah, today was one of those days.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Keeping the List Going...

21. Snuggling with any one of my kids.
22. The 10 minutes of quiet I get when Tim takes everyone out for slushies.
23. Fuzzy pink slippers.
24. Pineapple and mango slices on a hot summer day.
25. The smell of snow.
26. Thinking of the trees behind my old backyard in Troy.
27. Memories of Carmela.
28. Hydrangeas.
29. Orange slices (real ones, not the fake candy).
30. The nuzzle of a dog's nose into your hand.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Smacked in the Face

I woke up this morning and realized (again) that today is the first day of summer vacation. How does this happen every year? I know it's coming, but every time, I get smacked in the face with it, like I had absolutely no clue the school year would be ending.

And now comes the real test: can I do it? Can my kids and I coexist for another summer peacefully? Can they amuse themselves most of the time so that I can get something done aside from cook and laundry duty? The answer remains to be seen. Wish me luck, as I have a whole list of items I'd like to accomplish before the start of school rolls around in August.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Pain in the Bum

I've been doing a lot of sitting lately. I mean, I can't stand and write; it would be too difficult to balance the computer. So my bum and I have been meeting on the dining room chair, and now, I'm suffering the consequences.

Yes, I'm going to admit it, I have irritated a hemorrhoid and let me say this, boy, can these guys hurt! Because, of course, they are boys. There are so many bad jokes I can insert here, but I simply don't have the time.

Speaking of which, tomorrow is the last day of school for the kids. Another pain in the bum, as my alone time will be nill. So don't expect much from me by way of words this summer vacation. I promise to check in from time to time.








Sunday, May 19, 2013

Bad Parenting Moment

I just bribed a child, an action I try to avoid.

"Zoe," I said. "Go jump on the trampoline with Melina and I'll consider Claire's."

Zoe, who up until this point did not want to jump on the trampoline at all, quickly changed course. "Come on, Melina!" she said and walked out the door.

Not my best parenting moment. But I now have a bit of time to check my email and I guess I better look online for Claire's hours (the accessory store). I never said I'd take her, right? Just that I'd consider it.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The List Continues

11. Sharpened number 2 pencils against a piece of college ruled paper.
12. The feel of my favorite mug as my fingers wrap around it.
13. The worn out copy of Bridge to Terabithia that sits on our bookshelves.
14. Bookshelves that are filled to the brim.
15. The smell of an old library book.
16. Crocuses that peek out in the spring, even when covered by a blanket of snow.
17. Stucchi's Raspberry Cheesecake frozen yogurt.
18. Click-clack of old typewriter keys.
19. Taking out old things you've written and seeing how much progress you've made.
20. Mrs. Cox (for those of you that know her, I don't even need to say more, do I?)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Reasons to be Happy

Have you ever read the book, Reasons to be Happy by Katrina Kittle? The book is considered juvenile fiction/Independent reader, and due to the subject matter, is suitable for ages 12 and up. The premise (right from the inside of the book): "Eighth-grader Hannah Carlisle feels unattractive compared to her movie star parents and cliquish Beverly HIlls classmates, and when her mother's cancer worsens and her father starts drinking heavily, Hannah's grief and anger turn into bulimia, which only her aunt, a documentary filmmaker, understands."

I read the book last year, and thought it would be a great one for the girls' book club to select, when we, the parents, thought the subject matter was appropriate. In short, the girls will be entering middle school; we've decided to let them read the book and discuss it. In the meantime, the kids have taken it upon themselves to write up their own reasons to be happy.

Which leads me to think that we should all write up our reasons and look at them every day, so that we might find peace and joy (Tara's words) in all of the little things with which we surround ourselves. So here is the start of my list. I might add to it from time to time, and see where this project takes me.

1. Quiet time at 5:30 am.
2. The first ray of light that peeks through my window in the morning.
3. The smell of Downy fabric softener.
4. The feel of our cool sheets against the skin of my arms.
5. The fuzzy hair on the top of a baby's head.
6. Really good vanilla ice cream.
7. Sand squishing through my toes.
8. Walloon Lake.
9. Sisters.
10. My kids.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Honorable Mention

Last year...I entered a local short story contest and had high hopes with my entry, but received nothing. It was apparent afterward why that was the case.

Last month...on a complete whim, I entered the same contest.

This year...I felt that my writing had gotten better, but my expectations were low.

This morning...I received an email stating that I had won honorable mention.

Woo-hoo!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Red Hot Research

BIG DISCLAIMER. IF YOU DON'T WANT TO HEAR WORDS THAT DEAL WITH SEX AND ANATOMY, LEAVE NOW. Thank you.

I'm in the midst of reading a manuscript for one of my writing group buddies. The book is an action-adventure with a romance thrown in, and that description will have to suffice, because I don't want to give anything away.

But here's the thing. My writer friend is trying make sure that any intimate moments involved will read true to life. On the last read-through, the intimate moment happened too quickly; the people involved kissed, he put his you know what you know where, and then bang, it was done. "Where's the foreplay?" one lady asked. "You need to give more details. Not Fifty Shades details, but details nonetheless," another person added. Even my prudish self nodded in assent.

Well, yesterday, I finally made it to the intimate moments part of this manuscript, and to be honest, my friend dealt with the matter more eloquently than I ever could. However, in her quest to keep everything authentic and true to life, she used real anatomical terms. That is all good and well until you really think about being in the throes of passion. Would you call your private parts by their true names? Would you call your partners nether regions by the correct term? I don't think so. Therefore, I took it upon myself to do some research.

Fast forward a couple of hours later, and I've scoured my copies of Fifty Shades (mostly so I can tell my friend what not to do, i.e. too many references to "my sex" or being "wet", all the things that might make her book turn too quickly toward the tawdry) and made a trip to the library. In a quick minute I found a book called Red Hot and Royal and threw it in my bag. I'm halfway through and making copious notes, as well as laughing my back-end off at the thought of me doing this sort of research.

Who would have thought? Not I. But I guess I like to keep surprising myself.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day

I'd like to think that I could come up with a super post for this day, but alas, it has been a busy weekend, and nothing profound and awe inspiring springs to mind. In fact, because of the cool air, I'd like to take a cup of tea and a really engaging book to bed right now, and it is only 7:40 pm.

But plenty of other people have spent time and energy revering good old mom, and since I've been into posting quotes lately, I'm taking the lazy way out.

So here's to all you moms out there. Hope you had a super day!

A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie. -Tenneva Jordan

She never quite leaves her children at home, even when she doesn't take them along. -Margaret Culkin Banning

Any mother could perform the jobs of several air traffic controllers with ease. -Lisa Alther

Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world a mother's love is not. -James Joyce

Sweater, n.: garment worn by child when its mother is feeling chilly. -Ambrose Bierce

Youth fades; love droops; the leaves of friendship fall; A mother's secret hope outlives them all. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Long Time Coming

It took me long enough, but I have finally figured something out.

I prefer plot-driven stories to character-driven stories.

Now that I've learned this about myself, I won't bother whining any more about the fact that some of the books people fawn over don't wet my whistle. Chances are, they are character-driven novels.

I can rest easy now, thank you very much.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Dedicated to You

I just found out that an old friend lost her mother last night. Words are never enough to express sorrow, but sometimes, a simple thought or prayer can help.  This one is dedicated to T and her family. May her mother rest easy and may the loved ones left behind find peace in the many memories they've collected along the way.
Serenity is finding peace and freedom while in Life's storms, not peace and freedom from Life's storms.....and realizing it's not always about surviving Life's storms but more about learning how to dance in the rain. Unknown

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Never Forget

"I never forget you, Mom," she said.

"I never forget you either, Melina," I answered.

Her brown eyes peered into mine, the dim light of the setting sun illuminating the skin above her soft eyebrows. She puckered her lips together and placed a light kiss on my nose before turning her body over and sighing. I, in turn, blinked away a tear.

Never.

What a word; what a concept. Never is something that Melina really doesn't understand. A word rarely (dare I say never?) used in our house because of its finality. But Melina chose the present tense, so she is correct in her assessment. I never forget her. I never forget to pick out the clothes she likes; I never forget to retrieve her from preschool; I never forget how she loves cucumbers but dislikes pickles; I never forget the simple laugh that floats from her mouth as she spins like a ballerina in our living room.

I'd like to be able to say that forgetting her will never happen. But because she can't truly grasp the idea of the word never, I can't possibly ask her to understand that one day, without my permission, I will likely forget her. When I am old and decrepit and the plaques in my brain have woven their threads between the healthy neurons and taken my memories away, I will forget her. The tangles will have twisted around my nerve cells, sending me back into the past, keeping me from the present, prohibiting a future. I won't know that the lady before me once held my face between her sticky hands, or that the corn silk waist length hair belonged to her. I won't recognize that she is my daughter, my fourth born, my special fashion loving, superhero who once told me, every day, that she loves me. I might acknowledge that she has warm brown eyes, but I won't comprehend that those eyes once stared at me and spoke of never forgetting.

Instead, the tables will have turned. "I will never forget you, Mom," she will say, taking my wrinkled cheeks between her soft clean hands and placing her usual soft kiss upon my nose or forehead. But even that, we know isn't true. The circle of life will turn again, and someday, she, too, will forget me.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Thing I've Recently Learned

In no particular order:

  • My twin daughters are bright, but I think they have the same problem with standardized tests that I do. Aaron, however, does not. 
  • Melina is prone to drama. That, I knew. But I didn't know she'd cry if I did not follow her instructions for outfitting myself to the letter.
  • Despite Melina's flair for fashion, she hasn't figured out that gold sequins on a dress do not match with silver gems on the shoes (see above).
  • I don't like homework. I say that as if I once used to like homeowork. I'm a nerd, so maybe I did; I really can't remember. But I'm essentially taking two writing mini-courses right now, and I can't quite find the time to do my own homework. Everything else takes precedence around here, which makes sense. You think I can farm homework out?
  • I also don't like to spend money. We are entertaining the idea of overhauling our kitchen. The counters and floor are crumbling, the appliances need to be replaced, and the cabinets, while they could probably be salvaged, might also need to go. You would think that I'd be jumping for joy at the thought of a new kitchen. But with it comes a home equity loan payment. Yeah, now you see where I am coming from.
  • I'm more like my father than I thought. I find myself striking up conversations with anyone and everyone at any place. The kids are confounded by my behavior; I look at it as being friendly.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Finding My Muse

My ability to write has waned as of late. I haven't had the time nor the inspiration to sit and bring forth anything creative from my mind. I might be a bit busier, I might be more tired, but I truly think my lack of writing stems from the fact that I haven't been with my writing group for a while. We took a field trip one week instead of work-shopping our pieces, and then we had a 5 week month (we only meet on the 1st and 3rd Mondays of the month). In short, it has been too long since we've been together.

Nothing like placing the blame on someone else for my inability to find my muse, you know?

*Wink, wink*

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Seeking Serenity

Let me remind myself of the first verse to the Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
I'm not in a 12 step program. I simply felt the need to chant that to myself as I ran today and thought a brief reminder might be good for everyone.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Sweet Spot

I've discovered something about the books I've read recently.

There are two major categories I can place these books into: those I find that I can relate to, and those that are deep and profound. I'd like to say that the two categories overlap, as shown in the Venn diagram below; that the books I'm finding are snuggled tightly in the arms of both of those qualities, and that I walk away from the books with a sense of purpose and meaning every time because the story told was one I could relate to.
Unfortunately, that is not the case. I won't mention titles, but the few deeper books I've picked up lately have not included story lines or characters to which I can relate, thus finishing the books, which I have heard are deeply profound, has been impossible.

So of course, I have a question. Do I want to write a book that is relatable or profound? If I can't find the space where that yellow star resides (I think John Green has found that spot, by the way), I'm going to go with relatable. It's a long and difficult road either way you look at it.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Lessons of the Universe

Today is one of those days where the line The Universe is conspiring against me sprang to mind. Not against me per se, but against a certain set of folks who might be coming to visit this weekend. Why do I say that? Because I do believe that Melina has come down with a mild cold. And germs seem only to linger at our house a few days before someone comes to visit. Sometimes the germs spread (for a nasty case, think about our Thanksgiving trip of last year), sometimes they don't.

However, I choose not to think so negatively, that the universe would point its fingers at a few people and try to make their life miserable. Instead, I choose to go with the more positive point of view when I quote Paolo Coelho and say, When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.

Which makes me think that if the same thing occurs each time, perhaps the universe is trying to help teach a lesson about something, and maybe we all need to perk up and listen with our ears wide open. For as Paolo Coelho also said, You drown not by falling into a river but by staying submerged in it.