Monday, February 12, 2018

Live Laugh Love

Live Laugh Love.
I have always considered myself lucky for having what I see as the perfect balance of children.
My oldest child is our intellectual one. He analyzes, debates, and ponders his way through life. He is always thinking, always challenging. He lives large and dreams even bigger.
My youngest child is our joyous one. He lightens our moods, provokes laughter, and provides us with never ending amusement. He has such a happy, imaginative, effortless, and light-hearted approach to life. He brightens even the dullest moments which we are grateful for.
My middle child is the heart of our family. He loves openly and unconditionally, he is patient, he is kind. Simply put, he is a good person and inspires everyone else to be. He is such a treasure and I am so proud of how he demonstrates his true character no matter what the world throws at him.
To the one who reminds me to live, to the one who reminds me to laugh, to the one who reminds me to love....I see it, I get it, I feel it, and I thank you for it.
Sometimes it is not always obvious and we need others to remind us of the things we shouldn't take for granted. I am lucky to have these best three reminders daily.
Live Laugh Love.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Play

Play: verb - engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.

Our friends have an annual open house on New Year's Day. It is something we always look forward to as we know we are always guaranteed a relaxed afternoon catching up with old friends, meeting new ones, and enjoying good food and company all in a welcoming atmosphere while we gently ring in the first day of the New Year. The children play, the adults catch up, the potluck is always delicious and plentiful, and we cherish the tradition of pulling out a word out of a container our host provides to help set us on the right direction for the new year.
My word this year was play. Huh, play, I thought. My friend swears with such sincerity that the container is never wrong, like the words find your fingers...instead of us choosing them, they might actually be choosing us. So, play, I'll play along, what are you trying to tell me?
The word itself might initially conjure up children and not adults. A sort of silly and mindless recreation not really thought of for someone my age. So, do you want me to play more with my children? No, I'm immediately thinking that is not it. This word is entirely for me. I need to play. I need to add some play time into my life. Is that it and what does that mean?
Well, it got me thinking, what can that word mean and how it could apply to something I am lacking to the point where this small piece of paper was drawn to my finger tips?  So, I started my quest to applying this word to my life this year by looking it up (yes, I actually did and the definition is at the top of the page) and the word in the definition that caught my eye was enjoyment. Play is another word centered around enjoyment and not just recreation. Okay, now I might be onto something!
Something that I have been presently aware of lately is that I center so much of time in making life enjoyable for others that I lack seeking happiness for myself, but, what if I cut others out of the equation, and just focus on myself for a little while today? Could I find some of my own happiness if I stopped entertaining others and played by myself today?
Okay, paper, I committed myself to seeking out play today, not knowing exactly how or when it would surface, but, I will clear sometime for myself to find something enjoyable to do.
Then, surprisingly, the house cleared out. One son went off with his grandmother, the other two went down the street to play with a neighborhood kid, and the hubby left to run errands. Very rare for a Saturday, so I quickly jumped on it and said, "Okay, so play Mary, play."
Hmm, how do I start? Well, I fed my belly with some really good ramen today so why not feed my soul I thought as I gathered my props.
On went the Sumatra Coffee in the Keurig, up went my Sam Cooke playlist on my phone, and out came the paint and paint brushes from Christmas.  
The paint easily flowed on the canvas while I sipped my coffee and, half way through the soothing tune of "Bring It On Home To Me",  I had an epiphany and realized how undeniably and blissfully happy I was in that moment. I was thoroughly enjoying this very unusual and long over due break from the norm. I was playing!
Through some dark roast, acrylics, and Sam serenading me, I found my own sweet version of this word called play. This is my word and it did find me and as Sam Cooke would say, "It's been a long,
long time coming but I know change is gonna come." Oh yes, Yes it will, Sam!
So, what if it was your turn to play and feed your soul...What would you do if you had some down time?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Love Not Hate



                    How does love become hate and how do you turn hate back into love again?

The world we live in has become such a strange and volatile world to me. Strange in the sense that we are are seeing such an increase in hate filled rallies that are being passed off as "freedom of speech"  instead of calling them what they are and what they are intended to be.....movements motivated to cause actions and reactions by hate filled people justifying it as their 1st amendment right. Volatile in the sense that exercising said "rights" rarely remain productive or peaceful to the cause they are promoting with violent outcomes almost always expected.
There is a white nationalist speaking in Gainesville today. I have read his background and his platform yet still struggle to understand what his concrete stance is and what he is trying to achieve beyond racism and provocation.
My husband is in law enforcement and he was deployed to Gainesville yesterday to join the increased security in the hopes of deterring violence and maintaining safety. It is certainly not something that I am comfortable with but I have accepted it as part of being married to an officer. Everyday is diverse for him, and, this day will undoubtedly be like no other for him as he dons his riot gear and stands his ground in hopes that he is met with no angst that requires his intervention.
It's always hard to explain to our children the complexities of his job. Law enforcement has taken such an ugly turn and, yet, walking a day in their shoes is not something often considered. He stands there today as an officer in riot gear which is the role he chose but I see a husband, father, and son under that mask that his spectators today won't see. I always try to remain straightforward and honest to our kids as I answer their questions about his job, but, this event is obviously more hard to explain since it is difficult for me to understand how these people, all spouses, parents, and children in their own respect, are there to support or argue events that are motivated by hate.
So, I ask you how does love become hate and how do we turn it back into love again?
#Gatorsnothaters #lovenothate #prayforpeace

Friday, May 19, 2017

He Was Ours



He was ours when he was born. He cried loud yet he was consoled easily and his deep blue eyes almost immediately showed expression. I held him and saw perfection. He was big, bold, and bright and I promised him then as I watched him sleep that I may not always know what I was doing but I would always do my best.
He was ours when the smart, inquisitive, sparkly, and happy toddler emerged before our eyes. His soft brown hair and chubby little toes I just couldn't get enough of. I would rock him every night and sing "You are My Sunshine" and joyfully anticipate it when he always pulled his pacifier out of his mouth to sing the last verse with me.
He was ours when he developed into a handsome young man with a beautiful smile that did well in school and sports. It was a joy to see him proud of himself and knowing he would always be bursting through the door excited to tell us about his day.
He was ours when he learned how to play the saxophone and hit his first home run and noticeably hid his phone out of sight when he was talking about girls.
He was also ours when he started testing the boundaries, caring less about his grades, and his stormy personality gave way to emotional outbursts we had never seen before.
The conversations now revolve around telling us how terrible we are with the same conclusion every time that he hates us and it is painfully hard not to notice that his beautiful smile no longer lookes our way.
The sparkly boy with the deep blue eyes that sang "You are My Sunshine" with me and couldn't wait to tell me about his day was now locked behind a door and forcefully telling us to go away.
Today he is a teenager. Today I am the mother of a teenager. Today I have a label to attach to the behavior leading up to this day.
I quietly tell myself he is still ours as we battle the teen years together, and, as he gets harder to love, I am trying to remind myself to love harder. I can protect my heart, be patient, take deep breaths and still continue to guide him the best I can but I miss him as I fight the urge to touch his soft brown hair and look for that beautiful smile to find me again.
Happy birthday and it's okay if you hate us. Part of me knows you are supposed to and in a weird way it tells me we are doing something right. Just know that I definitely don't always know what I am doing, especially now, but I still look in on you when you are sleeping and promise you I will always do my best.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Fly Free and Shine Bright

"With the darkness comes the rain that soaks the soul and washes away the pain; with the sun comes the rays that warms the spirit and reminds it of better days." I wrote this quote after I woke up one morning after having a rough night. In the midst of tossing and turning and trying to suppress sadness so I could sleep, my mind made up these words and kept repeating them so much that I remembered it enough to write it down upon awakening....and, so, the story of heartache that prompted this:

The words I have not always been able to find with my mouth usually pour through my hands as I type or put pen to paper. However, sometimes and in certain situations, there are no words, no profound statements, nothing that can be said when you are trying to express your sympathies to someone suspended in grief. A grief so deep and suffocating that no words I could possibly find would even be able to help or alleviate in any way that kind of pain.
An incredibly brave boy with golden locks, sparkly eyes, and endless curiosity lost his life to leukemia and took a little piece of all of us with him. His mother, my dear friend, allowed us on his journey and we became a strong village of ongoing support that had believed he would survive and we join together now in the disbelief and devastation that he did not.
His family performed the unimaginable task of burying him this past weekend and somehow accomplished a peaceful, loving, and beautiful transition of giving him back to the world in which he was created. He sleeps within the Earth, under the trees, and with the birds soaring around him. He is free, and, yet, his sweet family is not as they must learn now to live without him.
I can still remember exactly how I felt when my father died from cancer 22 years ago. As much as I was overwhelmingly relieved that his suffering had finally ended, I was immediately suffocated by his absence. His uplifting guidance and his ever present pride he had in me was now quite obviously and unfairly gone. I didn't just love him. I needed him and I knew in that moment that his loss would leave such a huge void inside me which it did. To this day, that void can be found in me in many ways, and, yet, what I have learned with time is that there is a tiny space I can still feel where he has always remained, to not only exist, but, shine and do it so brightly that it draws me in every time. He somehow manages to cast his light. I don't know how but he just does.
That tiny space where we can still connect has guided me to him in vivid dreams since he passed where we can still talk. It gave me a sense of his presence on my wedding day, I didn't just feel it, I undoubtedly knew he was there. I felt comfort in knowing he would guide my sister to him when she passed away, and I see him everyday in my oldest son's eyes. Their undeniable resemblance brings me that visual reminder that he is present in ways I never imagined.
So, I know, even though, the rawness is still too new, this little boy's family will find their way too and their connection to him will be found.
I went to bed last night with thoughts of the blank card sitting on the counter that I have yet to fill and send to them. Trying to compose words in my head through my thoughts and feelings but they did not come in the way that I wanted them too. I was tired and still too sad to do it any justice.
So, I decided to sleep on it. When I awoke this morning, the quote I wrote at the top of the page is what my mind gave me. I laid there saying it over and over again in my head and listening to what it was trying to tell me until it gave me the clarity and inspiration I have been looking for to do what I have been needing to do. I need to connect to the pain they are feeling, not the condolences that I want to give them. There are no words to ease their grief but reminding them that his presence will live on in so many ways is what I can say because I truly know it can be done.
Fly free and shine bright sweet boy.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Virginia, the Answer is YES and it will Always Be Yes (Or will it?)



As veteran newsman, Francis Church, tackled the age old question, this time, as inquired by the brave and inquisitive 8 year old, Virginia O'Hanlon, "Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?" I can only imagine the weight his penetrating words must have felt as he sent his bound to be famous answer off to print:
"Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy." 
He finished by adding, “A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, Santa will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

In an emotional moment, a little girl sought an answer during her crisis in faith after being told harshly that Santa did not exist. She turned to what she saw as her most reputable source, The New York Sun, because if it was written in The Sun it had to be true! Realizing the depth and importance of this answer, Mr. Church chose to respond and what an iconic response he gave. Can you picture little Virginia's excitement in, not only seeing her name in the paper, but the sheer joy he must have given her by providing her with the answer she so desperately wanted to hear. 
Of course, 8 year old Virginia grew up and I'm sure her understanding of his words changed along the way, but, in an interview she gave 66 years later, she talked about how that letter changed her life and her faith, and, the older she grew, the more she realized, what a perfect philosophy it was for life. 

I suppose we are all entitled to have our own interpretations of what the holidays should or should not be. So, for the nay sayers who don't believe in feeding this kind of folklore into our children or to those who couldn't imagine the magic of Christmas without him, the choice is there if you wish to entertain the notion or not. Or, at least, that is what I thought until recently. 
A week or so before Christmas, I was walking down a sidewalk and I overheard a man talking to a young child. The little girl asked the man, "why don't they ever play Hanukkah songs in the stores?" His reply after a quick thought and sigh, "I guess people just don't know them as well." Admittedly, I don't know them. I don't know any of them. Besides for Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel, and a mention of Kwanzaa, the majority of my exposure to Holiday music is about Jesus or Silent Night or Santa or Jingle Bells or Rudolph, ....okay you get the idea. 
I respect other cultures and what or how they celebrate, but, it is clearly not represented in our society or decor as much. I have always seen Santa in the shopping mall as your choice but not as something that clearly does not exist at all to some. So, I started to wonder, as we live in this ever changing time where many other issues strive for political correctness, will Santa too find himself among st a sea of protesters demanding change and equality by derailing his presence in public places? Could Mr. Church's prediction of Santa's ongoing existence be wrong? The last couple of years have proved that anything is possible, and, as we learn or fight to co-exist, the envelope is constantly being pushed that what some treasure dearly, others do not. 
Santa made it through 2016 without his head on the chopping block. We went to see him (several times!) and I admit, I do still feel the excitement and joy of his presence that I choose to share with my own children. The birth of Jesus and the tale of Santa co exist in our house and the love, generosity, and devotion that Mr. Church explained is always present each year in our hearts as we celebrate the holiday. 
Whatever, the future may hold, may we never lessen those feelings in our hearts or deprive others of it. 


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Judgement Day



Judgement Day is here....It's time to elect our next president. Will it be the business man or the politician? Will  Donald make America great again or will Hillary make history by being our first woman president? To be frank, I don't care. I stopped caring when it was narrowed down to Donald and Hillary and their civil war began.
I mean, let's be honest. One is corrupt and one has no filter. Are we really winning on either side, people? Is it worth all the hatred and arguing? We should have been joining forces to support better candidates than drawing lines and giving these two the momentum to move forward.
Instead, here we are, and, I don't know about you, but, I am completely and utterly exhausted from the months of negative ads, personal attacks, media slander,  public outrage and overall nastiness this race has spawned that I keep asking myself what has happened to this country? With our heads filled with one scandal and accusation after another, we are supposed to feel good about putting one of these choices into office? This is the best we can do?
The pride and joy I have felt in exercising my right to vote and playing  my part in selecting our next president is non existent in me today and it saddens me.
I believe in our country and I have always respected the President regardless if they had my vote or not but I cannot manage to feel that way this time. At least, not right now.
With that said, there will be a winner (without us really winning) and hopefully, we can work on closing the great divide this election has caused.

11/11/2016 Follow up: Trump may have not won the popular vote but he did claim enough electoral votes to win the election on Tuesday. The results of the election have flooded social media with the same nasty fuel that ignited the months upon months of ugliness we had to endure to even get to this day and,now, it continues with the same, if not, more fury.
I am more disappointed than surprised by the explosion of anger and outrage in the form of posts, protests, and riots that still continue even days after the announcement. Some chalk it up to spoiled and sore losers while the others cry that their anger and disbelief has turned into genuine fear and anxiety over what the next four years may hold for America.
Well, here's the thing, and you may agree or disagree with me, and I truly respect your opinions either way, but, once a person is elected to be our next President, he becomes a President to all of us, and by not supporting his position or not encouraging his success, you are failing our country and your place in it. It is easy to blame republicans, Americans, our election process or even Trump himself if that is where you choose to direct your anger. However, we live in a democracy where we should respect our privilege to vote and not cast judgement, blame, and certainly never violence on how our citizens choose to exercise their rights. In every disagreement, BOTH sides are never completely wrong or right and there should always be room for compromise in the end.
Secondly, something I learned in business that I choose to practice as well in life: When you do not succeed in what you set out to do, don't blame others. It is easier but less productive to cast blame than to face the real reasons that led up to your failure. So, instead of saying I lost, I try to ask myself why didn't I succeed which is my advice to our disgruntled Americans. Why didn't Hillary really win and what issues led to her demise?
There were several paths to Mr. Trump getting elected whether it is chosen to be admitted or not. Yes, there are Trump supporters and Republicans that will not cross lines to vote outside of their party, BUT, there were a lot of voters, whether they be Democrat, Independent, Republican, or undecided that really struggled with their choice and in the end, had to choose one or to not vote at all. Democrats did not come out in record numbers to support their candidate, traditionally blue states were able to be turned red, and, yet, there has been no backlash towards Democrats or any responsibility taken by them. Having a candidate that is being investigated by the F.B.I. while running for President never honestly concerned you? Well, what concerned me was hearing people admit she might be corrupt but aren't they all in Washington? Really, so, let's elect her anyway?
With that said, I am by no means, a fan of Mr. Trump and the undeniable and horrible comments he has made during his campaign, but I think appeal of getting someone that is not a corrupt politician and who prides himself on not being able to be bought was seriously influenced in people's decisions.
We were given poor choices, both had their flaws, and in the end, Hillary Clinton's campaign failed to convince the majority of her trustworthiness and Donald Trump's campaign and eventual success sheds light on a downplayed movement that truly wants change in our government. He will have his time and he will be given his chance, so, let's see what happens, but let's please start closing this unnecessary division and putting our country first instead of our opinions.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

True Character




John Wooden was a great coach and a beloved man who was known for his short but inspirational messages to his players which were often driven by how to be a success in life as well as basketball.
He once said, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” 
In a world full of social media, surveillance cameras, and live feeds, you would hope that true character would be captured more often but it is truly outweighed by filling the headlines full of the lesser appealing but more news worthy displays of bad behavior. So, when I witness true character, I feel compelled to acknowledge it. In this case, I didn't have to go far.
My sons were riding bikes on our street and, when I walked by the front window, I saw my middle child get off his bike by our neighbor's house. This neighbor lives up north and comes every couple of months for a change of scenery. He had done some yard work, left his garbage cans by the sidewalk, and returned to Maryland. It was our garbage pick up day and they had stashed his stack of cans in his driveway.
My son hopped off his bike and, one by one, neatly stacked his cans by the side of his house where he usually kept them. Then, hopped back on his bike and rode away. I smirked and teared up with incredibly proud emotions. Not that I hadn't seen his true character before but because it is such a sweet thing to witness in a world where you don't see it often enough.
When they returned to the house, he never mentioned his random act of kindness I had witnessed. So, I waited a little while and mentioned it to him. "I saw you grab Bill's garbage cans and put them away for him. That was very nice of you." He blushed and just sweetly responded, "Yeah." No explanation necessary and no need for praise as far as he was concerned. It is such a simple impulse for my son to help and do good because it feels right, not because it will get him noticed. You got it right, kid! That is true character!
Bill won't ever know he put his cans away for him unless he is told. He will just figure that his yard service did it instead of the incredible 10 year old across the street. He's okay with that and that true character of his prefers it that way. So, I respect (and LOVE) that about you and I won't defeat your purpose either by telling Bill.
What does your true character say about you? Do you find it just as or even more rewarding to be kind without seeking credit for your actions?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Stay Gold






NOTHING GOLD CAN STAY  
By Robert Frost


Nature's first green is gold, 
Her hardest hue to hold. 
Her early leaf's a flower; 
But only so an hour. 
Then leaf subsides to leaf. 
So Eden sank to grief, 
So dawn goes down to day. 
Nothing gold can stay. 






I felt myself wanting to hold onto this summer break so much more than other summers and I literally tried my best to suck every last breath out of it before it ended. 
My youngest son started Kindergarten this week, and, as we all know, they must grow up, but, I felt myself emotionally pulling him back so he could just stay a little longer with me. I knew it would be hard to let the last one go but, admittedly, it did tear me up more than I expected. However, he was curious, confident, and ready. I was grateful to see it and comforted even more to know it as I let him go. There will be many doors he walks through in life and many I will not get to see him enter, so, I did cherish this door and what it will lead him to. 
Now shifting in the other direction, my oldest son began his second year of middle school. We went to pick up his schedule and meet his teachers. My favorite subject was English and I found myself lingering in his Language Arts Teacher's classroom a little longer than the rest. As I maneuvered through the crowded room, I made my way to a table off to the side with books she had laid out. It was a collection from all genres that they would be reading this year in her class. I saw The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton displayed among the others and my heart fluttered. 
I gently picked it up and it immediately brought me back to being his age and discovering that story. It was this very book that planted the seed of storytelling in me and inspired me to write. How social and economic factors define and separate us, the common need to connect and belong, coming to terms with fear, love, and sorrow. It was the deepest and most meaningful messages I had ever read by that age. I clung to every word and savored each page from beginning to end. I was at the right age and it was the story I had been longing for. From there, it opened my mind and my heart to what it was like to use your words to communicate in such a touching way. All of the ink I have put to paper, the stories I have told, the words I have typed in this blog, all started when my passion was lit by this book. Writing inspires and heals me, clears my mind and frees my thoughts. It is something that has stuck with me my whole life, and, undoubtedly, always will. 
I held the small paperback dearly for a moment and told my son that "I read this and it was my favorite book when I was your age," I wanted to say "stay gold" and remind him to "do it for Johnny" but I left it at that. No need to embarrass him or yank him down my memory lane.
For the rest of the day, I bathed in the nostalgia of that book and a treasured time in my life. I thought about the converse high tops and jean jacket I used to wear.  I wondered if I could still quote every line from the movie they made based on the book and I yearned to hear Stevie Wonder singing the movie's theme song over and over again in my ear.  Girls always secretly love the bad boys...Why didn't I like Dallas Winston the most? No, he wasn't for me. My heart belonged to Pony Boy and I truly believed he would stay gold. To me, it meant holding on to your innocence,not letting the ugliness of life tarnish you, and always staying true to yourself. Something I could relate to. Yes, my heart would still belong to Pony Boy. Sorry, Dallas.
This reflection of me at his age inspired me about his year and what was ahead for him. So, it is my hope that my son remains true to himself and that he finds his spark in life that lights his passion. May his flame never go out and may he always stay gold.
Whether it is watching new doors open or the unexpected enjoyment of sweet nostalgia, I feel myself appreciating these special moments more deeply now and I am thankful as they are given to me.

What was your age of discovery? Is there a passion you have maintained?