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Monday, August 28, 2017

Maybe

Dear Darlings,

Sometimes people suck. Sometimes you wish a zombie apocalypse would just come and wipe out the idiots, the bigots, the hypocrites, the lazy, the mean...But sometimes you see something so good in humanity it takes your breath away and stays with you for days, enveloping you in the glory of goodness.

Claire and I were in the middle of rural Virginia. We were low on gas so we stopped at this little station. A pump was open, but the car on the opposite side was parked nearly in the middle of the lane. I tried hard to not get irritated that someone would be so inconsiderate and make it nearly impossible for another car to fit, but as I was pulling in the man who owned the car came over and said, "Oh, I'm so sorry. I'll get out of the way so you can fit." "No worries," I told him and went on to fill up the car with much-needed gas.

While I was standing there soaking up the glow of courtesy and manners another even more amazing thing was taking place on one of the other gas lanes. As an aside, before I get into the meat of this story I want to just say how infrequently I do this. I very rarely delve into a potentially political piece. I try hard to keep my blog to my thoughts about raising my family, love and sappy stuff. But is too good not to share. Keep in mind, too, that these are my thoughts and opinions and this might get a little messy as I traverse things like race, stereotypes and labeling people. Trust me, I'm not judging, just painting a picture.

Now, onto the meat...

Her shiny silver hair glinted in the sun. She kept tugging the waist band of her saggy, washed-out jeans up as she paced and crawled in and out of her old, beat up Toyota Prius. She looked exactly like I would imagine hippy turned grandmother would. The hood of her car was open and three men crowded around the engine block. The man who apologized and moved his car for me was there, hunkered down over the engine. He was a short, stocky African-American man with wiry black hair and dark brown skin. He was immersed in trying to figure out the problem. The man to his right looked to be of Middle Eastern descent. He was tall and lean with black hair, and light brown skin, heavy eyebrows and dark, piercing, hooded eyes. He stood to side, as if not quite sure what to do, but wanting very much to help. The third man...well, he was a white guy. Full beard, greasy hands being repeatedly wiped on an even greasier rag. His baseball hat was pulled down low, the brim was well worn from years of use. He looked like Zach looked after his summer away from VMI...as country and red-neck-y as can be. And in that instant of watching these four people who couldn't look anymore different from one another, I fell in love. In love with them. More in love with America. And totally in love with humanity.

To me, that little snapshot represents who are. That story represents America. The stories we're hearing in the news are awful and horrific and heartbreakingly sad. Rallies where people are voicing their opinions should never cause someone, anyone, to run over another human being. Ever. And in no way, shape or form am I trying to down-play the significance of these news stories, but rather I'd like to refocus us. We are given so many freedoms in this country. We are given so much. It's time to stop the madness. This is the land of the free and the home of the brave. This is America. The land that I love.

My wish is that we would stop tuning into these news stories on a 24-7 basis and start watching humanity around us. Perhaps my wish is Pollyana-ish and naive. But maybe it's not. Maybe if we weren't so focused on the media we wouldn't see as much negativity, instead we might see some good old-fashioned greatness in our fellow human beings. Maybe then we'd remember that we're all made up of the same stuff. Blood and bones turned into hearts and love. We all seek the same thing from this life...to love and be loved. Look around there's so much of it out there. So take some time off from the news and go find it.

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Love...from the middle of rural Virginia. It's what the world needs more of.

xo,
me

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Stop. Just love.
xo, America


PS. I hesititated greatly over posting this, but yesterday when I stumbled across the giant LOVE in the middle of rural America, I knew it was a sign.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Soar, little Eagle, SOAR!

Dear Darlings,
We just dropped Lucas off at the University of Mary Washington. This is the letter that my heart wrote in the still hours of the night as I contemplated life without Lucas around all of the time…
To my sweet, blond boy,

It’s 4:15 in the morning. I’ve been awake since around 3:30 with thoughts of you swirling in my head. Thankfully, you are tucked up in your bed, snoring peacefully and dreaming big dreams of the adventure that awaits you when you wake up. 

Today you embark on a whole new chapter in your life. A new path. A new start. I couldn’t be more proud of you and who you’ve become. When I was pregnant with each of you, I would try to envision who you would grow up to be. Those dreams can’t even begin to touch the reality of who you are. But there is more in store for you. Your new adventure lies in front of you, and I can’t wait to see all of the great things you will accomplish in this big, wide world of ours. 

Your life is, and always has been, an empty book. Up until this point we’ve been helping you hold the pen and guide your story. Today, we turn over the pen to you. Today, you become not only the hero of your story, but the sole author as well. The sheets in front of you are blank and ready to write your story. And I can’t wait to read it!

As you begin to write this next chapter in your life, I want to make sure you know a couple of things. Things I’m sure I’ve told you before, but want to make sure they’re written down, in black and white…

I am so very proud of you. You are a young man with a heart of gold. You see the best in everyone and are a champion for your friends. Your loyalty never waivers and for that my heart bursts with pride. I hope your heart is always protected and you never lose that core part of who you are. 

Be the leader. Keep being the example for others to follow. You’ve worked hard in so many ways this past year. Take those lessons learned and pass them on to you fellow students. 

Learn. Work hard. Strive for excellence. You deserve every opportunity this new chapter has to offer. Run with it.

I’m going to miss hearing you yelling at your computer. I’m going to miss seeing the mischievous sparkle in your eyes as you try to sneak a peanut butter and nutella sandwich past me and into your room. I’m going to miss the hugs I’ve been stealing from you more and more frequently. I’m going to miss the day-to-day of having you here. But it’s time for you to go experience life without the day-to-dayness of being at home. 

I know I promised you I wouldn’t cry in front of you, and I’ll try hard to keep my promise. I’ll keep reminding myself what I’ve been trying so hard to remember all this time…”I’m happier for you than sad for myself.”


Today, as we move you into your swanky new digs, aka your dorm room, know that all of us are proud of you! We all see greatness in you. I want to read your story, hear your adventures. I want you to go forth and set the world on fire! I want you to soar! But know…we are here for you. Always. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

My heart is full

Dear Darlings,

His packing is nearly complete. The target bags full of notebooks, pens, pencils, toiletries, snacks and his very first set of "dishes" stand ready for departure. His bedding is washed and folded in a box. The suitcases are next. They'll be packed with whatever clothing items he'll need for the first six weeks of life at the University of Mary Washington. Lucas is leaving in six days.

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This past Sunday, Big Red rumbled in the driveway, stuffed to gills with clean clothes which were shoved into laundry bags, boxes full of all things academic, shoes, boots, back packs and every other conceivable item Zach will need to finish his last year at VMI.

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Last weekend we celebrated us, them and our family in my most favorite way. We spent time on the water. Together. All of us. For one last time before the boys head their separate directions, and Claire becomes an only child for a while. And my heart nearly broke open wide almost spilling its contents.
During our weekend of family time, I realized something. In this moment of letting go, my heart is full. So very full. I watched as Zach showed me time and time again what a mature young man he is. His soft, brown eyes sparkled with pride as he skillfully navigated his way through the water, mastering the art of driving a boat. I watched as Lucas and Claire lounged and laughed and teased and tormented each other. Both of them enjoying the other's banter. I can't ask for anything more. My heart is full.

I know this letting go thing sucks. My throat involuntarily constricts when I think about leaving Lucas in his swanky new dorm room, or Zach finishing his final year and graduating. My head knows it's all part of the master plan, it's just still hard to fathom. But in this moment, my heart is full. And I will be forever grateful for my time with them. I learned something so very valuable. They'll be back. I saw it this weekend. They may fly, but they know there is a perch here at home for them. Always.
xo,
me

Monday, May 22, 2017

Oh, the places they'll go

Dear Darlings,

Word has spread amongst those of us who blog...the end of the personal essay is here. I was wondering why my material had dried up. I thought it was because my kiddos were older, and I didn't feel comfortable telling their stories, and that's partly true. But another, bigger component, is that I stopped feeling comfortable sharing my inane, little stories when there was so much turmoil in the world. Last year's political debacle all but silenced me. But here's what I learned the other day when I read about the demise of personal essays. I learned that they are morphing and changing into almost exactly what I've been doing...

Writing personal essays with a moral at the end of the story.

From the day I started this little blog six and a half years ago (yep, you read that right SIX and a HALF years! Can you believe it?), I have tried so hard to add some moral to the end of my stories. The title started out tongue-in-cheeky...as in, I was grinding my teeth as a I spat out "Oh, for the love of God!" at my kiddos. But from the very beginning I always tried to turn that angry, spat out phrase into something positive at the end. I wanted the happy to prevail. I wanted a story with a moral. And that's what it became.

Now that I know stories with moral clauses at the core are what readers, editors and writers want, I'm pretty sure my story telling days are no longer numbered. I'm pretty sure I have a couple more (or perhaps even hundreds more) to share. I've been filing them away like a squirrel preparing for winter, stuffing them into every nook and cranny I could find, hoping someday the stories that swirl around in my head had place in the world. I have to tell you, it's quite the relief to know they still have a place to go!

Oh, for the love of my children...

xo,
Me

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Failure

Dear Darlings,

Sometimes I fail at this parenting thing so much my heart can't handle the impact. Sometimes guilt weighs heavily on me...feeling like I failed at parenting you. Now is one of those times. What caused my feelings of failure is neither here nor there, at this point. It's simply the fact that I failed, in some epic way, to impart a crucial piece of parenting advice. Your failure became, by default, mine

And my heart is in a million, tiny pieces, thinking about this failure of mine.

The thing is, all of you are so wildly different. What parameters and rules work for one of you, doesn't necessarily translate to another. So with each of you, it's back to square one, and learning all over again. Sometimes, it's like trying to keep up with a three-ringed circus.  Zach, you can handle a hard hand and strict rules. Lucas, you need a little more gentle approach. And Claire, well, you basically parent yourself, coming to us with words of wisdom well beyond your years. But then the universe shifts a little and suddenly you need some other way of being parented, and I somehow missed that memo, so I failed you and my parenting test.

I know I shouldn't feel like this. I know you kiddos are are blessed with free will. I know that, deep down inside, but sometimes I wish your free will would be damned and you would just bend to my will. I'm the mom, for heaven's sake! I'm supposed to know what's best, right? Except, in this instance, I didn't know what was best and the pull of your free will was too strong for me.

And this got me to thinking...

Sometimes, I truly miss the times of diapers and cribs. That may have been the most physically taxing part of parenting you, but I knew where you were. I knew what you were doing. I knew when I put you in your cribs at night, you would be there the next morning. I knew I couldn't fail you as long as I fed you, bathed you, comforted you and loved you. This time, right now, is more mentally challenging, more exhausting and far scarier than it ever was when you were babies. The stakes are incredibly high, it's not just about feeding and loving, it's about helping you to learn to navigate the entire world. Failures now come with a huge price tag. Diapers and cribs are a walk in the park.

But I guess sometimes I need to let you fail on your own to help you learn and grow. Sometimes, maybe, I enable you too much so you don't fail when really you should. Sometimes, maybe the protective lioness in me comes out and I try to swipe away all those obstacles that would force you to learn and fail and thrive.

Just know, my sweet loves, that I never mean to fail you or this thing called parenting. Sometimes it just happens, but we'll work together to find a resolution and a positive way forward. That's what family is all about...failing, making mistakes, learning, forgiving and most of all loving.

xo,
Always,
Mom

oh, for the love of my children...


Monday, February 6, 2017

Eff civility

Dear Darlings,

Okay. Okay. I told you a couple of weeks ago I try hard to stay out of political discussions. I try hard to stay just a mom blogger, but things are out of control. Civility is gone. It's run amok. It's just vanished. "Eff civility," some say. "Eff anyone who doesn't agree with me," others say.

I say, "eff all of that!" We need civility and I'll tell you why...

A little more than eight years ago Barack Obama ran a tough campaign against John McCain and won. Handily. One of my favorite hockey mamas and I were on opposite sides of nearly every aspect of the campaign, polar opposites, actually. Diametrically opposed, you might say.  She wanted things out of our government that I couldn't fathom. I wanted things she felt were wrong for our citizens. We debated. Fiercely, heatedly and often. Eye-to-eye was not a place we were. But we were civil in our discussions. I may have stomped my feet to be heard over her raised voice, but never a derogatory word about each other, or to each other, was ever uttered. I respected her passion for what she believed in, even if it didn't mesh with what I wanted for our country. She remains one of my favorite people, and I enjoy our differences of opinion. I love that we can spar and go around, but still come back to middle ground, maintaining our decorum, dignity and civility.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, I have a family member who got into a heated debate with another guest at our house on Christmas Day last year. My family member asked a question about whether or not the detention camps were a necessity during World War II (yes, World War II). My guest disagreed with the family member, who promptly responded with, "Well, then you're a fucking idiot," (and no he didn't just say Eff, he dropped the real eft-bomb)! Relations were strained and now we all walk on egg-shells when those two are around each other. Our guest usually bows out of any invitation where our family member will be present, and with good reason. Our family member decided to tell civility to eff off.

Fast forward to last night and the Super Bowl. I hate the Patriots. Actually I despise them, and I have for more years than I can remember. I think they're all a bunch of arrogant asses, led by one of the most supreme arrogant asses ever to walk this earth. (Kind of like some world leader we all know.) I had mini-meltdown after mini-meltdown in the fourth quarter as the Patriots started storming back from a 25 point deficit, as is evidenced in this video Claire decided to post on social media.

Stan piped in with, "See this is what is wrong with our country right now. You're not a Falcons fan, but you hate the Patriots so much that you are rooting for whoever is against them. You don't really care if the Falcons win, you just don't want the Patriots to win."

And to some degree he was right. (Although, in my defense, I had been reading up on them. I loved the fact that the Falcons honored our fallen troops by wearing initials of those who have sacrificed their lives for us on their helmets.) I just wanted the Falcons to beat the holy, living tar out of the Patriots. I didn't get my wish, but Stan proved his point this morning when he asked, "Do you know what the number-one-trending-tweet is right now? #NotMySuperBowlChamps."

Here's the thing...the Patriots, as much as it pains me to say this, WON. They won the Super Bowl, fair and square. They are the champions. And I have to accept it. I was powerless to stop their march toward victory. There is nothing I could ever have done to change the outcome, as much as I hate it. I will be gracious from this day forward as they bask in their victory. But I can tell you, I don't want them to win next year.

To me, this is such a parallel between the Super Bowl champs and our political situation right now. But here's the difference, we have the power to change our political culture. The power is in our voices and in our votes. We live in the best country in the entire world. Hands down. without a doubt, the best country in the world is ours. Lady Gaga delivered a powerful message last night with her performance...

This land is your land. This land is my land. This land was made for you and me.

It's okay to disagree. It's okay to have mini-meltdowns and stomp feet and raise voices, but we need to hear each other. We need to agree to disagree sometimes. We need know that we have the power to change what we don't like. But we need to stop bashing each other. Telling civility to eff off should have no place in this political climate. WE need to be the bigger people, to lead by example, when our leader doesn't. We need to cling to civility. 

For the love of all of our children...

xo,
me


Sunday, February 5, 2017

Trust me

Dear Darlings,

Sometimes I really don't know how I got here.

Today was Claire's very last day of class room driver's ed. She'll start behind the wheel in a couple of weeks, and not long after that she'll be a fully licensed driver, free to roam about the streets of RVA...at least to places we allow her to go. Anyway, that's really not where I'm going with this blog. I'm not planning to wax poetic about the fact that the baby of my babies is now almost old enough to handle being behind the wheel of a multi-thousand pound weapon. Nor am I planning to lament and whine and cry about time passing so quickly.

What I want to talk about is ME. Claire's class ended extremely early today and in order to be let out of the building I had to walk in, show my face and pick up my daughter and her friend. This is the text she sent me...


The part that got me was when she said, "...but you have to come inside to insure (sic) that we are leaving safely." 

As I was walking into pick her up, I caught a glimpse of my self in the window. I don't look like someone who should be trusted with ensuring somebody else's safety. Today, I got a glimpse of myself from waaaay back when. And I couldn't believe that I should be the trusted adult. How the heck did I get here? I feel like it wasn't all that long ago I was the teenager waiting to be picked up. 

There have been many days in the time of parenthood where I have wondered how the heck someone else would trust me with another human's life.. Like all three times the hospitals have sent me home with helpless newborns. What the heck did I ever do to earn that kind of trust? Or anytime I have had to sign medical papers allowing doctors to work on my kiddos? I should have no say in anything relating to the medical realm. Or today, when I was the trusted adult. The one who had to walk into a a building to check Claire out of class. How did I get to be the trustworthy one? I still feel like a kid in my own right. 

Today, feelings of fraudulentness kicked into high gear. Today, I pictured myself masquerading as an adult. Trust me? Ack! I'm just fumbling and bumbling my way through parenthood, hoping beyond hope I don't screw my kiddos up too much. Trust me, that's one thing I really don't want to do!

xo,
me

Oh, for the love of my children...



Wednesday, January 18, 2017

From anxiety to tight security

Dear Darlings,

Lucas has left the building. Stan safely delivered him to Washington DC. And anxiety is setting in...

This election has amped the stress levels for so many people. I don't normally wander into political issues. I strive hard to be strictly a mom blogger and fiction author.

But here's where I am right now.

I'm struggling to keep my nerves and my anxieties under control as the inauguration looms closer and closer. I know so many others are feeling the same way too, but probably not for the exact same reasons. My fear is not because I wanted one party to win and one party to lose. I'm not going to get into a political discussion with any of you because, again, I'm just a mom blogger, and I like it that way. The jangling I feel is because both of my boys will be in DC for this inauguration, and, just to be clear, not for political affiliations.

For the past hundred years, VMI has been invited to march in inaugural parades so Zach, and the entire corps of cadets, will be part of our national story. VMI has marched for both republicans and democrats. In most recent history, they marched in Bush's (41 & 43) and both of Obama's inaugural parades. And now for Trump, they will march once again into the history books.

Last February, Lucas was invited to join a leadership summit, which was well before anyone knew how this election would develop. The summit is a once in a lifetime opportunity for Lucas to see all that an inauguration entails, from a peaceful transition of power as a new president takes the oath of office to the pomp and circumstance of the day. He will be on the National Mall, with so many others, watching history unfold.

With thoughts of both Zach and Lucas being there, anxiety has crept in. I'm trying hard to contain it, but it's stirring because the crazies are out there. Waiting and watching.

We've seen it all too often. Boston, New York City, Orlando, Paris, Brussels, Nice and Berlin...the crazies took so much from so many because they wanted to inflict pain and incite fear. I would never not let my boys attend (well, with Zach I don't have a choice) these events because of the crazies. We can't give into that. And I have to say, all politics aside, I'm proud of them for wanting to be a part of something so big, but as proud as I am, I'm just as nervous for them and everyone who will be there. I don't want anything to happen to anyone because of the crazies.
 
So, I'm asking you to please keep good thoughts, vibes and prayers cast over all who are going to attend this piece of history...the good, bad and the ugly parts of it. I hope all of you will send up prayers upon prayers to keep not only Zach and Lucas safe, but all of our sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and friends safe...whether you agree with the politics of the day or not.


xo,
me

PS: I do know that security is going to be extraordinarily tight. Stan just gave me the highlights of security after he dropped Lucas off. I do feel a bit better knowing how much has been done already, and how much more they are planning to do. As far as I'm concerned the tighter the security the better.

For the love of our children...



Monday, January 2, 2017

2017 ~ #TheYearOfChange

Dear Darlings,

2016 is gone. Cooked. Finis. Caput. Over and out. D.O.N.E. Everything that happened is in the history books. Nothing can be changed.

For me, personally (I'm not talking politics or news or pop culture, I'm just talking about my little world), it wasn't a bad year. For our family, it was a good (actually pretty near a great) year. Sure there were blips and blops, and all sorts of strangeness...complete with a few screw ups and some bad decisions. But in the grand scheme of life, we are a-okay. We didn't have any traumatic injuries. We didn't lose a loved one. No one got divorced, or had an accident. We lived life in our little bubble and tried hard to ignore the chaos and pandemonium just outside our door. For me, personally, 2016 wasn't one of those years where I just couldn't wait to put a nail in the coffin and shove that S.O.B. into a watery grave, thankfully.

This year is gearing up to be different for me. A couple of months ago I was at a girlie lunch chatting and catching up with two of my favorite friends. We were talking about changes we wanted to make in our lives for the upcoming year. 2017 became #TheYearOfChange...we made it just for ourselves. It's what we wanted to do and accomplish and change within ourselves so we could work to achieve our dreams, or exact a change on our worlds, both in our little bubbles and the world at large.

#TheYearOfChange...

For my kiddos there'll be lots and lots of changes. Zach will turn 21 in February. His job next summer is not only in a different city, but a different state. He'll be somewhere in the Southwest. He could be in New Mexico, Texas, Arizona or he could even end up in Hawaii (yikes!). Lucas will graduate from high school in June (omg!). He'll spread his wings a little when he heads off to college next fall (OMG!). I'll have a "only" child at home (and she won't like it, not. one. little. bit.). Claire will get her full-on driver's license in three short months (oh, for cripe's sake, this is just too much!), and then she'll be off toodling around town on her own. They're growing and changing every day. It's almost like when they were toddlers, and you could map their progress, except this time the changes are bigger, more life-altering, and more than a little bitter-sweet.

For me, #TheYearOfChange includes some pretty good ideas and resolutions.
Write more.
Listen more, talk less.
Give more and take less.
Ask more questions.
Make more time for of what's important by wasting less time on what's not.
Wear pants more often and leggings less.
Seek more knowledge.
Purge more and buy less.
Volunteer more.

(Most of these are probably pretty self-explanatory, but I want to clarify the one about wearing leggings. I love leggings. In winter, I have only one fantasy...big, cozy sweaters, fleece lined leggings, and my warm, wooly Uggs, with my leggings taking center stage. I adore my leggings. I'm comfortable in them...I'm just a little too comfortable in them. I have allowed my love of leggings to let me get soft and complacent where I was once structured and disciplined. So, the leggings need to be reserved for my reward at the end of a day. Of course, I've already broken this one twice and it's only January 2nd, so you can see how well I'm doing with that one!)

The thing of this is, #TheYearOfChange shouldn't just be an idea between three friends, because 2017 is a brand new year for all of us. We have to embrace it, the good, the bad and the bitter-sweet. We can't do a thing to stop time from moving along, so we might as well make it good (actually, let's make it a great) year by taking charge of what we can. #TheYearOfChange is for all of us.

xo,
me

Change is for the love of our children...