What is More Quiet Than Quiet?

Christmas Tree In Rockerfeller Plaza

I had a very special Christmas this year.  Jeff and Katie, my two oldest kids, were both able to get the same days off over the holiday.  They both flew in on the 21st of December and we had until the 27th to enjoy being together.

I’m getting pretty creative these days when it comes to travel, and I’ve become a huge fan of taking the train any time I can.  Jeff and Katie both agreed to take the train from the airport (I really didn’t give them much of a choice). This meant that instead of trying to coordinate arrival times, airports, and costs for flights from two different cities I could focus on getting the best fare.

Things went smoothly aside from a couple of flight delays and a train stop due to a police  check and they were both here by 3 P.M.  We kicked off the weekend with a night of food and laughter with friends.

Dan, Brian, Paul, and Mary arrived on Saturday evening bearing gifts and board games.  We played Say Anything before dinner and laughed until we almost cried.  We played another game after dinner and wrapped up the evening with hugs.

We had a traditional Christmas Eve;  and although the minister attempted to draw an analogy between the movie Elf and Buddy’s use of maple syrup to the joy of Christmas, the church service was very nice.

Posing for the obligatory Christmas Eve family picture took a little more time than usual this year but in the end we decided it was worth it.

her kids on Christmas Eve

One of the things I love most about my kids is that they love being ‘kids’ they are never ‘too cool’ to be goofy and have fun together.

Katie, Christian, and Jeff on Christmas Eve

We packed in as much as we could during the week and in addition to seeing the Hobbit and Le Miz, we spent a cold and rainy afternoon in NYC.

I think it’s a good thing that we didn’t check the forecast before we left or we might have decided to stay home instead of dodging icy raindrops so we could say we’ve seen the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Plaza.

Jeff, Katie Christian in NYCJeff, Katie Christian in NYC

I think we stayed just long enough to flag down a couple of random strangers to take our picture before we hailed a cab.  Which by they way, was the best $11.00 I’ve ever spent.

NYC in the rainy cold at Christmas

Thursday was the return travel day and filled with shuttling the kids to their destinations. I dropped Jeff off and fought back the goodbye tears until I was home.

Christian looked up when I walked in the door, “It’s so quiet.”

“I know, it’s funny how even when everyone is here, even when it’s quiet it feels like it’s not,” I said.

He nodded.

There’s a sound that is more quiet than quiet, and that’s the silent echo that bounces off the walls after a week with all of my kids.  In some ways I think it’s a sound of love.

The Signs Were There All Along – PSA

police car

police carI secretly wanted to be an actress.  In junior high (that’s what we called middle school back in the olden days) I was very active in the drama club and we put on plays and weekly skits at lunch time. For a variety of reasons I didn’t continue with drama in High School and by the time I went to college it seemed like pursuing a business degree made more sense.

It was the right decision, but I always wondered what it would be like to be an actress.  As a senior, Christian has the unique opportunity to participate in an independent study program focused on film.

One of his recent projects was to create a Public Service Announcement for a local organization that is focused on educating kids and parents about the risks associated with things like teenage alcohol use.  His teacher, Mr. Mahoney, teamed up Christian and Chris and gave them complete freedom to develop the storyline, coordinate production, and create the video.

“Would you be willing to be in a video for school?” Christian asked.

My ears perked up, ever since he and Jeff made the silent movie last year, I’d wanted to be in one of Christian’s video productions, “Of course I would.  What will I be doing?”

“We’re making a PSA about alcohol awareness for the Lower Makefield – Yardley – Falls – Tullytown (LYFT) organization.  Its supposed to be focused toward parents and that they need to be aware of what their kids are doing. So we’d like you to be the mom of a teenager who is drinking and you are completely oblivious.”

I looked up, “So you want me to be a bad mom for the video?”

“Not necessarily bad just unaware. Oh and by the way, I won’t be your son for the filming. So I hope its OK if we have a few pictures of Chris around the house for a while,” he replied.

We grinned at each other, “I suppose it would be hard to keep us in the same frame.  You’d either have to walk on your knees or I’d have to stand on a stool or learn how to walk on stilts.”

“Exactly,” he said.

The filming began a couple of weeks later. For the following month I looked forward to the days when I would take an afternoon break from working and became an actress. It was great fun to work with the boys and they did an excellent job of directing.

My favorite part was watching and listening as they collaborated on the scenes and figured out the best way to work around issues and get the best shot.

The final scene was surprisingly emotional to do.  The police officer that volunteered his time was super.  He provided some great insights and was extremely supportive of the boys.  We also managed to have some fun with it all.

I have to wonder what my neighbors thought when they saw a police car parked in my driveway for the better part of an afternoon. A “behind the scenes” post will be coming with lots of great pictures.

Whirlwind Weekend

Chicago in the Fall

Last weekend, I had an unprecedented experience in the long term parking lot. The shuttle bus picked up everyone but me.  I don’t know how the driver missed me, I drove right past him on my way in.  While I watched him leave the lot I called the main number (I just happen to have it stored as a contact). They were very apologetic and assured me that the next shuttle would pick me up.

Thankfully  I’d been smart enough to leave my house at 5:30 am for my 8:00 flight so while I was slightly annoyed at being left behind, there was no danger of missing my flight.  I shivered and waited for what seemed like a lot longer than 15 minutes. Finally I saw the lights of the shuttle bus.  I watched them bob and weave from one aisle to the next and for whatever reason, my row was passed by, not once – but twice.

I thought for sure the driver was going to turn right and pick me up but he kept going straight.  What baffles me even more than the fact that I’d given the dispatcher my location was the fact that it was dark and I was wearing an ivory cape and he still didn’t see me.

For the first time in my life I was glad that I have a loud and rather booming voice. I’m sure I looked like a crazy woman running from the middle of the row toward the shuttle.  Trying to wave your arms and shouting “STOP” at the top of your lungs isn’t as easy as it sounds when you’re rolling a giant purple suitcase and the straps of your laptop case and purse keep sliding down your arm.

Surprisingly, he heard me even though my starting point was the middle of a very long row of cars.  My fears about looking like a crazy woman were somewhat confirmed by the looks on the other passengers faces; either that or they were just displeased about having their exit to the airport interrupted.

The rest of my trip was smooth and even though my boarding position for my Southwest flight was B15, I still scored an aisle seat in the second row.  My bag was the first one on the carousel (that never happens) and I got a cab driver who didn’t need directions to Katie’s apartment.

I should probably mention that the purpose of my trip to Chicago was two-fold.  It worked well for my client to meet on a Monday which created an opportunity for me to mix business and pleasure and spend the weekend with my daughter.

I love the fact that my kids and I really like each other and enjoy doing things together.  Sometimes it’s hard because we live so far away from each other, but in other ways it makes our visits even more special.

I was anxious to see Katie’s new apartment and to finally meet her roommate Dena.  The cabbie found her apartment with no problem. I’d been warned that the neighborhood isn’t “the best,”  but I was very pleasantly surprised and thought her building was quite cute and welcoming.

There’s no buzzer, so I texted my arrival and Katie flew out of the front door and into my arms for a big hug.

We spent the morning lounging and deciding what to do. After much discussion and no decisions, we headed to Walgreen’s to buy umbrellas and a day pass for the train.  Katie took me to one of her hangouts, a fun restaurant called The Blue Line.  Believe it or not I didn’t take a picture of it.  I was hungry, it was raining, and I forgot my camera.

After breakfast we spent the afternoon dodging raindrops, running for trains, and laughing about the things you can learn when you eavesdrop.  It was fun to get a feel for Katie’s surroundings and simple things like how she gets to work. Now when she calls me and says she’s almost at the train or bus stop, I can picture it in my mind.

Katie had an alumni event to attend on Saturday evening. So I hung out with Dena and prepped for my Monday meeting until it was time to call a cab to meet up with Katie and her friends.

The cab ride downtown was the polar opposite of my ride from the airport.  I don’t think the driver took a single breath.  By the time he dropped me off at the club, I knew his entire life story as well as his sister’s, and at least one member of his church.

I arrived at just the perfect time, they had just gotten a table for the group.  It tickled me to no end that every time someone new arrived Katie put her arm around me and announced, “This is my mom!”

Beth and Katie

After four years of hearing about Katie’s adventures, friends and coworkers I was finally able to put names with faces.  It was a fun night and we kept each other out until 2:30 in the morning.  I can’t remember the last time went out, let alone stayed up that late.

Sunday was a lazy day.  We slept in and then watched the movie Rent, which is one of our favorites.  Katie’s voice was so hoarse from introducing me over the noise at the bar that she couldn’t sing along.  After lunch we braved the rain, took in a movie, and picked up some groceries.

Last year I started watching The Walking Dead with Christian, so it worked out perfectly that Katie and Dena wanted to watch the premiere and have dinner at the Blue Line.

In addition to the regular fare, such as nachos, burgers, and beer they also created and served Halloween themed shots and drinks – which went well with the theme of the night.  It was awesome to finally have the chance to treat my daughter and her roommate to dinner.

Katie and Deena

We called it an early night and it was lights out around 10.

The rain and cloudy skies cleared overnight and I hugged my daughter tight and tried not to cry while we said goodbye.  I couldn’t help but take the sun peeking through the clouds as a sign that the meeting with my client would go well.

Chicago in the Fall

It was a whirlwind and completely wonderful weekend!

The Back Drop – Intro to A Leap of Faith, Part 1

I’ve heard that the process being born is the first traumatic but necessary event we experience in life.  It’s easy for me to believe that it’s a distressing experience to be pushed from comfort of familiar surroundings through a space that feels too small and into a world filled with unknowns. We are thrust out of the dark and into the light.  We welcome the world with a powerful first breath and we are free, we are unaltered, we are unafraid, and we are perfect.

Many believe that the first three years of life contain the most dramatic and rapid growth and development of any stage of life.  In the first three years of life children learn to crawl, walk, and run.  They become aware of themselves as individuals, imaginations bloom, and curiosity overflows. Every day is full of surprises and everything is new and the most ordinary activities become extraordinary adventures.  Love is given and received unconditionally and there is no such thing as impossible.  The foundation for life has been laid.

I have no doubt that this is the case but I also believe that some people, and I count myself among them, experience the first three years of life twice.

Sometimes without even realizing it we lose sight of who we are and what we were meant to be.  And we wonder why we feel lost and uncertain, unfulfilled and afraid.  We begin to search for happiness in all the wrong places. Some people throw themselves into their career, others into their children, and many find ways to retreat from the world and hide behind vices and false bravado.

Some of us are afraid for the world to see us as we really are and we pretend really hard to be what we think others want us to be. We shut out our family and friends in an attempt to convince ourselves that everything is all right and we pay far too much attention to the voices that say you can’t, you shouldn’t, your ideas are crazy, and your dream isn’t practical or possible.  I think we confuse the definition of success with the size of a dream.

We’re not all meant to be astronauts or actresses and we don’t have to achieve fame in order to live a fulfilling life and to make a difference.  We don’t have to be wealthy to be happy.  Our books and poems don’t have to be published best sellers to inspire, but they do need to be written and they should be shared.  I believe that the dream should be to express ourselves in whatever form that might take. What greater dream can there be that to live life to its fullest potential as defined by who we are and not who we think others think we should be.

Note that I didn’t say who others think we should be, I said who we think others think we should be.  This is an important distinction.  And one of the things that I’ve learned in the second first three years of my life is that if we don’t speak with conviction about who we are we give others no choice but to derive their own perceptions based on how we behave.

The voices that drown out the dreams can be so loud that we forgot we ever had them and we mistake our society’s definition of success to be the measuring stick in determining whether or not a ‘dream’ is worth pursuing.  We may believe that not only dreams but our very essence is lost because of the circumstances we find ourselves in and we lose sight of the fact that the voice of the loudest naysayer in the room is our own.

to be continued…

Where Does Time Go? aka Congrats to the College Grad!

It seems like it was yesterday when Katie leaned as far toward the front seat as she could and without hesitation asked, “Do you suppose I could drive today?”

“Hmmm…well you don’t have a driver’s license yet, so not today,” I replied.

“How old do you have to be to get one?” she asked.

“You have to be sixteen, but you can get a permit when you are 15 and start driving then.”

She flopped backward and rolled her eyes, “But that’s….forever….I’m only five.”

It doesn’t seem possible that she’s is a college graduate and will be starting her first “real” job in less than a week.

She will receive her degree from DePaul which is in Chicago but she decided to bypass the commencement ceremony and we celebrated her graduation a week early in St. Louis.  She made the suggestion to have her party at my parent’s home and make it a family gathering for a variety of reasons.  It’s an easier trip for everyone involved, we didn’t have to worry about finding a place to have the party, and there wouldn’t be the additional expenses for hotels and restaurants.

After we decided when and where the party would be she was faced with a dilemma, to “walk” or not to “walk.”  The date of graduation fell on the same day as the wedding of one of her good friends.  We had more than a few conversations about the pros and cons.  In the end, I think the opportunity to spend time with close friends and family versus sitting for hours with thousands of people and no close friends nearby made the decision an easy one.  She would still receive her diploma and celebrate the event with two parties, but there was one missing ingredient.  She wouldn’t have a picture of her wearing a cap and gown.

I searched and searched trying to find the colors for DePaul and a place to rent a cap and gown on short notice.  I’m famous for my mad Googling skills and have been known to find more than a few obscure but valuable pieces of information.  Evidently I overcomplicated the search in this case.  My mom replied to my email with the colors and website links in under a minute.

I carried the FedEx envelope from the laundry room to the guest room where Katie was waiting for me and hoped I wasn’t holding a paper mache cap and a crepe paper gown.

“Katie, I know the one thing you said you’d miss about walking was that you wouldn’t have a picture in a cap and gown.  Sooo….this might be goofy, but I ordered one for you.  I have no idea what kind of quality it is, so remember it’s the thought that counts.”

“Oh Mommy….of course I will.”

I was pleasantly surprised when I felt a silky fabric underneath the plastic wrapping, “Wow, it’s not bad.  It’s real material.”

She giggled, “Mommy this could be one of the dorkiest things ever, but I also have to say I really love it.”

I think it took her less than three seconds to put it on and the smile didn’t leave her face for the rest of the day.

 

Congratulations Honey!  I am very proud of you.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Happy Birthday to a Very Special Lady, My Mom

Some people believe in writer’s block and others don’t. I’m in the camp of the believers and I know in my case I get writers block when I’m trying too hard to make sure something is perfect.  I have to admit that was the case when I sat down to write this.

Today is my mom’s birthday and we celebrated it as a family this past weekend.  I wanted to write something to read at the party in honor of the birthday girl, also known as Linda (sometimes Linda Loo), Mom, Grandma, and Oma.

I must have stopped and started a dozen times, the first one was too formal, the second one too long, and as I read each of them out loud, I knew that I still hadn’t just written from the heart.  And then it came to me. I’m not sure which one of us teared up more while I read it.  I’ve revised it slightly since I’m posting it rather than reading it and wanted to share it on this very special day.

As a little girl I remember feeling proud because I had the prettiest and smartest mom on the block.  Our house was always warm and inviting, every holiday was extra special, and I knew she always had my back.  The feeling I had as a little girl hasn’t gone way it’s grown.

My mom is one of the people I admire most in the world.  She inspires me in countless ways and I know I’m not alone when I say that she is  one of my heroes and wouldn’t be the person I am today without her.

Today we celebrate Linda, a beautiful wife, mother, grandmother, and friend.  We celebrate the joy she brings to all of us through the way she touches our lives.

Happy Birthday from all of us to you!

Mother’s Day Flowers

lilies with color...pastels

I’m not usually one to do this, but I’m going to write a bit about my very ordinary but extraordinary afternoon.  After finishing the things in my life that ‘needed’ to be done I decided to take the afternoon off and enjoy the beautiful weather and my amazing porch.

Sunday morning I received a gorgeous bouquet of flowers for Mother’s Day.  It was one of those funny moments; I was writing in my journal and had just put the period on the sentence, ” I miss Katie and Jeff,” and the doorbell rang.  It was none other than the Fed-ex delivery guy bearing a gift of beautiful flowers for yours truly from my three beautiful children (masterminded by Katie).  No one will be surprised when I admit that I cried.

I’ve enjoyed each day as they have unfolded and revealed themselves in their pink, white, orange, and green glory.  Today was ‘that’ day – the day that all of the flowers were open, the leaves were still green, and no petals had fallen. Before another moment passed I decided to try out my newly discovered drawing skills.  I moved the flowers from the dining room to the porch, set up my easel, and slipped off my flip flops.

I started in charcoal and incorporated pastels.  One thing led to another and before I knew it the afternoon slipped away in a most wonderful way.

Priorities…

On Thursday October 23, 1997 we packed up everything we owned; I spent the day supervising movers, well-meaning family volunteers, and the cable guy. I kept my eye on the weather and hoped that the rain would hold off until everything was off of the moving truck and out of the cars.

The skinniest of the three movers looked like a drown rat when he carried the last piece of furniture into the house.  The other two stood warm and dry in the dining room and didn’t bother to conceal their amusement as their buddy shivered his way into the house.  I felt sorry for him but was also glad it wasn’t me and truth to be told he wasn’t exactly a speed demon.

It rained non-stop for two days and just when I thought the weather had cleared, I realized the white dots in the sky were giant snowflakes not stars.  I groaned and shivered awake Sunday morning; even my eyelashes ached with exhaustion.  I didn’t need my glasses to figure out that the same was blinking on the face of the alarm clock.  Argh! No power meant I couldn’t make coffee and it might be hours before I could get the laundry done.

Eric forged through fourteen inches of not so fluffy white stuff, downed power lines, and streets littered with tree limbs to get much needed coffee. We resumed unpacking boxes and getting settled into our new home to the aroma of freshly brewed java.

Halfway through the day I called Gina, “Do you guys have power?”

“We do.  Is your power out? Is there anything we can do?” she asked.

“Can I come over to do some laundry so the kids have clean clothes for school tomorrow?”

“Sure, why don’t you guys plan on staying for dinner as well.”

I threw Katie and Jeff’s uniforms, a Scooby Doo t-shirt and some pants for Christian as well as some other necessities into the washer. Gina and I chatted about the freak snow storm and the latest novel by Jodi Picoult.  Laughter erupted from the kitchen and I knew that Mama had just toppled off of her plastic pyramid onto the kitchen table.  Don’t Drop Mama was a board game without age limits and rules that required no interpretation so it was perfect for everyone from a two-year-old to a grandfather.

By the time dinner rolled around we realized that our visit would be extended to an overnight stay.  In the days that followed, I discovered that it was impossible to find the right assortment of clothes for the next day in the few minutes after work and before total darkness.  Kohl’s turned out to be the perfect store to find everything from jeans and Winnie the Pooh underwear to games and toys to occupy the evening hours.

“How long are we going to live at Grandpa’s? Can’t we go to our new house?” Christian asked through tears.

“Hopefully only a night or two more, they said on the news that power should be back in ten days and it’s been seven.”

He clutched Scooby Doo and pointed at stack of sixteen inch Godzillas in cardboard houses, “Can I have one?”

“Sure, you miss the one at home?” I asked.

He nodded, “Can I take it to Childs Play?”

I smiled that ‘knowing’ smile all mothers have, “You can.  Is it because you miss your other one?”

“No… It’s so I can scare the girls.”

Life is after all, a matter of priorities.

Snapdragons and Butterflies

purple snapdragon and white butterfly - medium charcoal pencil and color pencil with a touch of ink and pastel
Snapdragons and Butterflies

Today is my maternal Grandmother’s birthday.  If I’ve done my math correctly she would have been 101 years young today. I have many wonderful memories of her which include learning how to properly knead the dough, the taste of homemade bread fresh from the oven, and playing  “boutique” for hours on end.  However, the image that most often comes to mind when I think of her is one of snapdragons and butterflies.

It seemed appropriate to post an essay entitled Snapdragons and Butterflies to commemorate her birthday.  I wrote it in December 2010 and it’s one of my earliest completed pieces as well as one of my favorites.  It also seemed fitting to illustrate the post with my first solo drawing.  Although my original idea was to create a realistic interpretation of my favorite flower I decided a version that was more child-like was the way to go. Colored pencils were the medium of choice as well as a touch of pastel and ink.

————————————————————————————

Snapdragons and Butterflies

Snapdragons and butterflies will always and forever remind me of my grandmother. Many gardeners shy away from the delightful, but delicate flower – however, she embraced the challenge associated with bringing the brightly colored blossoms to life.

I could have spent hours, and probably did, pinching the tiny blossoms, making the dragon’s mouth come to life and then releasing it.

I recall there always being tiny white butterflies dancing around the flowers. Were they vying for attention or simply enjoying the playfulness?

Snapdragons seem so delicate on the outside, but if they can survive tiny hands repeatedly pinching to open and see the dragon’s mouth, you know they are strong. Snapdragons are much like my grandmother.

Her name was Lucy, not a common name, which is fitting because she was not an ordinary woman.

She was beautiful, whatever the setting. She might be dressed to the nines for church or a social event, or digging in the garden, tending to her flowers or vegetables, a worn work shirt tied around her waist.

I was always so proud to be a guest in her Sunday school class. Her hand encircled mine as we entered the room, and my heart would pound with love as her students rushed to greet her.

Like a flower has a fragrance, so did my grandmother’s kitchen. It was always filled with the aroma of meals made from scratch and with love. My eyes lit up when I saw the peas I had laboriously shelled as part of the delicious meal.

She somehow knew how to make something ordinary into something wonderful. How we cousins used to squabble over who got the ‘special knife’, the knife that rattled when you picked it up. To this day, I like to think it really was a precious jewel, and not a scrap of metal that was trapped in the handle of that knife.

Wherever she went, she knew someone. Oh, How agonizing it was to have to stop and wait while she visited with ‘just one more’ friend or relative. Little did I know, the memory would make me smile someday.

My favorite times were when it was ‘our’ time, we’d giggle and laugh as she tucked me into bed. The ritual never changed, as she playfully pinched my chin, nose and cheeks before the final kiss goodnight.

Her spirit touches me whenever I think about snapdragons and butterflies.

————————————————————————————

In loving memory of my Grandma Lucy. Dedicated to my mom and my daughter, the two most important women in my life, and with gratitude for four generations of beauty and grace.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.