Thursday, December 16, 2010


I suppose it is inevitable. If you live long enough, your holidays begin to be affected by tragedy and loss. Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's: When we're children, they are characterized by pure excitement, anticipation and joy. They tend take on a deeper meaning each year, like the year when I saw Mary with a new heart as my baby jumped inside of me at the sound of the Hallelujah chorus. The holidays may even spark a new, raw emotion, which you are unable to name. Three years ago, our Thanksgiving brought news of cancer returning with a vengeance. Our Christmas was characterized by a final meal and one last Christmas tree, followed by a pain and suffering we had never known before. Our New Year's Day was a strange juxtaposition of a new start and a last goodbye. Today, one dear friend faces the first Christmas without her mother. Another gives her 4-year-old early Christmas gifts to help cope with a shocking diagnosis of cancer. Another stands by her family in a hospital room, savoring every smile and sign of appetite. At our church, we are reminded that human beings are curled under bridges, in below-freezing weather, hoping that they will wake up to see another day. This is hard. This is more than we can take. But this is the greater meaning and what inspires me and infuses my hurting heart with hope:

Graceful strength in the face of tremendous loss
Faith and trust in a big God to do big things for a little girl
Unwavering loyalty to family, implicit trust in God's plan
God moving in the lives of thousands of volunteers and setting compassion's fire within their hearts

And, AND... an improptu manger scene, now built in my playroom...where Barbies and Polly Pockets are dressed as wise men (and women), shepherds and angels. Where the baby's gifts are Chuck E. Cheese coins. Where the Littlest Pet Shop animals keep watch over a silent, amazing night of long ago when God came down and walked among us - Immanuel. This is why Christmas belongs to children. Excitement, anticipation and joy. They've got it all, and they're willing to share. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Missing Italy

A few days ago, Small Fry joined Cutie Pie and me on the couch as we were watching television. She crawled up into my lap and announced, with a tremor in her voice, "I miss Italy!" We took a family trip to Rome, Florence, Lucca and the Cinque Terre in September, and I, too, miss Italy. I think I know why I miss Italy, but I wondered what a 6-year-old missed about Italy.

Was it the massive amount of time spent on planes, trains, buses and automobiles?
Or the people we met along the way?

Was it the food?
Or the way our waiters made us feel like honored guests?

Was it the priceless artwork?
Or the way angels popped up when you least expected them?

Was it the fine restaurants, full of ambience and perfectly prepared Italian delicacies?

Or was it the gelato, twice a day?

Was it the historically significant buildings and architecture?

Or the things that made us go hmmmmm?

Was it the unique, warm, child-centered culture?

Or was it sister time?

Was it seeing Michelangelo's breathtaking masterpiece?
Or was it feeding the pigeons outside?

Was it the churches?
Or the way Mary held Jesus like any grieving mother would hold her beloved child?
I guess it was all of these things and more that we all were missing about Italy. I hope she'll always remember, and always miss, Italy.

Monday, June 7, 2010


The quiet in the house is deafening. When Cutie Pie came in the door from work today, he made the sound of crickets. We laughed, but was odd. My kids are off visiting family for a week. The first day of freedom brings an uneasy feeling. CP and I walk out of church and straight to our car without stopping to pick up Sunday School girls, without pausing to chat with other families, without passing Go. My mommy brain surveys the scene suspiciously and whispers, "Aren't you forgetting something?" We feel out of place, like a pair of single people being given a wide berth on our awkward first date. We wonder if we are allowed to go home together to an empty house. We do it anyway.

The next day is better. We go to work, and I hang around the library afterward browsing books of my choice, far away from the children's section. An hour slips away, and no one cares. I go to the grocery store without a list and remember everything I need to buy. I don't yell at anyone to stop running or to cease and desist punching their sibling. This makes me smile secretly to myself because I think how funny it would be if I actually did yell at a fellow shopper to stop running and threaten her with no free sugar cookies if she keeps behaving in such a manner. I relish the knowledge of my ability to embarrass total strangers as well as close family members. My grocery bill is $32.76. This is a small miracle, and it is enough to keep CP and I in food for a whole week. It's like fishes and loaves.

We make dinner at a leisurely pace. I don't have to refer to a recipe 90 times because I am distracted. I go with the flow and cook on a dime, the process feeling kind of organic and fun. I don't require alcohol to get through it. We eat grilled salmon, lemon parmesan risotto and a fresh cucumber and tomato salad. No one says ewwww. No one says what's this green stuff. No one says why don't you ever cook something that I like. No one begs for dessert or cries when they are told they aren't getting any. Life is good. But it's still quiet. And I still miss them.

What will I do when they leave me? What will I do when I can't hear their little voices and running footsteps filling all the rooms of my house? I guess I will be reduced to reprimanding strangers in the grocery store and remembering the unspeakable fullness of these days.

Monday, March 29, 2010

More Clever Than Ever

Our conversation as we shopped for birthday party items:

Her: "Mom, I don't want to get older, but I have to. I want to still be your baby."

Oh, how I love that girl.

Me: "Yeah, but 6 is a great age. Not too young, not too old. It's a perfect age to be."

Her: "Okay, then I'll be 6 forever."

Me: "Okay. Or at least for a whole year."

Happy Birthday to a sensational 6-year-old! May you enjoy all 365 days of it.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Gratitude Project

A friend of mine and I used to play a game called "Three things." When one of us was feeling stressed or out of sorts, we would send an email to the other. The subject line might read, briefly: Three things? Or if we were feeling really desperate, it might read: Three things, please. NOW? If you received an email like this, it was your job to send back three things the other could be happy about. For example, I might write back:

It's Friday / You're cute and everyone knows it / There is a margarita in your future
Or she might write:

Only two months until vacation! / Your friends are really awesome (especially me) / There is a piece of chocolate cake in your future

I was reminded of this game when I thought about my New Year's Resolution for 2010. I wanted something that would really improve my mind and heart (I've given up hope that I'll stick with the "I'll go to the gym three times a week this year.")

And so 2010 is the year of my personal gratitude project. It's good for me to come up with one thing every day that makes me happy. Even if I have to scrounge. There's always something. And that's the whole point I think. What are you grateful for?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Cleaning Out

So it's January and the theme is decluttering. This used to be a fun job when I was a kid and my Mom did all the real decluttering for me. I could just work on my own room... my bookshelves, my closet, my desk maybe. It was a one-hour job, tops, and it was gratifying as all get out. Tangible results! Praise and kudos from mama! Yippee! But trying to declutter a whole house is something else entirely. Especially when your house is shared by two treasure-seeking, sentimental hoarders who, if you could look through your X-ray hoarding glasses as they pass through space, have stuff and things and papers and hair bows attracted like magnets to their little persons at all times. Which drop gracefully and in equal parts in every room of the castle. Small Fry in particular has a special talent for treasure seeking. Wherever you go, she is three steps behind with her sharp little eyes scanning the ground and her pockets growing full of crystals, discarded gum wrappers, tiny sequins, acorns and teeny flowers. Big Stuff's talent is for dropping all the things that cling to her as she passes from room to room. Backpack, shoes, a sock, a sweater, some school papers, a jump rope, four books, and the other sock ....she leaves a trail of bread crumbs like Gretel but in reverse. The bread crumbs lead FROM there TO here. You never have to wonder where or if she's been in a room. Just check for open drawers and towels on the floor. So my decluttering theme includes the vast and scary "Playroom." And I am cleaning and cleaning in there. I am taking out garbage bags full of toys, stuffed animals, Polly Pocket shoes, broken dolls, torn playing cards, and I am amazed that hours later, it doesn't look much better! I am overwhelmed. And annoyed. But then I come across a stack of baby books - Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? Goodnight Moon. Jeremy Fisher. And I recall hours of rocking in my glider and reading these sweet books to them as they snuggled in my arms and stroked my hair. And I come across a destroyed versions of Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders and remember playing these first sweet games with them as they learned their colors and how to count. And I find the purses I bought to match their Easter dresses, full of treasures, of course. And the dollies we used to feed and burp when they were not far out of the feeding and burping stages themselves. And I thought, how would I feel about cleaning all this out if they were grown up and these many and varied treasures represented long-ago memories of the little girls I once had? Suddenly, these things are no longer clutter to be cleaned out but a picture of happy childhoods being lived. And I felt better about the cleaning and looked at it in a whole new light. Although my ruthless plan now became derailed by sentiment for things I cannot bear to part with. Mess, repurposed as ways to appreciate my life. It's still recycling. :-)

Monday, January 18, 2010

We are Not the Bradys

Here's the story
Of a lovely lady

Who was bringing up two very lovely girls

Both of them had hair of brown

Like their mother

The youngest one in really straight hair....

How did they do it, that Brady Bunch? They were always so happy-go-lucky and full of good intentions. And if they weren't happy, the parents always knew just the right thing to say to put them back on track. Gentle correction mixed with loving encouragement. God, how I hate those Bradys. Why did Sherwood Schwartz think it proper to torture the parents of the future with his mad, mad vision of the happ-happ-happiest family in all of TV Land? Why can't I come up with snappy, insightful comebacks when my children are acting up? How did Carol manage to look cute and perky for Mike after handing out said snappy, insightful comebacks all day? All Cutie Pie gets is an earful. I'm just spreading the love, of course. Just making him feel part of the daily affairs of the family. Whew, God knew what He was doing when he gave me that man. St. Everlasting of the Patience. I will try not to be a Brady-hater. Anyway, Mike Brady doesn't hold a candle to the man of our house.