Wednesday, June 30, 2010


The first few days of summer are tough. I find, at least for us, it’s sort of like going to the prom. There’s so much hoopla and excitement leading up to it, the actual onset of the season sort of lands with a thug. My children take about 7-10 days to decompress from their scheduled out school days and to figure out a new, less hourly rhythm. During the interim, they fight with each other, feel antsy and out of sorts. And it’s not something you can put your finger on, but it hangs heavy in the humid air and makes everyone behave a little nuts.

This year is different for us, too, because we’re not travelling our usual path. Each summer for the past several we’ve packed up and headed for “the lake” for a week or two and in time to enjoy the same 4th of July festivities I took part in when I was a kid. I guess I didn’t realize or at least didn’t factor how much those trips defined summer for us, and how we’d feel if we didn’t travel.

This year we’re free to chalk up new expectations and experiences, but I’m not sure anyone is truly up to the task, primarily me, the family fun task master. This notion of mapping our summer out gives me pause and makes me wonder: is it really necessary to PLAN summer?

And then there’s the fact that everyone is getting older and pushing boundaries for more freedom. My son is eleven, and I’m conscious of needing to let go a little bit more. It’s difficult — to trust and to not have total (real or perceived) control over his safety. I remember when I was his age riding my bike all the way across town to swim practice. In fact, I was pretty much unchecked the entire day during the summer.

So today he rode to swim practice and tennis on his own. That was big for me. Riding your bike around Alexandria, VA is a little bit different than Huron, Ohio, but the need for that freedom and then experiencing it are much the same. It’s a pinnacle time for him. So I step back, however difficult and scary for me.

Maybe it’ll be easier with the girls when their turn comes, but I doubt it, and I don’t know where we’ll be or what my geographical/demographical worries will entail. It might be easier to send everyone to camp for “simulated” freedom, away from the parental unit, but still under some sort of supervision. It’s something to consider, but I still feel like exploring your own, everyday world under a new less “parent driven” perspective MEANS something. It weighs in on the memory scale.

So we’re in day five or six of our summer daze … things are feeling a bit more calm. Everyone seems a little less worried about “what’s next,” including me. Fingers crossed, by day 10 we will have found our summer groove — freedom from our worries along with the ability to just RELAX and enjoy whatever the day brings.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


My mom called me the other day and let me know she mailed me something and to keep a look out. I love my mom’s packages. I get the same feeling of anticipation I used to get in camp or in college when she sent me something totally delightful and unexpected.

In this particular parcel, she said she placed a pair of shorts. She walked away from them in the store, went back, bought and then tried them on every day for a week (we girls all have been there), before deciding they weren’t for her. But maybe I’d like them. I love it when I'm the beneficiary of my Mom's impulse purchases.

I was expecting to open the Priority Mail box and find a nice pair of bermudas. (I mean, if I’m 42, and my mom had me in her late 20s, then … I guess I just assumed a conservative cut …) No. I should’ve known better with Mary Jo. No. I opened the package to find a rockin’ pair of the shortest short shorts made from the cotteniest cotton I’ve ever seen — in drab green, of course; classic mom.

Now — I really don’t know why I expected anything different. She once came home and told me she’d found my wedding dress while on a trip (I was set on vintage, but she had visions of my aged couture unraveling around me down the aisle), and presented a box no larger than a standard Christmas gift box they hand out at Macy’s. I thought she was joking and bought me lingerie, or something to that effect. But, no — and yep. My wedding dress was the shortest short short nothing of a lace dress I’d ever seen. I loved it at first sight.

There’s a really funny picture from our wedding of me and my dad ‘rounding the corner into the parlor (at least our wedding site was vintage), and one of my mom’s friends faces in a big “OH!” expression in the background. I thought the tulle on my floor-length veil compensated and complimented my mini wedding gown nicely.

I love my mom. There is no one else on earth to whom I’m closer and could ever know me better. I love our friendship, but I also love that she is my mom. She is the coolest, most beautiful and courageous person. I think more than anything, she taught me to be myself, no matter what. I have to remember that as an individual and a mom to my three, now. She was never June Cleaver, nor did she ever claim/want to be, but she was always true to herself, and by extension my sister and I. I can only hope the same for my children.

She constantly surprises me, and I think it’s the coolest thing ever my mom still wears short shorts. She inspires me. I have mine on as I write this … thanks, Mom.

Monday, June 21, 2010


Today my seven-year-old (youngest) Gabby and I decided to take a day off from life's regular demands. I kept her home from school because, lately, she’s just exhausted; all the time. All of the end-of-year revelry, while fun, just gets a little overwhelming for her. We’ve been going from one year-end occasion to the next, with barely enough time to regroup and get the next sidedish prepared. She needs her down time. I can totally relate. Too much of a good thing …

… So she bopped around with me today “doing what Mommys do.” I bought her a new composition book to write a story while she waited for me at the Doctor’s office during my annual “spot check.” All clear for another year, so maybe I was in the mood to celebrate, as I sweat my sunburned youth in a big way every time I enter the dermatologist’s office… or maybe it was just the right thing on the right day.

Gabby was looking at a foodie magazine and came across summer pie recipes. Now there’s something that will cure whatever ails you: baking pies. When life is all rush rush, and you can’t seem to get a grip, there’s nothing better than throwing it all into the face of a pie. You cannot be in a hurry when you’re baking. It takes time, and patience. Now patience isn’t something I ever claimed to have much of, but lately I’ve been “actively” practicing mine through baking.

So after the doc’s office, we decided we’d chuck everything else we were supposed to accomplish, and just make a pie. Gabby chose blackberry, but blueberries are more available at the moment (therefore cheaper for six cups), so we’re going by way of the blueberry.

When I asked for lard at the local Wholefoods (I thought if anyone would have it, they would), they very nicely raised their eyebrows and said they didn’t carry it. I think at first I confused the girl, because she sent to the frozen pie crusts. No, I wanted to say, “Lard. Like tub of lard. Lard ass. Lard.” But I didn’t, because that wouldn’t have been nice and, besides, Gabby was with me. So we settled on a very expensive tub of organic “Crisco” type of product. Not the same, though.

Making pies is great therapy. It brings us together in a moment of focused, calm, togetherness, and we all enjoy creating — and then eating — our version of a masterpiece. I made my first fresh fruit pie with my dear friend Jen. She’s no longer with us on earth, and I think of her every time I make a pie. It was 4th of July about 10 years ago in Ohio, and we even did a lattice crust. It was fun, and delicious, and I can still see her smile and hear her laughter when I close my eyes and think of that moment.

Making pie isn't everyone's idea of a fun-filled day, but for me — it’s memory making magic.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


When we grow older, is it more difficult to make friends, or have we simply run out of the curiosity and openness it takes to make new, lasting connections outside of family? I wondered that last week, as I felt like going to lunch and suddenly realized I really had no one to ask (or more pointedly, felt comfortable enough to ask). I used to. That’s one of the pitfalls of moving so much and having friends who also move a lot.

Last year, for example, I had at least two great pals in proximity I could call at the drop of a hat and who I loved to visit. But now they’re gone. I haven’t “filled” their position, and I really don’t know if I have enough energy to put forth the effort. Because by next year, chances are I’ll be gone, too. (I mean, God willing, I will have moved again myself. Not gone from this earth.)

And besides, their shoes aren’t so easily filled. It’s not often you meet someone in life with whom you connect like a forgone conclusion.

It’s a cycle. But it’s also me. My husband says he worries about me; that I go a little more “into the woods” with each passing year and with every move we make. Maybe he’s right. Maybe I do. I’m a bit reclusive, anyway. It took me a few months into the year to get the urge to call someone for lunch, only to realize all my “someones” had been gone a while. Does that make me a poor friend, or simply distracted? I hope it’s the latter.

But I have dear ones. I don’t see them every day or even every year, but they’re out there. I heard from a few of them recently when Sex in the City II came out right around my birthday. We all celebrated my 40th together a couple of years ago. (I felt it premiered just for me, just like I felt some 24 years earlier that the movie Sixteen Candles debuted in my honor on my birthday). Both are good friend memories.

That makes me wonder this: As your friend memory bank grows, do you gain more fulfillment resourcing good times gone by, vs seeking out new fraternal experiences?

That’s not to say I don’t have many acquaintances throughout the day. I do see people. Mostly related to the kids’ activities and their school, but still, there are plenty of nice people to whom I can say hello and talk about the weather.

But that’s different. I think as adults it’s difficult to make visceral, instant connections with people like we did when we were young. We have too many barriers that just weren’t there before. I met one of my nearest and dearest over catching frogs. Now that’s grassroots. But it happens, still, occasionally. The stars align (or thunder). Another recent great friendship began when upon moving in to the house we live in now, our neighbor came to warn us our power goes out a lot during storms. Just then a big thunder/lightening combo hit, and there went the power. I knew right then I had to get to know her. But, alas, she's moved on ...

Those are the friendships I miss and still try to nurture across the miles. Because, who knows, maybe one day our distances won’t be so extreme. We will have lunch, and pick up our conversation right where we left it last we met.

I guess I can wait. And so today I’ll take myself out to lunch and a movie. And then, maybe I will make a few calls, just to let you know you’re in my thoughts …

Saturday, June 5, 2010


“Another chance to excel” — that’s what Rick’s old commander used to say when he threw a new challenge or “mandatory volunteer opportunity” his way in addition to his already hectic schedule. These are extracurricular activities (burdens?) without the benefit of additional pay. Think about it. We all do this to one extent or another. We give ourselves new responsibilities to fulfill in order to be fulfilled. This week I’ve given myself one of those.

We adopted a (mostly) coonhound from the local animal welfare center. His name is Horace. He is adorable … and slobbery … and hairy … and really curious. As I practice patience and force down an overwhelming desire to follow him around the house with a wet wipe in one hand and vacuum in the other, I began wondering about self-imposed challenges, vs everyday living life ones. Because surely there are enough of those ...

It seems like when life settles into certain patterns, many of us (definitely at least I) seek out new ways to climb mountains. Like this blog; I keep wondering why I’m not satisfied with simply keeping a journal. But I’m not. So I jet this out with a self-imposed deadline to keep myself accountable … mostly to keep writing, I guess. I often wonder why I create these extra challenges.

Are we genetically constructed of “survival” fiber to the extent that when we’re not fighting to simply live (or to live simply) on a daily basis, we create simulated "aliveness" situations? In the case of Horace, maybe it’s just that I love dogs. But I also love order (and the peonies I splurged on at the farmers' market this morning, which Horace promptly ate), so this seems a self-defeating prophecy, or at least a little counter-intuitive.

Maybe it’s both. After all, I am the queen of my own castle (or cabin).

And I think next week I’ll begin training for a marathon — or at least half of one. Wish me luck.