discretion, inspiration, life lessons, love, mindfulness

Never Forget

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This is one of the few pictures we have of my mom and her family before the war.  She was an adorable little girl who grew into a beautiful and haunted woman.  I think some of the relentless, unforgiving thoughts that defined so much of her persona were driven by memories such images evoked, further fueled by the unanswerable question, “what if?”.  “What if” there had been no Holocaust?  “What if” they could have remained in Vienna along with their sizeable extended family?  “What if” she had been able to grow up with frivolity?  “What if” her back story was so benign, so unremarkable that it didn’t inform her entire life?

Holocaust Remembrance Day – I wrote of it last year.  I honor it again.  Elie Wiesel once said, “To forget the Holocaust is to kill twice”.  With a bowed back, I realize that he is right – for this is a lesson the world has yet to embrace.  The irony of unanimous agreement that humanity is precious and the disparity that clearly exists in its definition.  And we bear witness over and over again – the self-righteous rationalization about the expendability of some people over others.  We’re not talking about Darwin.  After Kristalnacht, my grandfather went to schul with the conviction that the answer to this horror would be found in more devout prayer.  This is not about evolutionary theory.  This is a human tale.

My mother’s story lives now in my sister and I.  It has been with us since we were born, whispered to us as we were carried by our grandfather,  packed in our lunch boxes, tucked into our clothes.  We honored it because it was so big and inconceivable and intangible, yet as real and palpable as mom herself.  It was every nightmare that would wake us when she screamed.  It weighted every argument in mom’s favor when I fought my way through adolescence.  It remains as a part of every prayer I mouth to the sky in the morning – sending love to my parents, appreciation for  this life, my family and friends, and imploring that we all continue to be blessed with health and love.  It lives in me.  Perhaps it will remain in her grandchildren, and so on.  Time has a way of diluting even the starkest memories.  The ones you swear you’ll always remember.  Maybe the details will get lost, and what will survive within them is a more sophisticated palate – able to taste  the exquisite, indescribable sweetness to life.  The passionate advocacy for the value of humankind.

When mom passed away in 2005, her obituary ran in the New York Times.  It read in part, “Dee was born and spent her early childhood in Vienna, making her one of that shrinking cohort who experienced and survived the monstrous storm of Nazi violence.  Her father and mother…took the family out of Austria shortly after the Anschluss, making their way first to Belgium and then through occupied France.  The family made its way to Portugal, where on August 16, 1941, they found passage among 765 other refugees on the Spanish freighter Navemar – one of the last voyages of escapees from Europe.  Dee’s children and grandchildren bear in their hearts eternal, existential gratitude for her family’s valor and persistence.  Her intelligence, humor and immense energy were a gift to us all.  Our family’s particularly gladdened that Dee lived long enough to know of the safe return..of her eldest grandson, Matthew, from Iraq, where for the past year he has served in harm’s way the country that gave his grandmother safe haven.”

In acknowledging this day of Remembrance, I honor my family.  I honor the memories that once glared in every corner, and now have softened to shadows.  I will do my part to make sure that though they may dim and blur, they should never be forgotten.

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Once again Bill (drbillwooten.com) offers up the most perfect thoughts from Mary Oliver for this morning..

Dr Bill Wooten

“Have I lived enough?
Have I loved enough?
Have I considered Right Action enough, have I
come to any conclusion?
Have I experienced happiness with sufficient gratitude?
Have I endured loneliness with grace?

I say this, or perhaps I’m just thinking it.
Actually, I probably think too much.

Then I step out into the garden,
where the gardener, who is said to be a simple man,
is tending his children, the roses.”

~ Mary Oliver

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friendship, humor, life lessons, love, Uncategorized

The Returning Conqueror

Today the Prince returns – victorious from his infamous weeklong battle against the baseball diamond.  But for a mild muscle pull here and an inexplicable ache there, he emerges unscathed with the loving attention of the locker room trainers still warming his skin.  His feats will soon become the stuff of legend – his remarkable batting and fielding stats, his control of the lands around second base.  There is no need for a moat when the Prince is there to protect the kingdom of baseball.

With a visit to see his parents before camp started, it’s been ten days since I’ve seen the Prince – and it’s time for him to come home.  I need no proof that I enjoy my own company, no test to see whether or not I can manage.  Been there, done that – and it was fine thank you very much.  But in order for this house to feel at peace, it needs the Prince.  This is where he belongs – whether he’s zoning out playing some game on his iPad or napping on the couch.  He needs to be here so I can make him laugh so hard he snorts.  So he can dance with me in the kitchen.  So he can reach the top of the garage door, because it’s stuck.  Because I miss hearing, “Hi doll girl” in the way that only the Prince can say it.  I will not go so far to say that I miss hearing his a cappella “King Of The Road” (but thinking about it makes me smile).

And I want him to go back next year if that’s what he wants to do.  This annual flight of fantasy gives him feelings of delighted anticipation, and the reality has yet to be less than all he imagined.  So go ahead Andy, sign up for 2014 – you are well on your way to being a legend in your own time.

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I love Renee’s blog “Life In The Boomer Lane” (lifeintheboomerlane.wordpress.com) and was flattered when she asked me to write a guest post. Here it is for your enjoyment..

Life in the Boomer Lane

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Mimi, the author of Waiting for the Karma Truck, has asked me not to include her words about the karma truck in her bio, here. But, because I am a ten-year-old boy at heart, I am doing exactly that:

“What do I want to tell you? I guess the same thing I say to everyone – the karma truck rolls up everyone’s driveway. Believe me. You may not be there to see it, you may never know it arrived definitively – but it’s on the road and it has the correct address. At the risk of sounding terribly hokey, you have to trust in the universe, God, Lou – whoever. That truck is on a mission and it hasn’t missed a delivery yet.”

I’m not an expert on karma, but I must have been doing something right to have discovered Mimi’s blog. She is unfailingly wise and literate and…

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anxiety, friendship, life lessons, love

Coming Full Circle, Sort Of..

My sister and brother-in-law are in the midst of moving into their recently renovated house.  It’s been the longest labor and delivery – literally and figuratively.  And now that they have their little parcel of joy (so to speak), I hope they love and enjoy it and make it their own.  Needless to say I can’t wait to see the new addition to the family (I know that was a groaner, but I couldn’t resist).

There is a gentle irony in her move to this house.  Although we didn’t grow up there, it’s proximate to where my parents lived (they bought their house when my sister and I were already in college.  I used to say that had we moved to the suburbs before I finished high school, my graduation gift would have been way better than a Panasonic stereo).  It is where I remember them at their happiest.  And it became home – because it was where they were,  where my children crawled and toddled and ran – where so many memories were made.    My sons always reference this house when remembering their grandparents – the backyard with apple trees as bases and dad throwing pitch after pitch after pitch, looking for shells down at the dock, creating innumerable ways to take indoor soccer to new levels of hilarity.  It’s where Andy and I got married.

I can’t wait to visit my sister and yet, when I think about driving up 95 and getting on the Hutch, my eyes cloud with tears and there are no words.  No words.  Perhaps because my heart is too full.  There are some things that time doesn’t temper.  There are some moments that may  change in hue or shading, but remain the same in form and substance.

This sentimentality is heightened by another serendipitous experience.  My parents had a circle of friends (all European but for our dad)  that was arguably too close, too intimate, too ‘Mad Men’.  They were known as “The Group” – they had their children within months of each other,  summered together in the Catskills, wintered together at each other’s houses.  As their offspring, we identified with each other in so many unspoken ways.  All first generation Americans (again, dad being the exception), all growing up with a European perspective of child-rearing, all connected by an emotional cord tied by our parents.  Until it unraveled when we were young adults.

You know where this is going – Deb and three of these women have picked up that cord once more.  They had dinner together recently, and she described it as warm and loving.  They will see each other again; I’m hoping to join them.  And slowly I feel the ground shift, the angles inherent to any journey smoothing and perhaps unresolved elements coming full circle.  I find myself gravitating to these memories and holding myself back, venturing forward with some reluctance.  I need to protect the little girl who is in my care; she still has hurt along with the delight.  She’s never been very good at self-protection.

So I sit here in the silence that arrives with snowfall, recognizing the wonder in the nexus of these moments, their undeniable connection to the past and their inextricable relevance to the present.  As to the future?  It’s not mine to predict – I just know that it makes me smile, albeit with one tear.

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I love Mary Oliver – and I am grateful to Bill for posting this. As for who I thought of when I read this? All of us at different times in our lives. There is only one voice that should serve as the clarion call – your own. Have a great Monday all.

Dr Bill Wooten

“One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice-
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations, though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen branches and stones.
but little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do-
determined to save
the only…

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humor, inspiration, life lessons, love, mindfulness, motivation, Uncategorized

On My Own

Well, the King of our castle is off to baseball camp.  Over the next week Andy will be in the field and up at bat, he will pitch and catch, spit pumpkin seed shells and talk it up in the dugout.  He will have Yankee trainers rub his shoulders, ice his knees and disingenuously marvel (while appearing completely credible) at the athletic prowess of these campers-of-a-certain-age.

Andy left with a suitcase filled to capacity.  Two baseball gloves; cleats; Yankee swag from his prior camp days – baseball hats, sneakers, long-sleeved t-shirts, short-sleeve t-shirts.  For all I know there are Yankee socks and underwear carefully folded in his suitcase along with dress shirts for their special bonding dinners, jeans for those casual evenings of drinking at the hotel bar, etc.  You want to make sure you’re one of the cool kids at camp – sartorially as well as athletically.  His carry on?  A Yankee bat bag, of course.  The amount of testosterone which is now coursing through his body is exponentially greater than it was a week ago.  Buh-bye sweetie.

So, for the past couple of days I have been on my own.  The palace has been alive with frivolous pleasure and impetuous pursuits.  I really hesitate to share it with you, lest you think less of me as a result.  A wanton woman, with a fickle tendency to move from one amusement to the next.

I have organized the pantry, the shelves of spices and the linen closet.  A new featherbed sits atop our mattress.  Two books finished; new music filling the house with the volume high enough that it can be relished in any room.  In a moment of cheeky adventure, I scoured Whole Foods for some highly caloric delight that would normally never make its way past my lips.  I ended up with sesame seed seaweed wraps and a bag of Good ‘N Plenty from the drugstore.  C-r-a-z-y, huh?

I know what you’re thinking.  If I’m cavorting with such abandon so early in the week, how will I manage to maintain this pace until the weekend?  Stamina my friends, I have stamina.  And a somewhat perverse definition of having fun.  Breakfast at the diner with my kids – goofy and fun.  The sun offering gorgeous shadows and prisms in the kitchen while the dishwasher hums and the Sirs grab a mid-morning snooze – delightful.  Knowing that my husband is having the time of his life – it’s fun for me too.  Happiness need not shout its presence to me, I hear it loud and clear in this moment – right now.  The week will unfold however it will, with bitter cold weather expected and an abiding warmth at the prospect that I need do nothing differently in order to feel happy.   It really is ‘all good’ and I challenge any umpire to tell me that I’m not ‘safe at home’.

 

friendship, inspiration, life lessons, mindfulness, motivation, Uncategorized

Very Sweet And Low In Calorie

It’s been a cocooning kind of week.  I’ve only taken the karma truck out to visit friends, read their posts and marvel at their talents.  I was beginning to worry a bit that I had run out of gas (so to speak), but realized that isn’t the case.  Sometimes you just have to idle for a little bit. Perhaps not the most intriguing scene to set, but the most transparent.

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So it came as a complete, out-of-the-blue surprise when I received the Super Sweet Blogging Award from Vicky, the author of the absolutely gorgeous ‘This Abundantly Delicious Life’ (abundelic.wordpress.com).  Vicky’s blog successfully meets her intention – she has created a space of gratitude and appreciation.  Her delight with all that surrounds her and her awareness of so much within her, brings me back all the time.  Thank you so much for including me in your thoughts Vicky – I am in rarefied company!

Though I am not known for my ability to follow directions, I will do so now.  The rules are as follows:

1. Thank the person who nominated you. Check.

2. Answer the questions.  Next paragraph

3. Pay it forward to a baker’s dozen and notify them. The paragraph after the next one.

Questions

1.  Cookies or cake?

Yes.

2.  Chocolate or vanilla

Chocolate.  Unless I’m having a soft-serve ice cream cone, in which case I have to have a combination of the two.

3.  What is your favorite sweet treat, cheesecake or frozen yogurt?

I thought frozen  yogurt was just good for you – it’s a treat?  Sigh…

4.  When do you crave sweet things most?

Late afternoon.  When others are pouring a glass of wine, I am looking for M&Ms.

5.  If you had a sweet nickname, what would it be?

I did actually..My dad called me ‘cookie’.  It was easier to say than ‘linzer tart’ or ‘apple turnover’ (the two forbidden treats that we would always get when sent to the bakery to pick up some seedless rye bread).

My baker’s dozen – as you know, I struggle with this, for there are so many bloggers I admire (and Vicky already named quite a few of them!)

makebelieveboutique.com

renardmoreau.wordpress.com

jmgoyder.com

thejolynproject.com

russtowne.com

drbillwooten.com

thehandwrittenlife.wordpress.com

universalmusings.com

almostspring.com

ivonprefontaine.com

life-with-the-topdown.com

throughmylens365.wordpress.com

gotoppm.com

 

Wait – there’s more!!  There really are more – there’s so much talent out there.  It is humbling to part of this community.  Thank you Vicky – your timing was truly karmic.

 

discretion, humor, life lessons, love, motivation

And On Deck…My Husband

It may be winter here in the US, but it’s already baseball season in my husband’s heart.  Truth be told, it’s never not baseball season in Andy’s heart.  He has been a Yankee fan since he was in utero (his mother is an avid fan and I have no doubt he was listening to Yankee games long before he ever greeted the world).  This is no fickle affection – you can say whatever you want about the team many people love to hate – there is no logic to this love, there is no reason to this rhyme.  He is besotted.  Retrospectively, I clearly was a contender for his marital intentions because I’m from New York and as such an unlikely enemy to the team.  I am no longer jealous; I am amused.  I have met my competition and our understanding is mutually acceptable.

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The Yankees can have him.

Honestly, they can – and they will – starting next Sunday when Andy heads to Yankee Fantasy Camp.  This will be his third trip to sleep-away camp, and the excitement in our house is getting a little out of control.  He’s been hitting the gym with brio, practicing his swing at the batting cages, and yesterday he got a new glove (he will be prepping it appropriately over the next few days).  The Yankee swag is re-appearing as the anticipation of packing begins.  Later this week, I will also make sure he has ice packs, the newest in knee braces and an appropriate complement of ace bandages and Tylenol.

I visited Fantasy Camp last year, met some aging icons of the team – most of whom are bloated, arthritic, charming and well past their prime.  That said, on the last day when the ‘pros’ play the ‘campers’ at Steinbrenner Field, they can still impress.  True, each amateur team only plays two innings against the pros, but that’s still about ten innings for the pros.  David Wells was one of the coaches for Andy’s team – funny guy with a belly that prevents him from seeing his toes anymore – who can still throw heat and intimidate by his sheer size.  He quickly surmised that I was the ‘wiseguy’ in the family, and spoke of my husband as if he was a cute little boy who was giving it his all.  Andy was beaming – and for one moment I thought I was attending a parent/teacher conference.  He also wasn’t alone – all these boys/men gazed upon their idols with a sense of proprietary adoration, each hoped to hear an ‘atta boy’.  By the end of the week they were all thisclose.

There’s lots of bonding that goes on – from comparing pulled muscles and experiences with the trainers to shouting support and butt-patting.  Spitting in the dirt.  It gets a little infectious.  I yelled out “Go Two!” (Andy had chosen the number 2 for his jersey) and as all these men looked over in my direction,  my father-in-law gently pointed out that such encouragement could be directed to half the team, since a lot of them were also thinking of Derek Jeter when they selected their number of choice.  Ok, my bad.  I just thought that shouting “Go honey” was a little lame.

By the end of the week, all of these middle-aged men have lived their most replayed childhood fantasy.  They’re playing with the pros.  In Yankee uniforms, on Yankee turf.  Their names announced over the loudspeaker – not by someone’s dad – but by a legitimate-sounding announcer. It all gets pretty heady I think.  I wonder whether there are emotional group hugs as the buses prepare to head for the airport, with promises to write every day and strains of “See You In September” playing overhead.  I do know that the only pictures on Andy’s Facebook page are of his athletic prowess as a pseudo-Yankee.

At the end of the day, there’s little I enjoy more than seeing my husband and/or kids happy.  That kind of happy that makes you smile from the inside out, prompted by a sensation that is impossible to describe but feels a little like bubbles.  And there is little if anything that makes Andy happier than getting to play ball with icons from his youth.  To hang out with guys who totally ‘get it’ and still have the capacity to delight the kid within.  I hope we’ve all been there and continue to go there whenever possible – I have and I do.  When I screamed “I LOVE YOU JAMES” at the Garden a few years back when James Taylor and Carole King were on their ‘Live At The Troubadour’ tour (I say with all humility that I’m sure he heard me and was looking directly at me while he performed. My row and seat number?  Is that really relevant??).   Or when I pretend I’m Ray Lewis entering a football stadium (it is f-i-e-r-c-e let me tell you) or ‘Vogue’ in the kitchen a la Madonna.  It just kind of bubbles up inside and you have to just play.

So, put him in Coach – he’s beyond ready.

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discretion, friendship, humor, life lessons, love, mindfulness, music

The Magic Of This Moment

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I’m easily amazed.  Others who know me might suggest that I’m ridiculously gullible (my beloved comes to mind).  When I was little, I would watch my dad pull grapes from my friends’ ears, I believed in Tinkerbell with unshakeable conviction and I knew with certainty that when I went to sleep each night, my toys came to life and had a party.  As I write this, I’m not exactly sure that the last sentence should be written in the past tense.  I’ve not changed much.

I don’t define magic as the mastery of optical illusion, the sleight of hand that can be explained by a slo-mo instant replay.  Magic is bigger than that.  Magic belongs up there with miracles, faith, love…Magic is what allows you to see two cardinals playing tag even though your heart is breaking.  Magic is the sound of a baby’s belly laugh.  Magic is in music that can lift you up and carry you to places you didn’t even know you could create.  There’s magic in the silence of the early hours of morning.  Like no other silence, it is protective and intimate and comforting.

Though I’m no magician, there is a spell that has been woven between us  that draws me to this connection time and time again.  I can’t explain how these friendships have formed, why these conversations are often more enriching than those that occur in face-to-face dialogue.  I leave it to magic – for magic allows for that which should remain inexplicable, fantastic.

How do I define the child that dances in my soul and escapes so I can play air guitar in the kitchen (I am really good at this by the way), use my brush as a microphone and turn my bathroom into a concert venue?  Magic.  Because Dahl was right – there is truly something magical to be felt in each moment that is heeded.  Each connection holds a bit of wonder that defies logic.  So, today I hope you suspend logic for a little while.  Catch a ray of sunshine and hold it close for minute.  Feel the magic.

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I love this movie..I love the music. I love that in the deepest despair, the act of surrender can give rise to the most elemental joy in the world. Thank you for this post today Bill..

Dr Bill Wooten

“I was happy, I knew that. While experiencing happiness, we have difficulty in being conscious of it. Only when the happiness is past and we look back on it do we suddenly realize – sometimes with astonishment – how happy we had been.” ~ Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek

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