life lessons

Today

Twenty years ago today, I was in our offices in midtown Manhattan. I hesitate to write about my memories of that day, for my story is unremarkable when compared to those who lived and died, loved and lost. My story is of someone on the periphery – who wandered through the city in a state of horror and disbelief, too stunned to cry.

I remember the smell; this massive cloud of ash and dirt consuming the bluest of skies. People hugging each other as they walked to the bridges that would take them closer to their homes. And those who just wandered, unsure where their feet would take them, each step once so assumed, now tentative and aimless. Sirens and silence, silence and sirens.

A woman’s hysterical efforts to reach her daughter at One World Trade, and the way she collapsed when she finally heard her voice. The plans being put in place for me to travel to each of our offices (each one in a building that was considered high risk for future attacks). Retrospectively it seems bizarre that I flew across the US and Europe – a nod to our need to comfort and console. It was part of our firm’s culture back then. And in each city, the empty streets, the unspoken anxiety, the fear and the personalization of loss too large to really comprehend. My son called me when I was in LA – he enlisted. I stopped breathing until he came home. He came home.

(I remember watching the members of the Senate holding hands and singing on the steps of the Capitol. We are terrific when our foes are outside our borders; we can’t seem to get a collective grip when handling our internal threats. We are so reckless with our hubris – damn).

I didn’t lose anyone I knew on September 11th and all those tragic stories are not mine to tell. So many heroes, so many lives, so many loves – and I still listen with a humble reverence as the bell tolls. And I’m embarrassed that I felt like writing all this down.

Haruki Murakami wrote that “Memories warm you up on the inside. But they also tear you apart.”

life lessons, love

The Things No One Tells You

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That’s the crib in our sitting room upstairs.  It’s ready and waiting for our first grandchild who is due later this week (of course it’s up to her to decide when she’s ready).  Pretty exciting stuff.  Other than the arrival of one’s own children, there are few other heart-in-your-mouth moments in life.  And I could wax pseudo-poetic on the magnificence of pearly toes and downy ears, that indescribable smell on the back of a baby’s neck, the sensation of little breaths against one’s cheek.

What they don’t tell you is that part of you re-awakens..the part that looks at your child-who-is-now-a-man and remembers how he would cling to you like a little monkey – arms and legs tightly wound around you so that there was no need to hold on to him for he was secure against your body (though you held him just the same).  They don’t tell you that as he anticipates his daughter’s arrival or marvels at his wife’s equanimity and calm or imagines the awesome child that they are going to have, you are left alone with a sense of mild imbalance.  For you can’t pull him onto your lap and remind him that you have been there – you had the experience of awesome children.  Somehow there aren’t words that you can say any longer with the same forgiveness extended – that you’re a mushy, soppy mom who still is completely in love with her kids/men.  And I am watching my son prepare to be a parent.

They don’t tell you that there is something surreal about it all.  How this cycle, as reliable as night following day, moves in a rhythm of its own design.  How you wish and wonder, hope and dream, fret and agonize, invest a love that defies description into years that you feel will be forever (certainly some phases that seemed endless too).  I mentioned this to my sister – ‘when did this happen, Deb?  How did we get here?’  She told me that when I was pregnant, my mother said something similar – though she never mentioned it to me.  Undoubtedly I was far too wrapped up in the experience of becoming a mom to give much thought to her becoming a grandmother.  To think of her children having children.  I wish she was here – if only for me to tell her that I get it.

If there is any dissonance, its feeling so much love that I feel as if the heart can’t hold it all (for some of it must be held back or there’d be no dealing with me – as it is I can be insufferable).   That love?  Oh yes, baby girl it awaits you from so many corners of your life.  But there is a certain love – that love that happens between a parent and a child.  The one you hold onto forever while still letting go – that’s in there too.  And that is the legacy of love you will inherit when you arrive.

“Nobody can do for little children what grandparents can do.  Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children” — Alex Haley…I promise you stardust.

friendship, life lessons, love, mindfulness

Dear Universe

I’d write this to Santa, but being way over the age of majority and Jewish, it would seem remarkably disingenuous to do so.  Instead, I’m sending this to the universe, because based on my calculations, it’s large enough to handle a few requests from me.

Hi Universe,

How’s it going where you are?  Hopefully well, and you’re approaching the holidays with both anticipation and delight.  I hope you get all that you ask for and realize that you already have all that you want.  I’m not a big one for lists – I’ve been blessed too many times over to look at a gifted life and seek more.

And yet.

There are some things I desperately want this year.  You see, we’ll be welcoming our first grandchild into the world in February, and while I spend a ridiculous amount of time wondering what our relationship will be like, I’m spending more time perseverating about the world she will be joining.  And there’s some work we really need to do.

–  This year I want the world to work on forgiveness.  If we’ve done something wrong – to the world or to an individual – let’s own it, apologize, forgive and learn the lesson.  I feel emotionally assaulted everyday – whether it is the horrific senselessness of murder and ill-defined parameters of justice; too many homeless for my extra coats to warm; so much vitriol and judgment and too little shared compassion and faith.  Anonymous haters spitting venom in virtual environments where pain is the currency and absence of accountability is assured.  Can we have a body politic that agrees that a good foundation is one predicated upon us not hurting each other and/or this fragile earth we are only borrowing for a short while?  Can we eliminate the ‘yeah, but…’ and replace it with ‘maybe we can’?

–  This year I want families and friends to recognize that we can be extensions of our best selves to those we love the most and reflect a better self to those who we may never see again.  I want memories to be filled with limitless possibilities that we inspire with the merest of actions, the most innocent of exchanges, a smile.

–  I don’t want any more children to be hungry, or cold, or denied the feeling of being held in love and safety.

–  I want gratitude to be as contagious as kvetching and just as colorful.

–  I want the world’s religions to remember that the shared predicate is love.  I’m no scholar, but I’m no fool either.  If there is no love as a foundation, what is there to believe?

–  This year, I want this whole growing up thing to be a little easier.  I thought I’d at least know what I don’t know instead of finding the list increasing and expanding each day…Universe, I ask that we give ourselves the gift of the better part of who we are.  Chicken soup for the world, I guess.

“It’s funny:  I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools:  the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience.  But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools – friendship, prayer, conscience, honesty – and said ‘do the best you can with these, they will have to do.’  And mostly; against all odds, they do.”  — Annie LaMott

inspiration, life lessons, love, mindfulness

Compulsory Cocooning

Well, Bogey navigated us to the mountains yesterday, and despite his insistence on looking behind or beside us, we made it.

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And now comes the snow, with no estimates even suggested for those of us at ‘higher elevations’.  Clearly this ain’t no gamblin’ town.

It’s a cozy Thanksgiving this year – one beloved son and daughter-in-law, Andy, four Sirs (one grand-dog included at the Round Table) and yours truly.  One cherished son in Toronto; the other adored one, with his in-laws.  My sister is up in NY; Andy’s family in CA.  I’ve never prepared Thanksgiving for four.  And since I’m not sure how successful I will be at re-calculating measurements, there will be plenty of leftovers.  It feels a little strange – and yet it’s ok – for everyone is where they want/need to be.  And they’re fine.  Let’s move on.

Something about the silence that accompanies snow forces one to pause and listen.  It is right to pay attention at times like these.  When the world continually reminds us why we’re angry, impotent, righteously indignant and not righteous enough, the snow blinds me to all of this vitriol.  It provides a day of muted noise –  a compulsory moment to feel something other than head-shaking disillusion.

Gratitude and giving thanks – it’s as white and clean and pure as snow falling.  Despite some chronic pain stuff (yawn), which has compromised aspects of my life lately, I am choosing this moment of grace.  To be thankful.  Thankful for family and friends who are generous with their love and laughter; meager with their criticisms and callousness.  Thankful that I’m going to be a grandma in February and hopeful that I may be a vital part of this little girl’s life.  Thankful for new friends who expand my view of the road ahead, and old friends who have rejoined my travels and have myopic vision that forgives much of history.  Thankful for giggles that cause stomach aches, tears that cleanse and puppy kisses.  Thankful for books that transport and bring me home again.    Thankful for music that accompanies all my moments.  Thankful for featherbeds and drool-y naps.  Thankful for t-shirts warm from the dryer.  Thankful for those spaces in between – when my breathing slows and I bow my head.  ‘Please.  Wow. Thanks.’ – to paraphrase Annie Lamott.  That is the prayer; the alpha and the omega.  We are blessed.  We love and we are loved.  We have limitless capacity for a limited time.  Gotta get your grateful on.  And I do.  Before I get to the chestnuts that will be roasting and sweet potatoes baking and turkey brining…before the smells begin to infuse the house with hints of tomorrow’s yumminess.  Get to that place where the greatest tradition is observed – where you go to whisper ‘thank you’.

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inspiration, life lessons, love, Uncategorized

Ever Present; Usually Hidden

My parents were a great-looking couple.  More than their physical appearances – they looked vital, engaging life with much the same grace and rhythm with which they danced.  Something remarkable happened when they entered a room – they flirted and laughed and played and delighted those around them.  They did it differently, for in many respects they had completely individual life constructs and approaches.

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And today marks the eleventh year since my dad has been gone.  Eleven attenuated, inexorable years.  Eleven years that have passed before I took another breath.  To say I miss him is a cliché; to diminish that fact would be a lie.  He was my touchstone, the person I sought out when I needed to talk ‘work’ or topics which I held most private.  He brought me up short without hesitation and he delighted in my successes.  He was the most loving role model for my sons when they were little.  If they have integrated any of his values, curiosity, warmth, etc, they are the better men for it.

We listened to John Philip Sousa marches when we went into work together.  He would try to excite me about the book he was reading – whether it was about the life of a cell or the biography of some vague historical figure.  He read the New York Times on the subway, folding the paper in that efficient way that commuters did that allowed them to hold on to an overhead strap simultaneously.  And he would occasionally look over and laugh as he saw me nose-to-armpit with another commuter.  We would always drive in the next day.

The words I spoke at his funeral were buried with him.  Somehow I felt that they really didn’t matter to anyone except him.  And with him gone, there were some thoughts that I would never utter again.  And yet, I speak to him in some way or another every day.

This morning Bill Wooten @ drbillwooten.com posted a poem (re-printed below) that felt like it was meant for today and for me – as if my dad and I were walking down 82nd Street in Jackson Heights, heading for Shelley’s bakery.  As if he were still reminding me to look past that which disillusions me and find the aspect that brings a greater calm.  He is always here though he has been gone for so very long.  He is the lump in my throat.  He is the secret in my heart.  He is the presence I seek in the subtle gestures in each day.

The Invitation

“It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.

I want to know what you ache for, and

if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are.

I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love,

for your dreams, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon.

I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow,

if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or

have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain!

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own,

without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own,

if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you

to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be

careful, be realistic, or to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you’re telling me is true.

I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself;

if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul.

I want to know if you can be faithful and therefore be trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see beauty even when it is not pretty every

day, and if you can source your life from God’s presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine,

and still stand on the edge of a lake

and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes!”

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have.

I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair,

weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done for the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you are, how you came to be here.

I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied.

I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself,

and truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.”  — Oriah Mountain Dreamer, from the book ‘The Invitation’

humor, life lessons, love

On The Occasion Of Master Bogart’s 1st Birthday

Well, the Boge-meister turned a year old this week.  We’ve been looking forward to this day for about ten months now, confident that with each passing month, Bogey would mature a little, learn a bit more and begin to show signs of the amazing young guy he is destined to be.  By his first birthday we were sure he would be knighted as the third “Sir” of the Round Table.

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Let’s just say some puppies advance more quickly than others.

His Aunt Lori calls him ‘her little nugget’ – her love for him is one of his redeeming qualities.    The truth is that there are nuggets rolling around in Bogey’s brain, like the numbered orbs in a power ball machine.  Very few thoughts translate into a logical sequence of actions with this little guy.  Jo has offered to put together a behavior management program for him.  I’m thinking of taking her up on it.

He occasionally knows his name, although this is a variable occurrence unless treats are involved.

We think he hears voices.

None of them are ours.

There is something under the bed (the carpet) that inspires low growls and threats.  The ripple created by the pool filter is reason enough to howl menacingly into the darkness (from behind my legs – one mustn’t take unnecessary risks after all).  He debates with golems in his sleep; the golems win.

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He has finally potty-trained us – as long as Andy remembers the 9:00PM walk.  Should he forget, all bets are off.

I will say that Bogey is highly verbal, engaging in various conversations with real and/or imagined characters whether awake or asleep.  He has learned that if he whines incessantly (and it really is a whine), the Sirs will forego any toy with which they are playing, and let him have it, so that they may enjoy a little peace.  He may be a little short of brain cells, but he knows how to manipulate a crowd.

He is ridiculously cute – despite his apparent lack of smarts.  And he adores Andy.  In truth, wherever Andy goes, Bogey is right there.  Andy is besotted and looks at Bogey adoringly while often commenting, “he’s going to be a terrific dog when he grows up a bit”.  Um…ok sweetie, whatever you say.

When we drive up to the mountains, Master Bogey sits up front with Andy.  I sit in the back with the Sirs.  Never looking out the side window, or sticking his little head out to catch a breeze, he sits straight and looks at the road ahead, focused on…well, nothing probably.  Occasionally he checks in with those of us in coach, sniffing with a certain snobbery I don’t find all that becoming.

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Earlier this week, we sang “Happy Birthday” to our baby dog, and as he began jumping up and down, I felt this urge to break into “You’ve Got To Fight For The Right To Party”.  He is definitely a party dude.  I’ve always been a James Taylor kinda girl.  Sigh…

And yet, as I write this he’s asleep on my foot.  He leaps and pounces with a complete lack of grace.  He loves everyone he meets – arguably more than they may want to be loved.  Teddy cleans Bogey’s face with affection and Bogey in turn licks Archie’s face diligently.  They’re a pack.  They’re my fur-guys.  And I guess we were due for a little crazy.

with one of our grand-dogs Henry...
with one of our grand-dogs Henry…

anxiety, friendship, humor, life lessons, mindfulness, motivation

Pick A Card, Any Card…

I always wonder how magicians do it.  Being quite naive and slow to track a sleight of hand, I’m one of those excellent candidates that others shake their heads at, wondering how I could have missed it.  I miss it every time.  So when in the audience, I never volunteer.  I’m too easy.  Andy figures out all of these tricks – it’s part of that male mystique of his that requires the provision of an acceptable answer.

Lately I feel like I’m the one trying to figure out the scheme.  And as usual, I’m not exactly blinding anyone with my brilliance.  Rather, I’m letting each moment happen and have surrendered to the limits of my intellect.

In the past few weeks, there has been a health scare with my son (he’s totally fine – but if you think I could string two coherent words together at the time, you’d be giving me way too much credit).  I stayed awake – certain that if my vigilance failed for a moment, something awful might happen.  I’m not sure I was breathing, yet I must have been, ’cause I’m writing to you now.  As soon as I heard he was ok I saw myself as a puddle on the floor.  No longer with any form or substantive thought.  It doesn’t matter whether or not he understood my reaction for it wasn’t/isn’t about me – he’s the child (even though he’s an adult), I’m the mom.

One of my sons completed his MBA.  This is his second Master’s degree – both completed while working full-time at one of the most unforgiving consulting companies when it comes to time and billing (let me take that back – all professional service firms are unforgiving when it comes to time and billing).  Yes, I whooped when they called his name (but at his request, I didn’t yell “Go baby!”).  These men o’ mine are no longer men o’ mine – they are husbands first.  And I wanted my mama lion role back (with no disrespect to either one of my lovely daughters-in-law), mourned the loss of the role I know well.  Chuffing at the opening of my lair…

Andy’s parents are moving to CA to be closer to their daughter and her family.  The weather will be kinder. the opportunities greater for my father-in-law to golf, my mother-in-law to get involved in some activities.  Andy’s up there helping them get organized until he makes it home today.  We’ll go back up together on Wednesday.  I’ve been here before; there’s nothing about it that’s easy.

My cherished friend going through the ebbs and flows of possible transitions – not knowing from one moment to the next whether she’s going-along-to-get-along or passionately caring about the life choices ahead.

So I wake each day with a hint of worry attached to my coffee cup.  My shoulders a bit more bent.  Roles change all the time, relationships morph because that’s what relationships do.  The earth always moving beneath our feet and relying on our sense of balance to remain upright.

And yet…I am acutely aware that everything is ok.  I caught two blue jays yakking it up yesterday afternoon (wow are they loud).  The early morning stars shone with such clarity I wept at their beauty.  I gratefully accept the morning’s invitation.  Somewhere inside I am as full and fortunate as any one person can be.

I am going to take a page from some of my fellow bloggers and take a bit of a hiatus.  It’s not good-bye of course, just some time to fiddle with the idea of blogging, maybe change the paint on the karma truck, rotate the tires, shift gears so to speak.  It’s time – we’ve been on this road together for a long time and rather than lose the company, I’d prefer to pull over and park this baby for awhile.  Get outside, renew, re-think, restore.

And maybe, just maybe when I get back, I’ll be able to tell you just how the magicians do it.  See you soon.  Much love…m

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life lessons, love, mindfulness

Juggling Reality

I’m not the most graceful person – never have been.  I can trip over nothing, miss the lip of my coffee cup, bump into a wall – and that’s just walking from one end of the kitchen to the other.  Would that these were marketable skills.  What I typically balance well though are the variable weights of the thought bubbles in my head.  Have you ever stopped to consider how many disconnected thoughts jump around your mind in a five-minute period?  Some complete, others rejected.  Some stubbornly intractable, others as ephemeral as a breeze.  So we go through our days.

Perhaps it’s the disparate qualities of these thoughts that make them manageable.  When life events collide, and the thoughts are connected despite the qualities that make them each unique – well, that’s another story…that’s the stuff of which headaches are made.  Juggling – it’s not for the faint of heart.

Over the last few days, much has happened that is disparate yet similar.  Andy turned sixty.  My aunt passed away.  Our well temporarily ran out of water – literally.

Sixty is an impressive number.  A bit frightening even though the alternative is far scarier.  And this generation of ours is making sixty look damn good.  My daughter-in-law added a perspective I hadn’t considered – a birthday just makes you one day older than the day before.  Well that just means that Andy is 59 plus a few days.  And he wears it well.  But when he looked at me yesterday and simply said “I’m sixty years old”, I felt the weight of those words.  He is surprised naturally – how did we get here?  I’m still wondering whether or not he’s going to ask me to go steady.

We also had just come home from the funeral service for my aunt.  I hesitate to write too much about her, for as much as I loved her, there are four cousins of mine and six grandchildren who are the rightful authors of her story.  She was a vibrant, social, politically passionate spitfire with a great smile.  I remember lots of family moments at her house.  Her husband and my dad (they were brothers) singing “The Bluebird Of Happiness” before collapsing in tears of laughter.  Laughter.  That’s it.  I remember laughter.  I choose to remember laughter.  And how loving they were to my children.  Her last years were stolen by Alzheimer’s – an unforgiving thief.

And she was the last of my parents’ cohort group.  The last of my aunts and uncles.  It suggests that my sister, cousins and I are now next in this ineffable path.  I find that a difficult thought to hold onto for very long; I want to drop it, so I can pick it up when I’m ready – and yet it feels like it’s covered in Velcro.  I’m not ready for all the ramifications of being a grown-up.  My hunch is none of us are.  I am in love with life and I am angry that it has to end as we know it.  My head aches.  My heart aches.  And the sun rose this morning as it always does.

The well feels a bit dry as you can probably tell.  The well guys were here already this morning and needed to swap out a part, advising us to keep the power off for a couple of hours to give the well a chance to refill.  It seems like good advice.  Sometimes you just have to power down and give it all over.  Cry a bit.  Accept that there are questions without answers or at least fight them with less vehemence.  Let the sun hurt your eyes as it warms your skin.  It’s okay.

RadiatingBlossom.wordpress.com posted a poem yesterday which has stayed in my bones.  It seems a far better closing thought than anything I could offer.

The Thing Is –  Ellen Bass

To love life, to love it even

when you have no stomach for it

and everything you’ve held dear

crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,

your throat filled with the silt of it.

When grief sits with you, its tropical heat

thickening the air, heavy as water

more fit for gills than lungs;

when grief weights you like your own flesh

only more of it, an obesity of grief,

you think, How can a body withstand this?

Then you hold life like a face

between your palms, a plain face,

no charming smile, no violet eyes,

and you say, yes, I will take you

I will love you, again.

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anxiety, inspiration, life lessons, love, mindfulness

Amulets, Talismans And Charms, Oh My

So I decided it was time to clean out my closet.  This in and of itself is hardly post-worthy.  It was a matter of necessity – I couldn’t walk inside.  I started with the five drawers that are in there – not that this made the path any clearer, rather it was a manageable place from which all other organization could start.  I am nothing if not optimistic.

My top drawer is for underwear.  My own unsubstantiated belief is that most people put their underwear in the first drawer.  Call me crazy, but assuming one has a reasonable level of hygiene, clean underwear is the kind of staple one relies upon regularly, ergo its premier location.  The point is – I go into that drawer a lot.  I know what’s in there – despite the lack of symmetry and color coded rows.  There was a lot to discard – when articles of clothing have lost so much elasticity that they become caricatures of themselves, they need to go.  I will also cop to keeping some jewelry in there (which I will now move if you’re thinking of breaking into my house).  The point which bears repeating – I don’t expect breathless moments that make no sense to present themselves as a result of scrutinizing the contents of my underwear drawer.

To abbreviate this little tale – once the contents were emptied, two things remained that I swear to you I had never seen before.  A sealed envelope from the funeral home that handled the arrangements for my mom and the eulogy I had written.  The words I wrote for my dad were buried with him; I didn’t really want anyone to have those words but him.  I had chosen to keep my mom’s – not sure why.  What I did know was that over the years, I had misplaced it, and had torn apart my ‘spaces’ looking for it.  Could I have put it in the drawer and just never seen it?  Possibly – but the words are written in purple ink – they show up against a white backdrop and would be just about impossible not to see.  In a silence that engulfed my head like a wave, I read it.  I remembered every detail of those days.  In the sealed envelope?  My mother’s wedding ring and the little gold earrings she wore daily. Mommy’s wedding ring.  My sister has dad’s, I had mom’s.  Why did I not see this before?  That I would have it in my possession and not have held it? If I close my eyes, I can see it on her hand.  I can almost feel her skin.  Why did I find this now?

I have no doubt that there are many logical explanations for this, yet I can counter each one of them with a strong conviction that I have been to the bottom of my underwear drawer many many times before, and these things were not there.  Lori reminds me that there are some things that just can’t be explained, and I believe that to be true.  Is this one of those events?  Perhaps.  It begs questions like why now?  What’s the message?  Am I missing something that I should be seeing in these moments of mine?  Is it just the universe’s way of reminding me that there is no talisman that one must hold that is more powerful than love?  Maybe it was just mom giving me a ‘atta girl’ for finally cleaning out my closet.

“Love is the vital essence that pervades and permeates, from the center to the circumference, the graduating circles of all thought and action.  Love is the talisman of human heal and woe — the open sesame to every soul.” –  Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Her wedding ring is now on a chain on which I have a charm from my sister.  I hold them both in my hand until they’re so warmed that their essence travels through my skin, traveling to a space in my heart that is kept for those I miss – guarded and protected by walls I have tried to make impregnable. There is no surprise that my mom would find the one entrance – she was always persistent.

As the sky reluctantly lightens and the air holds this peculiar pre-snow quiet that forces you to listen, two birds alight on a leafless branch.  They are not going to break the spell with chatter and idle conversation.  We hold our respective places until I’m too cold to stay outside and the Sirs are no longer inclined to patiently wait for me to come inside.  I whisper “Hi” and “Thank you”.  I wonder about all I don’t understand and under my breath I add “Please”.   Please let there be so much that defies explanation; let me graced with so much time that I can continue to be amazed.

friendship, inspiration, life lessons, love

Giving Thanks

Before you head off for parts known, before you begin developing a familiar intimacy with your ovens and stoves, before your refrigerator begs you to refrain from adding one more thing…

There are so many clichés associated with being thankful – and I doubt that I will come up with anything new. Yet, in advance of the arrival of our family, I felt the need to extend my thoughts to all of you.  I’m thankful for so much and words fail me (which I submit is a good thing).  I am truly blessed with a family I adore, a husband who humors my nuttiness and sons/daughters-in-law who accept that their mom is as corny as a Hallmark commercial.  I have an amazing sister who I adore and will miss on Thursday (along with my nephews and niece who will be having their own family Thanksgiving in NY).  I can appreciate the beginning of a new day and I can delight in the feeling of snuggling into bed at day’s end.  I have a body that complains each day and yet we’re still getting along.  I know bountiful love.  We’ve got three pups – two of whom are perfect and one who is re-calibrating the spectrum of mischief that I used to consider part and parcel of puppyhood.  Our home is my sanctuary; I have never felt safer.

I am thankful for all of you who have come to read this blog, write to me and share your thoughts, inspire me with your encouragement and humor.  I love that I have learned so much from your posts, taking to heart much of what you have written and incorporating it into my being.  My friends – in cyberspace or in my physical reality – you are in this orbit of gratitude which circles rhythmically through my life.  And so, you all should be told as often as possible, just how much you are appreciated.  Would that we took the time to say these things more frequently than once or twice a year.  For those who are celebrating Thanksgiving on Thursday – I wish you stuffed tummies, full hearts, TUMS and love.  Actually, this thought holds regardless of whether there’s a turkey in the oven.  I’m heading deep into the heart of cooking territory for the next few days, so I send this to you now.  Thank you for being who you are to me.

 

discretion, life lessons, love, parenting

To Honor A Memory

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If my mom were here to celebrate her birthday, she would be eighty-six years old today.  It seems a bit surreal to think that she has been gone for eight years.  In our eulogies, both my sister and I acknowledged that she was a complicated woman, and arguably a complicated mom.  That was said and is written,  within a far broader context of how deeply she loved us and how much we loved her.   Not a day goes by…

I spoke to my parents everyday.  And when work kept me from my 9AM call, my assistant would call her to tell her I would call later.   It was a simple thing to do;  it made her feel good.  Honestly,  I remember sometimes it felt like a requirement instead of a joy.  She knew I spoke with my dad everyday until he no longer could (often acknowledged with the half-serious comment “you always loved your father better”) and I knew that if I ever curtailed those calls she would be deeply hurt.  Ironically, I still look at the clock at 9AM and feel the incompleteness that comes with a conversation that no longer occurs.

Why do I write something about mom on her birthday?  Because I want her memory to remain as alive to my children as it is to me.  Because I want those who know me to know that she was a remarkable, vibrant, artistic, beautiful woman.  Because some passages take a very long time to find one’s way through, and it’s possible that some  never really end.  Because my beloved niece still wears her grandmother’s gold whistle around her neck.  And because when my sister laughs so hard she ‘strips her gears’ (as my dad used to say), it evokes a delight in my heart that reaches far back to another place and time.  Dad and Deb laughing so hard they’d eventually start to hiccup and mom’s laugh bringing her to tears as she would hug her stomach with a delicious pain.   I was good for a laugh.  Don’t get me wrong – I was also good at causing my share of frustration too.

I re-printed her obituary from the New York Times last year and I will do so again this year.  Perhaps wherever she is, she will know how much she is missed,  how much she is loved and how today each falling leaf seems to echo her name.

“….Dee was the loving mother of daughters Deborah…and Mimi… .  She was the proud grandmother of Matthew…, Aaron…, Tess…, Seth…, Spencer… and Paul…, and generous mother-in-law of Roger … and Andy… .  She was the devoted wife and indispensable partner of the late Jack W. Jerome.  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, Michael and Miriam Intrator, 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 the 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 is particularly gladdened that Dee lived long enough to know of the safe return earlier this month 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.”

My dad died shortly before Matt left for Iraq.  Mom waited for all of her grandchildren to be home and safe.  I refer to that time as the year I didn’t breathe, for all I knew was that I drew breath when I knew Matt was breathing – and we weren’t in touch enough for me to know with certainty that he was ok.  There are some things I’m just not prepared to write about – my heart censors my fingers.  As it should be.  The point is not to return to that time, but to remember that today’s mom’s birthday.  And she would have been feted and celebrated.  As it should be.  So for mom – your birthday is etched in my heart.  I miss you.

 

friendship, humor, love, training

Guest Blogger – Sir Bogart

Hi all,

Thank you all for giving me such a warm welcome – you are all way nicer than my brothers  (well, they’re nice some of the time, but they seem a little moody to me)!!!  Anyway, I’ve been here four full days now and I have learned an awful lot about life in the kingdom.

I know where my food is

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I’ve been accident-free for two days – which seems to be a major cause of celebration for my mom, she keeps kissing me and telling me what a good boy I am every time I take care of business outside.  It seems a little excessive, but I humor her.

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My brother takes offense if I get too close to areas I find interesting to sniff…

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But he will now allow me to hang with him if I respect his space and keep my nose to myself.  The guy doesn’t know how to have any fun.

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Size seems to matter – Sir Archie takes my toys, but if I try to take one of his – whoa…I am plotting my revenge.

Mom doesn’t like having her toes bitten – what’s up with that?

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And the King thinks I’m perfect.  In truth I think he’s got enormous potential and I’m sucking up to him for all it’s worth.  I would say I’m making a ton of progress, wouldn’t you?