She Was a Hoarder

She was a collector. A saver. A pack rat.

She saved the smell of bubble gum breath and cinnamon-scented hair, of coconut detangler and Vicks Vaporub. She stockpiled the feel of soft, tiny toes pressed gently against her lips. Of monkey-like legs wrapped around her waist.

She had a impressive collection of uppies and lay-with-mes and an infinite number of one-two-three-whees. She saved snippets of tiny tea cups clinked and plastic swords clanked. She saved bits of superheroes saving the day and puppet animals saying goodnight. She treasured her savings of sounding out words. Of listening to decoding, while praising and celebrating.

She held on to a handful of magical moments when elfs delivered and unicorns pranced. When fairies flew and night lights protected. She pocketed those times when the moon was bewitching and all of the rocks and shells were exquisite treasures.

She continued to make room for her growing conglomerate, clearing space for the feel of a small back underneath her fingertips. For the rinsing of strawberry shampoo out of long brown hair. For the tug in her chest that happened every time she noticed an indication of growth.

She squirreled away giggles and super silly faces. She kept her favorite misnomers and mispronunciations. Buckle seat instead of seat belt.  Libary instead of library. She kept a lake full of tears and an assemblage of carefully bandaged wounds. She had a special place for small fingers that gripped her hands and skinny arms that wrapped around her neck.

She cherished her collection, even those things that were beginning to grow dust. She moved them around at times, brushing off some of the grit, yet she was aware that many of her goods were soon-to-be antiques.

Even when her stock appeared to be full, she continued to squirrel away more and more moments. She couldn’t help it. She was a hoarder.

 

A Painful Walk

Today I walked around my neighborhood – not the entire thing, but a circular loop around two blocks of houses. I knew it was a longer stretch than I can go without being kept up later tonight from nerve pain, but this morning I decided it was worth it. I needed to walk. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Campus Walk was scheduled for today – and a few years ago I committed myself to walking these events.

I walked around the loop as I sipped on a cup of coffee and I thought about Ross, David, and Evan. The people I know who have died by suicide. I thought about their families and their friends.

I thought about how depression is such an absolute shitbag.

I thought about my grandma (who coincidentally – died the same day that David did) and how she suffered from depression. I thought about when she was in the nursing home and I would visit her every day that I could. I would brush her hair, rub her back, or just babble on about this or that. Anything I could think of. She had her okay days – when she would answer my questions and give my kids hugs, and sometimes even bark out a little laugh – and she had her bad days – when she was almost non-responsive and my daughters asked why she was acting like that.

I knew why.

I understood.

My grandma didn’t need to explain to me why she wasn’t talking, wasn’t responding, was hardly looking at me. Since I understood, I didn’t take it personally. I hugged her and kissed her cheek and told her she was beautiful and I loved her more. On the bad days when I did this, she’d make the this sound that only some of us understood – a grief-stricken, apologetic moan. She didn’t feel like she deserved that kind of love. She didn’t feel worthy, even though she so was.

Depression is such a bitch.

My grandma really wanted to die. Who knows for how long – or how many times her depression bubbled up to that point, and then sunk down to a manageable level, only to resurface later. But once she was in that nursing home, her husband already passed away, and she really, really, wanted to die. She spoke that aloud, often.

I was torn. I selfishly wanted her near me. I selflessly wanted her to be free from the pain.

An unexpected health ailment led to her death – earlier than expected. She was consulted with – asked what her wishes were – to attempt a life-saving surgery or to do nothing and know that she would die in the hospital.

She didn’t have to think twice.

I wonder if Ross, David, or Evan did.

Probably. They were younger.

So, when is the cut off for when it’s okay for someone to want to die, and when it isn’t? Or when other people care that it happens? Is it only when your parents are dead that it is acceptable to want to die? Or is there an age cut-off? Does it matter what you were doing with your life or what your potential was?

Is it ever okay?

Even if it isn’t okay, it happens. To a lot more people than people with normal brains realize.

When I walk for Ross, and David, and Evan, I also walk for myself.

I know.

I understand.

The SECRET REASON I’ve been a half-assed blogger all of these years.

I can’t even believe this is true, but I’ve been blogging for 6 years now. SIX!

I realize this type of statement is the kind of things people (like me) start to say at a certain age when time suddenly starts flying by at record speed and they can’t believe the cashier at the register didn’t even card them when they bought wine and, even worse, they not only didn’t card them but quickly hit the “Recognized Over 40” button.

Other statements people like me (okay, okay, ME) say at this stage in life are, “I mean, I don’t fit into a bikini by any stretch of the imagination, but eh, things could be worse.” and “Oh my god, I have to work with the NEW person? The whippersnapper fresh out of college? Jesus, I’m not sure I have the patience for this” and “I’d go with you, but I’m not sure if my hip will hold up.”

Everyone else on the planet hears those statements and nods their heads and rolls their eyes and says, “yes, yes, all of this is expected, why are you blathering on about it?” and I know this because I’ve done it a million times myself – but for some reason when it’s ME, I just can’t help it. The words just unexpectedly come out of my mouth as fast and as furious as a bout of food poisoning – a regurgitated cliche.

I knew I’d get older, of course, but I didn’t realize that I’d never actually FEEL older. (Which is why older adults act just as petty and ridiculous as the whippersnappers straight out of college, or even the kindergarteners straight out of pre-school, but that’s an issue to take up in another post). It’s alarming, really, to look around at all the white-haired people around me and realize how much talent and insight and wisdom I had previously not noticed or ignored.

I’m sorry, I haven’t blogged in like 5 months and all of sudden I can’t stop talking to you. I digress.

I have always enjoyed writing and thought of myself as a writer, however, right before embarking on this blogging adventure it hit me that I hadn’t written at all since college – which meant 11 years of non-existent writing. Writers don’t like it when they realize they haven’t been writing, just like old people don’t like it when they realize they’ve wasted a lot of precious time.

I desperately needed to practice writing. And not just because of my age. But because of My Secret.

When I started this blog, I knew nothing about blogging. I didn’t read even read other people’s blogs. I started blogging because I needed to practice my writing and I needed a place to put it and because of my age I needed it NOW.  One of my friends started a blog and I thought, “Oh, there’s a place I could keep my writing all in one spot. On the internet! Sure, why not? I hear there is a lot of room there.” (She’s become a rich and famous blogger lady by the way, and here I am writing my first post in months.)

But, little did I know when I started that having this spot was paramount to keep me interested and invigorated and most importantly – WRITING. At first, I had no clue what to write about so I started writing about my horrific sleep and my insane dreams because those were a constant in my life – but it wasn’t long before I started writing whatever else came to my mind – and I was shocked to discover how cathartic writing about my issues with infertility, anxiety and depression were. I was shocked to learn that I really loved writing poetry. I was shocked to learn that people other than my mother started reading what I wrote.

I was even more shocked when writing about parenting gave rise to being published on Huffington Post, Working Mother, For Every Mom, Faith It, Motherly, Mumsnet, Parenting.com, YourTango, and actually being paid to write for Bottles and Heels, Sivana Spirit and Kids Safety Network.

But all of that was just a bonus.

The real prize was that I was making progress on My Secret.

Okay, okay, okay – WHAT SECRET? I can hear you yelling this from your computer.

I was secretly working on a project to preserve the life stories of my in-laws. They were in on the secret, but the rest of my husband’s family didn’t know. My inlaws didn’t at all live a life that I can relate to – they grew up as goat herders who lived at the top of a remote mountain in Greece – yet they themselves are so relatable.

And they are getting older.

There was no way I was going to let my children grow up without knowing who their grandparents were.

So, I started writing down their stories. I listened to all of their amazing memories and typed my heart out. Along the way, I was loved and my kids were being loved and we were all constantly FED. YOU GUYS HOW WE HAVE BEEN FED! So, I wrote and wrote and I ate and I wrote and edited and edited and screamed and cursed and gave up for awhile and started again and I ate again and gave up again and started again and eventually I FINISHED.

 

I wrote all of the stories they could tell me about their lives from birth until their arranged marriage in their early twenties and it turned into a book. Through it all, I wrote about the process of getting those stories, which was not always easy, I tell ya!

And I finished in time for them to read it. To enjoy it. To hopefully read it with their grandchildren someday. And I am so grateful for that.

So, now that you know why I’ve been here all this time, you can understand why I only had time, energy, and desire to post sporadically and why I am at a bit of a crossroads now that the book is finished. I’ve valued this blogging experience so much that I’ll probably keep doing it though.

So the secret is out – I’m excited I can share their stories with you soon, too, because it’s on its way to being self-published.

If you’ve liked what you’ve read here, or if you know what it’s like to have a parent or a grandparent who came from the Old Country, or who just lived a whole different life compared to one you have, I think you will be able to relate to what I’ve written about preserving their stories, or watching them impart their take on life on me and my kids or maybe even having a hard time understanding what the hell it is they are talking about because I can in no way relate to their experiences. Other than the human experiences of family and giving and love.

Also, if you love food. Because I’ve included a lot of her recipes.

Post to come soon with an excerpt and a link to where it can be purchased.

 

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I’ve Been Giving My Threenager a Bad Rap

 

Today my three year old self-reflected for the first time in her life. Or, maybe she didn’t. But for the first time ever, she shared her self-reflection with me. That – for sure – is true.

That’s the amazing thing about having kids. You get to witness their first-evers and those first-evers last……forever? I don’t know the expiration date on that but while it lasts, it’s amazing.  Captivating. Thrilling. Watching your kids accomplish new physical or mental feats is tantamount to climbing Mt. Everest, or being treated to an all-inclusive resort that boasts five-star chefs and excellent bar service, or traveling to an exotic locale and capturing video of never-before-witnessed natives in their natural habitat. It’s unparalleled.

My daughter is a spunky little feisty-muffins with a penchant for silly faces, word play, cackling laughter, a side of sass, and possibly a slight anger management problem. She gives her fuzzy blankie with the pink hearts on it a hug more readily than she’ll give me one, and after three years of holding her, when she snuggles in close to me I know well enough to be wary of getting head-butted. She runs, hops, jumps, or skips, but NEVER walks. (Unless you ask her to run, hop, jump, or skip. Then she walks as slow as a sloth.) She is a tiny-yet-mighty strong-willed mystery. She is a beautiful conundrum.

Since she has been able to speak she has bested me during every verbal exchange we’ve ever had.

“Put your pants on.”

“YOU put your pants on!!”

“Put your foot in the leg hole”

“YOU put my foot in the leg hole!!”

———

“Sit down.”

“YOU sit down!”

“Sit down or you’re going to go to time out.”

*she stays standing*

“Do you want a time out?”

“Yes.”

———–

“Don’t hit.”

“YOU don’t hit!!”

(I don’t hit! … but do you see what she does? Here I am defending myself to you because of her.)

———–

Usually, when I observe my three year old, I’m in awe because she surprises me so much. She surprises me with her many clever made-up words. She surprises me with her sense of humor and her creativity. She surprises me with the power of her fury. With her wit. Her breath-taking beauty. Her stubbornness. She surprises me with her cruelty – which might just be curiosity – but either way can be brutal. Her surprises never end. When I ask her what she wants to be when she grows up she tells me she wants to be a donut.

We are not on the same wavelength – she usually doesn’t do what I expect she sh/would. She doesn’t do what I would do. She is a wild child being raised by a nerdy bookworm.

Sometimes this is infuriating. Sometimes it is the most beautiful thing in the world.

Since I can’t always predict or understand her behavior, she tests my patience. My flexibility. My coping strategies. In other words, my ability to be a good parent.

That’s all a little scary and intimidating.

Is that what “threenager” means? Scary and intimidating? Probably so.

My little threenager – who sometimes gets a bad rap for head-butting me in the jaw or screaming through clenched teeth as she punches and kicks (so hard!) – that kid of mine self-reflected today and I can’t stop thinking about it.

Here’s what happened. Every night we have our routine. Potty. Pajamas. Teeth. Books. Usually after we read a couple of books we lay together in bed and chat. Most nights, I take a few minutes and tell my children the strengths I see in them. I tell them they are hard workers and they are readers and writers and artists. I tell them they are good sharers and good sisters and they are nice and kind people. There are a multitude of variations to the list, it isn’t always exactly the same.

Tonight after I told my three-year-old she was a nice friend she said to me, “Ruby was mad at me today.” Her pal at daycare that she’s known practically from birth. They were born days apart.

“Why was Ruby mad at you?”

“Ms. Jodi was mad at me too.” she adds. Her beloved daycare teacher.

“Why were they mad at you?” I rephrase my question. I was used to her telling me she had time outs or had bad days. Not every day, but enough for it to be somewhat typical.

“I didn’t share the blocks.”

“I see.” I snuggled in closer to her and kiss the top of her head before resting my chin on it. A slightly risky move on my part.

“How did that make you feel?” I asked her.

To be honest, I don’t know what kind of reply I was expecting. Usually she’d make up a silly word and giggle, or ignore the question and make a joke about poop, or change the subject and talk about Anna, Elsa, or Olaf.  I don’t think I was expecting her to actually answer, but tonight she did.

“Bad.” She looked up at me and stared me right in the eyes. She didn’t even head butt me in the jaw.

Whoa. She feels bad when she doesn’t do the right thing. When she makes others mad. This was huge to me. She released a bombshell I was not prepared for. I was blasted with an wave of pride.

Sometimes her behavior makes my eyes water, not because of the remarkably strong toddler-inflicted pain she is capable of administering, but because what she says is so refreshing to hear.

“Sometime nice people don’t act as nice as they know they should. Nice people just keep working to act nicer.” I reassured her.

I know this, after all, from decades of experience.

Maybe my three-year-old and I aren’t that different from one another, after all. I suppose that shouldn’t really surprise me.

 

 

Their Pull

Boy and girl, though young and immature, both recognized Their Pull.

Pulling like an electric current around a giant loop.  A tingly, weighty, attraction.

Attracting them towards each other – their hands, their hips, their hearts.

 

Hearts and bodies aged, and the older they grew, the stronger Their Pull.

Pulling them with a sharp yank if they tried to push back.

Back to back they sometimes stood, until Their Pull flipped them around to face each other once again.

 

Again and again, they chose each other. No one else Pulled so tightly.

Tightly, they clung to each other, even if only via The Pull so others could barely see it.

It tugged ferociously when one hand grazed the other’s fingers, running lightly from knuckle to wrist.

 

Wristwatches and necklaces removed, they stood before each other bare.

Bare and exposed completely – Their Pull did not notice flaws.

Flaws and all, Their Pull kept them connected – their hands, their hips, their hearts.

 

 

 

 

Stay With Me – Ignoring That Pile of Dishes In My Sink

Last week I felt like I was constantly rushing. Rushing downstairs when I woke up to make the coffee and get myself ready. Rushing to rouse the girls and help them get dressed and brush their hair. Rushing out the door and heading to daycare drop-off – making sure I pulled into the parking lot precisely at 7:15. I knew I had a one minute buffer but if I arrived at 7:17 I would pull out of the neighborhood later than I should and I would get stuck behind the bus  – which would make me panic throughout the rest of my drive about being late to work. After work, I rushed to get a quick workout in and then rushed to pick up the girls. I headed home to tidy the house a bit and make dinner and before I knew it the whole process started again. It wasn’t very pretty.

Thankfully, there were moments when my children reminded me I needed to slow down.

“Mama!” she called from upstairs.

I was unloading the dishwasher so I could load it again with the dirty dishes that were overflowing in the sink and I hadn’t yet started prepping dinner.

“Come down, babe!” I yelled up the steps. If she came down, I could talk to her while I got some work done.

She didn’t come down.

“Sweetie, come down!” I yelled again.

She still didn’t emerge.

Annoyed at being disrupted from my list of chores I wanted to check off my list, I went upstairs and saw her sitting on her blanket, leaning her head against a pillow in her “fort” (which is really her closet). She looked up at me and let out a muffled sigh.

I took a deep breath and ducked down beneath her hanging dresses and sat next to her. She leaned into me.

“What’s up, kiddo?” I asked.

“Sister doesn’t want to play with me.” she replied.

I put my arm around her little shoulders. “Sometimes sister wants to do other things. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t like you, it just means she wants to do her own thing right now.”

“I’m sad,” she said.

“I’m sorry you’re sad.” I sat with her for a couple of minutes and then kissed her on the head and started to get up to head back downstairs.To where my work was.

She put her hand on my shoulder. “Stay with me.” she insisted.

I looked at her small shoulders hunched over and the downturned corners of her mouth and I took a deep breath and sat back down. To where my work really was. We sat next to each other in silence. I tried not to count in my head how many minutes we were sitting, and how many dishes I could put away in that same timeframe. I reminded myself that I enjoyed sitting next to my child.and feeling her warmth and her weight pressed against me. I reminded myself that sometimes the dishes really can wait. I leaned my head against hers and rubbed her back.

After a few minutes of silence, she said, “Thanks for helping me. I feel better now,” and she popped up and walked out of the “fort” ready to head back downstairs.

The anxiety I had felt about taking the time to head upstairs had been totally unfounded. In reality, it had taken only five to seven minutes of total time, starting from when I yelled up the steps from the kitchen. Five to seven minutes to help my daughter to feel loved and secure and able to regroup. Five to seven minutes are so important when you think about it that way.

The pile of overflowing dishes will get done, eventually. They won’t sit there forever.  My kids won’t need me for that long.

I’m Ten Pounds Overweight and I Cannot Be Bothered to Even Try to Lose Those Stupid Extra Pounds

I used to care, you guys. I used to REALLY care about my thighs. And sometimes my arms. If they weren’t as toned or as thin as I thought they ought to be, it really ruined my mood. I wasted a lot of good years being moody about a lot of stupid things, one of the biggies being my body. I’ve reached the point where I am working actively on being happy and I’ve crossed off my stupid thighs from the list of things that determine my happiness. Here are some reasons why:

Stretchy work pants exist. Seriously, these things are the champion of all chaps. You know how clown cars can hold a ridiculous number of people in their teeny-tiny automotive space? These pants are kind of like the that – you can fit a ridiculous amount of your stout self into a seemingly tiny leg hole. I will forever own pants made of “super stretch” material, whatever the hell that is. They are comfy and cozy and don’t overly embellish my flaws with weird curves or creases. Plus, I can run, skip, hop, or do a reverse roundhouse kick if I ever needed to, without splitting a seam.

Some foods really do taste better than being skinny feels. Anyone who tells you otherwise has some sort of deep-seated psychological turmoil going on. I mean, come on. Bacon, pizza, nachos, chocolate…wine…need I say more? Every time I am on a restrictive diet I am CRANKY as hell. Or at least not nearly as pleasant and boisterous as I am when I’m eating what tastes good. And in case you didn’t realize, SO ARE THE REST OF YOU. Trust me. People who want to hang out with other fun people generally do not choose to surround themselves with the ones who refuse to eat anything other than kale and baked chicken breast. There’s a reason for that and it’s called being laid-back and happy. I’m quite sure there’s some research-based study waiting to happen out there that could prove this. (If you’re running the study and looking for participants, I want in as a control subject. Can I get paid to eat nachos and report my mood?)

Being overweight doesn’t equate to mushy and out of shape. Not only does skinny not equate to happy, it also doesn’t equate to healthy. Even though most of my pants are a bit snug these days, I actually am more fit than I’ve been in a while. I’ve been focusing on working out some previously neglected muscle groups and have been pleasantly surprised at the results. My hips are stronger, my ass is stronger, my arms are stronger, my core is stronger. I am physically more capable than I’ve been in a while. I’m so much stronger than I was in the past, though not nearly as svelte.

My body is just a shell. My extra ten pounds are not ME.They just give my passions, my ideas, my insights (and okay, yes, my organs and definitely my ass) a little extra cushion. When I’m doing something that gets me excited, makes me feel alive, makes me feel strong, or smart, or ridiculously silly, I forget to notice my body. I need to fill up my life with more of those things. No matter how big or small they seem, and no matter if anyone else around me understands why they make me feel so good, THOSE ARE THE THINGS.

I know I won’t give a shit about those ten pounds years from now. Years from now, I’ll look back and think how great I looked, because I will be old and wrinkled and lumpy. Do you ever notice how old people who are too skinny look kind of like gross crepey-skinned skeletons, but those who have a bit of chub look a lot healthier? So really I could just be giving myself a little boost for looking my best as a senior. That could be my prime, who the hell knows? Or maybe I’ll go just be a real disaster and I’ll have bunions and skin tags and a bladder that is sitting precariously perched, far too close to the outside of my body. I could have dementia, or cancer, or a degenerative disease that makes it difficult to open jars or go for a walk or maybe even to just comfortably sit. Or maybe I won’t even be here at all. It seems rather prudent to get over my physical self now and move on with more important things in my life.

I’m over caring about those last ten pounds. I Can. Not. Be. Bothered.

Hooray.

 

8 Ways I’m Aging That Totally Snuck Up On Me

I’m no longer young.
This awareness didn’t hit me all at once, it occurred gradually over an extended period of time. You know how old-school glass windows flow downward, but the flow happens so slowly you can’t see it happening, it just eventually becomes obvious that the bottom of the window is much thicker than the top? The accumulation of evidence that proved I am passed my prime happened sort of like that.These are the types of things that have been slowing increasing in frequency and intensity:
 
Explanations.Younger people have started explaining simple things to me because they assume I’m too old to have an understanding of them on my own. I’m a high school teacher so I’m surrounded by teenagers. The other day, one of my students looked at me and said, “Your haircut is fresh!” before sitting down at his desk and flipping through the pages of a book. After a moment, he paused, looked up and added, “That means it looks good”. If I overhear a group of students talking about something they saw on Instagram or Vine, inevitably one of them will turn to me and give me a simplified synopsis of what Instagram or Vine is. They’re shocked if they find out that I know how Group Me works, or that I use Snapchat. Similarly, I find myself explaining what it was like back in the day when we used encyclopedias and didn’t have Google.
Fears. Things I never thought twice about when I was younger I now have to purposefully push out of my mind to keep from losing it. Having an aneurysm. Getting murdered while out on a jog. Anything related to my children getting hurt. Most of my fears seem to be health-related. I now even view the equipment at the playground as dangerous. I often catch myself holding my breath when my kids go down the slide by themselves, even though my rational self understands that the damage would be minimal. Me, though? The last time I went down a slide I tweaked my hamstring badly enough to make me terrified of getting seriously wounded if I were to ever try that again. Which I won’t.
Wrinkles. I remember waking up in the morning several years ago and noticing a couple of deep horizontal creases across the entire width of my forehead. I thought it was because I had slept particularly poorly the night before. Now, the horizontal creases are in no way correlated to the quality of my sleep. That’s just how my forehead looks now. It’s not just my face, it’s my entire body. I work out regularly but no matter how fit I become I’ve got an undeniable sagging situation going on. Under my belly button. Above my knees. My skin’s elasticity used to be as snappy as a rubber band, but now its resiliency is more on par with silly putty.
Aging: WRINKLES and GRAYS! Oh my.
Aging: WRINKLES and GRAYS! Oh my.
Ouchies. I have a few bodily injuries that have been progressively getting worse. These afflictions can not be explained by any sort of trauma, they’re just happening because my body is starting to wear out. I can no longer sleep on my side in bed because my shoulders begin to ache. The joint on my right foot has been bugging me; I think I might be developing a bunion. I’m not even entirely sure what a bunion is, but I can’t deny that I am aging when I start using the word “bunion” in any sentence referencing myself.
I.D.s. I’ve stopped getting carded. If I am asked to remove my license from my wallet, it is due to a strict policy rather than a legitimate query. When this transition began, it shocked me more than it should have. I must’ve been in denial that others could see the gray hairs and crow’s-feet. I’ve crossed over into acceptance and now I’m comfortable being referred to as, “Ma’am” instead of, “Miss” by the bartender. I find myself getting annoyed on the rare occasions when I do get carded because it means I have to wait 30 seconds longer for my server to get my beer.
Hangovers. While I certainly still enjoy having a drink or two, I can’t drink all night long anymore. Even if I could, I wouldn’t want to. My stomach gets too full or I end up with a headache or I stay up way too late, and then I get pissed off because I end up wasting the next morning not feeling well or sleeping in. Two nights in a row of staying up late and drinking is pretty much out of the question. It’s a good thing I’m okay with that because my metabolism is no longer capable of keeping up with all of those extra calories.
Aging: Hangovers are the worst and metabolism is SLOOOWWWING DOWN.
Aging: Hangovers are the worst and metabolism is SLOOOWWWING DOWN.
Confidence. I’m comfortable in my own (saggy) skin. I do not care if other people think I’m good-looking. In fact, I hardly even care if I think I’m good-looking.  I haven’t dyed my hair in a decade and it is not uncommon for me to go an entire day without brushing it. I don’t have time to care that much about looks because I’m busy focusing on things that actually matter. Not being fixated on the mirror allows me to target what is truly invigorating and important to me. This is incredibly liberating.
Happiness. I’ve settled down. I have an occupation, a home, a family. I’m passed the stage of figuring out what I’m going to do with my life and I’m able to focus on how I’m going to live it. I’m beyond self-consciousness and self-doubt. I okay with who I am, flaws and all, and that allows me to focus on fostering happiness. As a result, I’ve never been more content than I am now.
It’s no longer a sneaking suspicion, it’s been confirmed that I’m no longer young.  And I’m okay with that

Happy Birthday, Mr. Grouch.

Happy birthday to you, and to many years more!
You say it’s just a day, no need for decor,
but I say let’s eat some cake (and then let’s eat some more!),
because why not celebrate the man I adore?

While we should never take for granted those we would die for,
we know those fairy tale scenarios are nothing but lore.
So when given then chance to do something more,
I say take it. Go crazy. Buy presents galore.

Today I celebrate you, a man kind in his core,
a man bearded and brawny, one I only have eyes for.
Cheers to a man who always opens my door,
who shows it’s our family that he looks out for.

Hip! Hip! to the man who works, and then works some more,
hammer, shovel, mow, plumb, wage dandelion war.
Bang, sand, lift, hold, surf the internet shore,
for another rental house you’re in the market for.

So just in case you’re not sure, I must really implore
you to notice there’s so much I give you credit for,
and when push comes to shove, it’s you I go to bat for.
It’s with you, and just you, this Earth I want to explore.

So today I celebrate. I shout, “You’re top drawer!”
Do you hear me? You listening? Hello? Ten four?
You’re stuck with me forever, until we’re at death’s door,
And each year on this day HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I’ll roar.

The amount you get on my nerves, I love you that much, times four,
You complement me, do things well, that I deplore.
You turn off lights, double-check that I locked the front door.
You calculate, and invest, to make sure we won’t end up too poor.

Even when you constantly tell me to shut the pantry drawer,
or make other such comments you know I abhor,
know that loving you still is never a chore,
and always remember, I love you more.

So Lucky To Have Known Him

There were so many people at my high school graduation party that June.  I remember feeling surprised by how many there were, family members, friends, neighbors.  I had the same feeling at my sixteenth birthday party. I didn’t understand why all those people were there to celebrate something I found so insignificant.  I understand, now, as a parent, that the people weren’t just celebrating ME, they were celebrating for my parents.  She made it this far.  She’s doing okay.

That’s a pretty big deal.

I get that, now.

Everyone came, even my grandfather, who was ill, dying of prostate cancer at the time, but he was still doing okay, a little tired, a little weak, but he still had his same good-natured self, his dry, slightly strange, sense of humor.  He was always a good looking man, and even then as an old grandpa, I admired (and patted) his buzzed-cut hair and his square jaw, that always held a smirk. He was a strong man, a sports-watching, billiard playing, beer drinking man.  He was sarcastic, silly, and usually quiet, though it might be because he just couldn’t get in a word edgewise, being married to my Grandma.  He was caring. He loved us all so much, and he was never afraid to show it.

That party was the last time he made it to our house.

By Thanksgiving, at his house, he was so thin that at one point when he stood up at the dinner table, his pants fell off, and his Depends undies, with his thin little thighs poking out, were exposed. Oh, how we LAUGHED, because that is what we do, and that is how he was. And it was so funny, even while it was so sad.

When he knew it was the end, he wanted all of his children around him. He could not speak, with his mouth, even though he could still speak with his eyes.  I love you, they said.  You crazy suckers, they added, with a wink, that could no longer physically occur, but that was still there, in a twinkling sort of sense.  And he waited, an extra day even, for one of his children to fly in from out of the country, and once we were all there, we circled him, hands held together, in prayer, and said goodbye together.  And then he was gone.  If a death can be beautiful, then this was that death.

And even though I didn’t totally get it at the time, a comment my aunt made at my graduation party always stuck with me.  “You’re lucky”, she said, “to have known him”. Teenage me slightly scoffed at the remark.  Of course I was lucky to know him.  Did she think I didn’t know that? Because teenagers know everything and everything is about them.

I wasn’t fully able to process the fact that my aunt’s daughter, my cousin, was only a few months old at the time, so she wouldn’t remember her grandpa at all, who was so witty and so loving and so kind.  And that she was really missing a lot.  She is still missing a lot, from not ever knowing him.

Now that I’m a Mama, I get it.  I see my daughters with my parents, my in-laws, my grandparents, their aunts and uncles, everyone, that they are so lucky to know, now.

None of us are promised tomorrow, and every day that my kids get to spend with a family member that loves them is a gift.

It’s sort of everything to know where you come from and know how you became you. We don’t emerge from isolation, we are products of our genetics and our familial environment and the interactions between the two.

I’m trying to wrap my brain around how important it is, or why it is, but I know that it JUST IS.  Maybe it’s that it is a good reminder that many of our traits aren’t solely ours, but are mostly a modified collection of characteristics and quirks and beliefs passed down from our relatives, most of whom we didn’t ever know but who have influenced us nonetheless. I think about my grandpa often, and how right my aunt was.

family

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