Category Archives: family

Happy Birthday Elaine

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Today would have been my mom’s 83rd birthday. Now that she is gone I guess it’s OK to let her real age out of the bag, right? I always wrote her a birthday blog post, some of which she had framed, I might add. So it only seems right to keep up the tradition.

In celebration of who she was, I decided to grab one of her many journals off the shelf and open to a random page. You know, so she could send me a message. And yes, I do believe in that crap now. Just go with it.

I suppose you will too, after you read this. No lie, this was the page I randomly opened to. (Click on this image and blow this baby up to read it, you won’t be sorry). This is a list of tactics for discovering pleasure and satisfaction in every day moments. Elaine practiced these her whole life. Genuinely. And with commitment.

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Of course this came from her favorite – Prevention Magazine. And I see from the date that it was February 2008, a time of her life that was filled with chronic struggles.

Elaine was the Queen of this way of living most of her life. She was the Grand Puba of the glass half full. The Crowned Royal of be here now. The absolute over-achiever of carpe diem. She appreciated every person, moment, experience, flower, friend, color… well you get the picture.

In light of all the depression and anxiety awareness this week I took this as a sign of Elaine piping in on the topic from the other side. She never hid her illness when she was well. She would speak freely about it hoping to help others.

The last 10 years of her life were a brave, selfless, many times torturous struggle with the symptoms of depression and anxiety. People think they have seen the depths of this disease, but only those who suffer – or love someone who does –understand what severe clinical depression looks like. Like many who know this first-hand, I was outraged by the words ‘coward’ and ‘selfless’ used this week. They are spoken out of ignorance, for there is nothing braver or more selfless than a person who struggles to get back to the other side of depression. 

Elaine did this each and every day. She did not always succeed, but she never stopped trying. And though it could have been what would finally take her life… it never won. Of all the things I am proud of, this is the biggest one.

She fought to be herself again when she felt she was not. That is my best way to describe depression in one sentence.

She was my hero. 

So today I do not grieve (ish). I celebrate the woman who brought me into this world and chose not to kill me through those difficult years. Who held my hand, always listened to my woes and made me laugh till I cried and cry till I laughed again. She taught me how to be a mom, a wife and a friend. 

But most of all she taught me how to enjoy the moments.

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Yes, she saved this too. What? You are surprised?

In honor of her day of birth, take a lesson from Elaine and vow to take on one or two of these every day. 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under aging, aging parents, childhood, depression, family, health, mental illness, moms, parenting, Uncategorized

Time To Cry Tuesday – Graduation (the final one)

danny-grad
A graduation post? Again? Didn’t I just do one of these? I suppose three years could be considered ‘just’ in some circles.

Each time my kids donned a cap and gown, I came here to share the overwhelming emotions attached to watching one’s child ‘grow up’.

There was Jana’s HS graduation; my first experience of letting go. I reread it today and it seemed like both yesterday and 100 years ago. (yes, I cried)

Danny’s HS graduation post brought back the memory of the pending empty nest (which by they way empties and fills again a few times before it is truly vacant). For some reason that was the first of two posts where I had an overwhelming emotional experience in a Starbucks. What the hell is that all about? (Yes, I cried again)

Then there was Jana’s college graduation. I marveled at the woman we had grown as I continue to do every day (yeh, more tears).

So many milestones, so many emotions.

But this time we finally got it right. Instead of all that overwhelming emotion, our graduation trip was a true celebration. We simply had fun! And although I felt very sentimental about leaving Madison after 7 years, I was more excited about my second child starting his life. Danny, in his matter-of-fact, self-assured manner, set the tone. He cut us the slack to be proud but kept the reigns tight on not making it all too big. We have simply had way too much big this past year, and he knew that. With humility and confidence he taught us how to do what he does best… be here now, go with the flow and most of all – enjoy life. (with shades on, of course).

Sure there were mixed emotions, how could one not miss a town with this view that had flyers for a band named Diarrhea Planet and reverse evolution graffiti on the sidewalk. This place is awesome. And my kids are more awesome for having lived there. But all things change. And change is good.

Here is my net of it all:

When your kids first leave for college it feels like an amputation. You think you are losing something you can never get back. You worry about your life changing drastically. Your heart aches as your head is telling you to knock it off and lose the drama. You dread your parental obsolescence.

Here – on the other side – you realize that your kids are not part off you, they enhance you. And you them. You never lose them, for no matter where they live they share their lives with you. Your life will change drastically, and that is a good thing… if you kept going at that custodial parenting pace much longer you would explode. And being someone again, instead of someone’s parent is the natural progression. Let’s face it, you have stuff to do!

Sure your heart will ache from time to time as you watch them struggle and grow, but it is a good ache. It is the physical manifestation of how much you love them. Just like when they were little, they will most certainly fall. The hard part is not trying to fix it for them when they do.

But most of all, parental obsolescence is simply a contradiction in terms. They will always need you, just differently. It’s all good.

Congrats Danny boy, thanks for the best weekend ever. You make us so very proud.

Every.

Single.

Day.

Now go out and be all you can be (and be careful).

 

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Filed under advice to my son, college, danny, education, family, graffiti, moms, music, relationships, Time to Cry Tuesdays

This is 25

25th-birthday

 

For 25 years – close to half my life – this beautiful smile has graced my days. Along with that smile came the drying of the tears, the dreams and the disappointments, the successes and failures that all go along with parenting a daughter.

Somewhere along the way, the lines have shifted ever so slightly. No longer am I the only one to give advise or be the sounding board. Now my daughter’s is one of the first opinions I seek when I am unsure. She holds me up when I think I can no longer bear things. She calms me down when I am going down that path of frustration that we both know is futile. She teaches me back all the things I tried to teach her as she was growing up.

She, and her brother, have become MY rock. Funny how that happens. One day you are trying to reason with a teenager about why wearing stockings or not to a Bar Mitzvah is not a decision that will change her life. You try to explain to her at 1 in the morning that no, she will not fail that test and the grade in this class will not define her forever. Then before you turn around, she is standing there watching you unravel and explaining to you why she knows you will get through it all. That she is there, and she always will be. Or she simply rubs your back when you choke up at the holiday table.

Basically, she grows up. And she does it ever so gracefully. She knows her mind, she keeps her cool and the words, “It’s just so annoying” become less frequent. You never hear the word ‘fine’ and the slam of the door that follows it ever again. Replaced by the frustrations is a calmness and a determination that sees her through and helps her navigate her obstacles. She has followed her passions and created a life of her own design.

She has become the woman you always dreamed she would be. And then some.

Yes, THIS is 25, in all its glory. A quarter of century that seems so very old to her but that you know is just the beginning of a glorious life.

Happy Birthday Jana Banana. I could not be any prouder of who you have become. May your birthday be as special as you are.

I love you more than life itself.

 

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Filed under family, Jana, moms, parenting

South Florida Living

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If you have ever visited one of the many communities in South Florida, this will not surprise you. The level of detail is astounding.

You have to believe that this was not written in the spirit of prevention. I would like to know how many poor people got locked in there before this very detailed set of directions was drafted.

I keep envisioning the condo association from Seinfeld spending the better portion of a month drafting this sucker.

The scary thing about this is that I am surely the most likely person to get locked in there. In fact, this was the third time I had thrown out the garbage and the only reason I noticed the sign was because my dad told me to take my cell phone.

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Filed under absurdities, carry a camera, family, humor, signage, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

Time to Cry Tuesday – Launching

launchingIt is always a good idea to leave your comfort zone, zip code, generation, cultural norm… anywhere that makes you see the world through a lens that is too similar to your own. Homogeneity breeds tunnelvision.

Like most, I socialize with people who are within my age-group and life stage, give or take 10 years. Most people do, I suppose. But this weekend I had the delightful experience of having 2 meals with a combination of 6 20-somethings, all in different stages of launching. The fact that they are among my favorite people on earth made it even better. Oh and 3 of them were blood relatives, the other 3 being the next best thing.

Listening to their plans, goals, opportunities… their exuberance, their joy, their energy… it was all so inspiring. And refreshing. And made me not only remember what life was like at that age, but to look back and realize what a wild ride it has been since then. They all genuinely respect our opinions, look to us as sounding boards. They have crossed over from the know-it-all teens to respectful young adults who want input. Not a single one had that millennial attitude that we hear all too often.

They are all still fresh, unspoiled. They have not yet been burnt or battered. But they will be at some point, everyone gets some piece of life’s not so pretty parts. But I am confident they will all take it with grace. They are built that way. I have seen each one of them navigate some tough things this past year and they all rose to the occasion.

We live in exciting times. I am envious of the climate that allows them to start their careers when so much is possible. Creating a business from scratch is not only possible, but the initial outlay of cash is minimal and access to funding a reality (think kickstarter, etsy, quirky, angel investors). These 6 are all so very different. Their career paths are equally different. Perhaps that is what makes the energy between them so exciting.

For now, it was simply lovely to be in their presence. To feel them shine. To bask in their opportunities. To be proud and inspired at the same time.

Next weekend? Sky diving? (probably not)

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Filed under carreers, family

Big 10 Mom

badgers tickets

Yes, that is my desk. Yes it was a Monday morning and I had plenty of work that had to be done. And yes, I really do have that many screens.

This Monday marked the 7th year in a row (one year being a double with 2 kids involved) that I have been in charge of making sure my little Badgers are able to get their season student football tickets. If you know anything about attending a Big 10 school, you know what serious business this is.

When my daughter first went to UW you had to Fed Ex in your forms. For some reason I missed the last pick up and a friend and I drove frantically through town chasing down the Fed Ex truck. (yes, I have friends who would do this with me)

Why, you ask, is this my responsibility and not theirs? Let’s see, for at least 6 of these 7 years at least one of them was a counselor in the Adirondacks with no cell service and no computers. (worth doing it to know they could actually unplug for the summer) And this year, young Daniel is a working stiff, riding the Long Island Railroad at the exact time that the tickets went on sale.

I am happy to report I am 8 for 8 on season tics for my kids.

Next June I will have that same bittersweet feeling about not having to do this as I had when I did not have any camp trunks scattered all over my living room the second week in June.

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Filed under camp, college, family, humor

Time to Cry Tuesday – Disappointment

disappointment

Disappointment… such a lousy emotion. It comes tethered to expectations and rears its ugly head out of nowhere when you think you have ‘it’ all handled.  I have tried my best to manage expectations to avoid this nasty sucker. But sometimes shit happens, you are at its mercy, and it takes you down.

Big time.

To make it short and avoid a pity party, I have managed high blood pressure. It has been controlled for a long time, went a little wacky back in the fall and got back on track. Then I had a reaction to some meds that made me feel very ill and caused my ankle to swell (of course the one I sprained a while back) and the switch of meds set me on a BP roller coaster I do not wish on my worst enemy.

The net: I could not fly. And what was I supposed to do… you bet. Fly. To Spain. To see my boy who is studying abroad. Who I have not seen since January. On a trip we had planned forever. At a time when we really needed a break. On the first real vacation in many, many years. That we can’t reschedule. Not life shattering, just a piece of life that I can’t get back. One of the really fun pieces.

I am coming out the other side of this huge disappointment and all I can do is run through my head all of the things I have told my kids over the years when their expectations were shattered:

  1. Sometimes you just have to feel like crap.
  2. Misery gives happiness context.
  3. Everything happens for a reason and sometimes we don’t find out what that reason is for a long time.
  4. Who you are when things suck says more about you than who you are when they are great.
  5. Sometimes its not fair. Period.

On the other end of that wisdom I was fully aware of how annoying that wisdom could be. (sorry kids)

Until a friend of mine posted a favorite Maya Angelou quote that made me smile and think about who I really want to be:

“I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.”

Even a Jewish girl gets the last one.

So if you see me knocking on a christian neighbor’s door asking to borrow their christmas lights in the rain wearing the same thing for 2 days in a row, you will know that it is just an exercise.

As is all of life.

 

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Filed under danny, family, Time to Cry Tuesdays, travel