For the first 50 years of my life, my perfectionist self mistakenly believed it was all about knowing more, getting it right, planning, attempting to prevent bad things from happening, and keeping all of my chicks in a row. It took me this long to discover that the JOURNEY is all that matters. This quote from Gilda Radner sums it all up:

"I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next.

Monday, February 28, 2011

A Long-Awaited Friend Request

When I joined Facebook in June of 2009,  I was very naive.

I naively believed it would be nice to be FB friends with my kids. 
I naively believed people didn't put private things out for all to see.
I naively believed my kids wouldn't say anything hurtful about me on FB.

I was wrong on all three counts.

My FB bubble was burst one day after I disciplined my daughter, Kerry, for stealing my hairbrush from my bathroom for the 20th time.  When I read the words "I hate mom", I knew deep down that she was just venting.  I knew she didn't really mean it.  But no mother wants to see those words.

So I made the decision to "unfriend" my kids.

Since that time, I've become more FB savvy.  And my kids have matured.  Adam and I have been FB friends for a while.  But Annie and Kerry have refused to accept every friend request I send their way.

My friend Ann's daughter Taylor sent her a friend request in September after leaving for her freshman year of college.   I thought maybe Kerry would do the same.  WRONG.

She has remained steadfast.

UNTIL YESTERDAY.   When I saw a friend request from Kerry I didn't quite believe it was for real!
When I asked her why she finally did it, she claimed it was because she wanted me to see the skiing pictures that she posted yesterday.

I like to believe there is more to it than that.

Maybe I am being naive,  but I would like to believe it means that our relationship is evolving from strictly parent-child to one that includes friendship.    I know that Kerry is a very loyal friend and I would value that friendship. 

                         But I'll take "Facebook friends" for now.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

NOW I Get It!

My mom has been gone for almost 4 years.  She died relatively young at the age of 78.

I wish she were still alive today so I could tell her "NOW I get it!"

As was common in the 1950s, my mom did not work.  She stayed at home with us while my dad worked.
She cooked, cleaned, shopped, did laundry, paid bills, and drove us around.  But the thing I loved most is that she was always there for me while I was growing up.

I thought my mom's whole purpose was to be my mom. That's how she made me feel.  And I loved it.

When I was a teenager, my mother and father began to go out more often on the weekends.  My mother loved to look pretty and dress up in nice clothes and my father was proud to be with her.  They would go to the lounge at the Ramada Inn and listen to someone play and sing songs from their era.  They had lots of fun and made lots of friends. 

Then it happened.  My mom became a singer.

It began with just a few songs, but progressed to where she was singing and entertaining much of the night.  She had always loved to look pretty, but now that she was in the spotlight, she began buying a lot of fancy dresses.

Frankly, I didn't get it.  I admit it - I WAS EMBARRASSED. 

This wasn't my mother!

My brother and sisters and I would go to the Ramada sometimes on Saturday night and listen to her sing and meet all of her new friends.  They were all from the "older" retired generation whose kids were grown. 


This wasn't my mother!

My father was very proud of my mom and enthusiastically supported her dress-buying habit.  What was he doing?

This whole new life of theirs continued for many years until my mother's long-term smoking habit caught up with her.  She developed breathing problems (COPD) and had to be on oxygen 24/7.    Her singing career was over.  I knew she was sad.

This is a rare picture of my mother with her oxygen tubes.  She usually took the oxygen off for pictures.

Less than a year later, my mom noticed a growth on her neck.  She told me about it the day this photo was taken.  It was the last picture I have with my mom.  She really didn't look this good in reality.  I knew how important it was to her to be pretty, so I fixed her up a bit with photoshop before I sent it to her. 

Within 2 months from the time this picture was taken,  my mom was on a ventilator on enough morphine to keep her comfortable.   I wondered if she knew who I was.   She died a few months later.

I have been thinking lately that I am now about the same age my mother was when she began her singing career.  

After attempting to juggle motherhood and a job, I discovered I could not be the mom I wanted to be while working.  So I quit work before Annie was born.  I have never regretted it.

But now I am faced with Adam and Kerry away at college and Annie a sophomore in high school.  I have always LOVED photography and so I am spending lots of time learning about f-stops, exposures, off-camera flash, photoshop, etc.  It is SO EXCITING!  I can definitely see myself doing more and more as my mothering duties continue to subside.

I can't help but compare myself to my mother.  She had always loved to sing and be pretty.  She chose to do the things she loved after her children didn't need her so much anymore.   She needed to have SOMETHING ELSE. 

NOW I get it!  I REALLY get it.  I thought I got it years ago, but I really wasn't capable of truly understanding until I came to the same time in my life.

             I wish she had never been a smoker.

         I wish she was here to see my children all grown up.

           I wish I could tell her how sorry I am.

I am so sorry that I was embarrassed by her new passion. 

I am so sorry that I didn't fully support her new passion.

I wish I could tell her how PROUD of her I am now.   Now that I really understand.  Now that I get it.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Meet Maddie!

                                               Meet "Maddie". 

Maddie is the newest member of our family.  We already have 2 cats and 2 dogs, along with 3 teen-age children.  Why in the world do we need another cat? 

We don't.  We have plenty of pet hair to vacuum already.  We have plenty of mouths to feed.  Plenty of vet bills.  We ALWAYS have at least one pet sitting next to us on the couch wanting our attention.

But you see,  I have a daughter with a HUGE heart for cats.  She met a 4 year old cat named Dora at the humane society in Burlington, Vermont.  She fell in love with Dora and wanted our family to adopt her.   I made a trip to Burlington on Friday to bring Kerry home for President's Day weekend and she asked me to meet Dora.  BUT,  Dora had been adopted already.  So, to make a long story short, MEET MADDIE!

We got her at the humane society in Springfield, MA on Saturday.

She is part calico and she has such interesting markings, like the ring around the tip of her tail!

             She also has 4 white paws!

Maddie is a bundle of energy!  The kids were young when we got our other 2 cats, and I think they are amazed at how curious and smart she is!

... and how fast she is!

... and how nimble she is!

... and how high she can jump!

In her quieter times, she is very sweet with a very loud motor that doesn't quit!

The furry members of our family have not officially met her yet, except through a 1 inch crack in the door of Kerry's bedroom.  We are taking it slowly.

Maddie (aka Mad Dawg) has already captured our human hearts!

We didn't NEED another pet.   But we don't always buy things we need.

We sometimes buy things just to make us happy. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Gravity of the Situation




Ok.  It began as just an ordinary day, no different than any other.

I had taken a shower and was undergoing my daily beauty routine.  Face cream, concealer to hide the dark circles, face powder, eye liner, mascara. 

Time to do my hair.  I take my hair out of the towel on top of my head.

I have NOT been blessed with an abundant head of hair.  On top of that, my hair is very fine and extremely straight.  Over the years I have learned how to MAXimize what hair I do have.

Root lifter, hair styling gel. Dry upside down for volume.


While my head was tipped over upside-down, I looked in the mirror.

To this day it sends shivers up and down my spine.

A woman over the age of 50 should NEVER look at herself in the mirror with her head tipped upside-down.  If you're over 50 and you bend over, all 50 years fall with you.  Believe me.  If you are still in your youthful years,  just wait.  Gravity kicks in and every fold of skin that has even thought of becoming a wrinkle suddenly gets its wish!   Steven King may have gotten his inspiration for his last book after doing this himself (although I doubt gravity affects men's faces as much).

I don't recall this happening when I was young.  I could bend over to tie my shoes and my skin pretty much stayed in the same place!  I could look in the mirror upside-down and still know who I was.

But the person I saw that day was unrecognizable.


I guess gravity does have its advantages.  After all, it keeps us from falling off the earth into outer space!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

What About LOVE?

As I was trying to come up with an idea to blog about for Valentine's Day,  I did a lot of "googling" about love and marriage.  Over and over again,  I found websites devoted to the "stages" of long-term committed relationships.  The number of stages varied from website to website, but they were all basically the same.

Of course, all of this reading prompted me to think about my own relationship with my husband and try to determine what "stages" we have been through and where we are in our "journey" together.

Stage 1.  The Romance Stage

Ok, this one is easy.  The photo above is from a blue fleece robe that I made for Vance for our first Valentine's Day together.  We had been dating for almost a year.  I hand-embroidered the message in the neck of the robe and Vance's initials on the front.

Then I made a gigantic Valentine's Day card, complete with my own poetry on the inside.

In Stage 1, it says "you and your partner have just met and everything is absolutely amazing You can't get enough of each other. Neither of you can do any wrong in the eyes of the other.  The focus of this stage is on COMMONALITIES - you have so many common interests,you could practically be the same person!  You show your partner your absolute best self and you try to  please each other as much as possible."

 "You are happier than you've ever been and you can't imagine ever feeling any differently."

Then comes......

Stage 2. The Disillusionment

"This stage is also known as the Familiarization, or the Adjusting to Reality Phase.  This is where you begin to realize that your partner is actually a human being (horror of horrors!).  You get to know each other more and more and as a result you start to recognize their various flaws and shortcomings.  Your partner's little habits aren't quite as cute as they used to be , but there is still enough goodwill from the Romance phase that you are willing to overlook them."

I remember this time well!  We were married and lived in an apartment for less than a year before buying our first house.   The house needed A LOT of work, so our life was not so carefree anymore.  It became obvious while trying to lay our first tile floor in the foyer of our new house that we were very different!
Unfairly, I kind of expected him to be more like my father and just "know" how to do things!
And I'm sure my perfectionism irritated the hell out of Vance!
There were so many other discovered differences too.
But we were united and focused on one thing - we both wanted to start a family.

But the family was not happening.  After an early miscarriage on my first pregnancy,  we did not have a "family" until  8 years after we were married.   We took relaxing trips to white sandy beaches to try to relieve the stress, but we really just wanted a baby!

Stage 3.  The Power Struggle

"At this point, you both still believe that conflict is "bad" thing but you are increasingly aware of your many differences.  This is where it is absolutely necessary to learn to manage your differences effectively - to communicate and work together as a team, even though it's tempting to believe that your partner's sole purpose on earth is to make your life difficult.  Not surprisingly, this is the phase that most couples are in when they decide to break up or file for divorce. " 

So now we have built a new house together, with all of the decisions that come along with that.  We finally have a growing family.  No more romantic vacations, and not enough time in the day to do what needs to be done.  After wanting children for so long, we put our hearts and souls into raising them.
I quit working and became a stay-at-home mom.   The multitude of decisions involved with raising our own children caused conflict between us, no doubt about it.  But the family that we yearned for for so many years was SO important to each of us that we were able to sort things out and understand each others differences and needs. 

"However, if they are able to negotiate all of the landmines during this phase, they'll move on to ..."

 Stage 4.  The Stability Stage
 "Knowing all that they know, coming from reality and not fantasy, there is an open acceptance of the differences in the relationship and they are used as opportunities for learning about oneself and the other person.  They are catalysts for growth and change.  There is recognition that one person cannot change the other.  This begins the process of struggling to create an honest, genuine, intimate relationship."

Stage 5.  The Real Love Stage
 "Also known as the Acceptance phase,  this is the stage when the couple has a clear notion of who their partner is, faults, foibles and weaknesses galore...yet they make a conscious choice to be with this person.  You are no longer with your partner because you need them, but because you've chosen them.  There are few surprises.  You've collaborated to overcome many challenges together, and have grown to accept and support each other without restriction."

We have come a long way together - almost 27 years now.  These years have been so many things - and I wouldn't change any of it!  We have experienced much happiness and many struggles. We have  three children who are beautiful in so many ways.  Life is a journey, and I am so glad I chose Vance to go on that journey with me!

             HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY to everyone!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Pictures NOT Taken

Photographs.  Pictures.  Home videos.

We can't have enough.  We treasure them.

If my house was on fire and I had time to save one non-living thing, I would take my pictures.  They are irreplaceable.

                               We take pictures of happy times.

 We take pictures of out pets.

We take pictures of special occasions.

         We take pictures with those we hold most dear.

              Sometimes, pictures BECOME our memories.
I think I remember this coat and hat and the tulip dress that I wore in these pictures, but I'm sure it's only because I have seen them in the photographs.

All of these pictures have one thing in common - they are pictures of HAPPY times.

We don't take cameras to funerals, for instance. 
We don't take pictures of our loved ones in times of pain or sorrow.
We don't take pictures of family and friends when they are down. 

We don't take pictures of things we don't want to remember.

 I have a ton of pictures of my parents like this... smiling and happy.

 I also have pictures of them that I didn't take.

These pictures are more vivid to me than any printed photograph...
            They exist only in my mind's eye.

If you have ever lost a loved one or witnessed someone dear to you suffer,
            you surely know what I mean.

The pictures NOT taken are the most unforgettable.