Saturday, December 30, 2006


Giving makes me happy.
Giving is easy.

I love this time of year. I love to shop and wrap and give; tremendously self-serving as it gives me such happiness to please. I give at church and give to charities and give donations of all sorts: to school functions, fundraiser and such.

I am not selfish.

I love to share.

I model giving to my children and hope to teach them the joys of sharing. One of my children is giving by design. My daughter is the first one to offer help, to take in a stranger, to make everyone feel included.

Cadence was brought into the world with direct instruction from God. I remember debating the recommended tests while Cadence blossomed in my womb. I remember the morning that I discussed the testing relative to my age with my husband. At thirty-seven, it was recommended I have amniocentesis to rule out downs syndrome and other birth defects. We had rejected these tests in the first two pregnancies, knowing the information would not change the course for us. This time, my husband hesitated; suggested perhaps it would be a good idea.

The discussion was unpleasant. I felt divided. I retreated to the shower to clear my head. The hot steam circled and I looked down at my swelling middle, watched the water caress the baby within.

Loudly, a voice spoke in my head, “I created this child. Why are you doubting me?”

Chills covered me in spite of the heat as this voice, not audible, yet louder than thunder filled me.

The voice was not mine.

The thought was not mine.

I dashed dripping down the stairs to the kitchen to inform my husband that I had heard from God. Without hesitation, he nodded, “Skip the tests.”

Cadence has a purpose and I have known that since my shower that morning. She has delighted people with her smile, her friendliness and her exuberance since she was tiny. As a baby, she welcomed all strangers with a smile and offered love to all creatures. She has a bold and brave spirit and compassion for everything; a tiny lady bug trapped in the window and the child at school left out of the game at recess. She is the first to offer when she sees someone in need and is easily moved to tears in hearing of another’s pain.

She quickly and faithfully turns lemons into lemonade. Presented with a problem or disappointment, Cadence automatically turns the adversity over to find a gem beneath. Her cup is always full, her compassion spilling over.

Her gifts, I have always told her, are her big voice and kind heart and God expects her to use them together. Using her big, bold voice without kindness could be hurtful; her compassionate heart kept silent would serve no one. Cadence knows she is commissioned in this way and is never to stand as a spectator to injustice of any kind.

In kindergarten, this natural path revealed a speed bump. I was the mommy helper in Cadence’s class. Her teacher read The Rainbow Fish; a story about a fish who was beautiful and the envy of all. He was happy with his glorious sparkling scales until one day a little fish asked him for one. Shocked and angry, he retreated from the others who coveted his glory and wanted him to share it.

Ultimately, the rainbow fish lived in isolation, unhappy in all his beauty as he had no love. Finally, he decided to share one scale with the little fish who asked. He felt so wonderful watching the delight of the little fish that he shared again and again until he, like all of the others, sported one shiny scale. Messages of sharing and belonging and kindness were discussed and the children were sent to draw and write about a time when they felt that tingling, wonderful warm feeling that came from giving and sharing.

I roamed the room to find children who needed help, careful not to gravitate toward my own. I noticed, however, Cadence sitting, chin in hand, staring at a blank page. She rose and went to her teacher and firmly stated, “I know the feeling you are talking about, but I don’t get that feeling for giving.”

Suppressing humor or judgment, her teacher spoke of examples to help her conj our up that warm and loving feeling. How about when you donate something to charity?

“No,” Cadence clarified, “that’s stuff I don’t need anymore.”

“What about when you share your favorite toys with a friend?”

“Pretty much when I do that, I just am waiting for when I get it back. I don’t get that good feeling you’re talking about.”

Well A+ for honesty.

No speaking the rote the lines expected here! I cringed with the reality that my sweet, helpful, loving, kind child was apparently selfish.

Three years later, Cadence is a precocious and grounded third grader, fortunate enough to be involved with a “Girl’s Group.” This group was formed with the intention of guiding girls to relate on a deeper level, different from typical, clicky third grade style. They come together once a month on a quest for deeper relations with “soul sisters.”

They discuss feelings, relationships and caring while exploring cultures old and new. Native American traditions, cultures from around the world and various religions are intermingled to give the girls a deeper meaning of relationships.

The December meeting was to be about ‘giving.’

The story this time is shared in advance to help the girls understand.

The story, The Giveaway Girl, is about a little girl, the sister of the little drummer boy in Bethlehem, who is anxious and worried about visiting the child laying in a manger. She is worried because she has seen the kings coming with their valuable gifts under the bright star; anxious because she is poor and has nothing to give to this important new comer. Her brother has his drum and will play a song for the baby God. She has nothing to give.

She stands under the blinding star and looking for guidance in the cool night air. She wraps her sweater around her for warmth, seeking inspiration. It is suddenly clear. The sweater, her only beautiful possession made by her late grandmother. She decides that it is filled with love from her and her grandmother. She cuts off the sleeves, mends the remains into a beautiful blanket to warm the baby.

The story touches Cadence and she takes the edge of her pajama sleeve to absorb the tear collecting in the corner of her eye. I then read the commission letter. The girls in the group are to bring something ‘special’ of their own, wrapped anonymously in a bag, to the next meeting to give away. It should be something that is meaningful: a favorite toy or object, perhaps something given by a Grandmother. Cadence begins to pace around her bed, piecing the words together in her mind.

“Mom, I know how this is going to sound and I know that this probably means that I am selfish, but I like my things and I don’t want to give them away!” Our eyes meet and she huffs, tapping her hand on her thigh, “I can’t give away my tamagachi, it’s on its third generation and its part of my family! It would be like you giving me away!” She looks up, brown eyes wide and troubled, “and I can’t give away Alex,” she pleads, cupping the sparkling stuffed turtle in her hands, “he’s like my child.”

“You don’t have to give away your most special thing,” I reassure her, stroking her silky brown hair hanging sadly across her face, “but it should be something meaningful. You have four days to think about it. No need to decide right now.” She hops off the bed renewed and determined to figure out what she can part with.

“Perhaps something from one of your collections,” I suggest. Brown silky hair swishes back and forth as she scans the room. A smile spreads, one finger pointing forward with a head nod and she slips into her dressing room. Quickly she emerges with a vase from her dresser, a dreamy look on her face and in an Academy award-winning voice announces, “This is it. It sits on my dresser and every day when I look at it, it makes me think of all the people who love and care for me.”

I say nothing but gaze at her through the top of my eyes, raising one eyebrow.

“What?” She looks at me, holding the passionate expression a moment longer. “Okay fine it’s not that special but its pretty and I don’t want to give away my special things!”

“Give it some thought,” I say as I stand to leave, “you’ll know the right thing when you find it.”

“Aha!” she bellows as she jumps over her bed and dashes to her desk, “This is it! It’s from you to me and so it has both of our love. I’ll give this!”

My stomach clutches as I swallowd hard and rolling my lips tight to keep the word ‘NO’ inside.



She victoriously holds high a huge chunk of amethyst that I had purchased in Newport when I was in college. At the time, I bought it because I believed it was a powerful source of energy. Over the years, it represented many things to me. It has been packed and unpacked, move after move, from this life to that one; from college to marriage, through divorce to independence, from remarriage to mother hood.

It sat, through all phases, in a prominent place in my bedroom as a symbol of hidden beauty. It is proof positive that what appears ordinary, even ugly on the outside, contains beauty and magic inside. Its final role, before I passed it to Cadence, was as a focal point during my labors to deliver these three beautiful children to the world. It only seemed fitting that Cadence, my grand finale who embodies the spirit of finding the gem inside the rock, should be the recipient.

“Are you sure that’s the right thing?” I squeaked out in a voice too high pitched.

“Yep! It’s perfect!”

I breathed deeply, exhaled and managed to say, “Whatever you decide, you have four days.” What else could I say? Wasn’t the lesson being taught how to share and give away something meaningful? What lesson would I teach if I were to say that object was too special? How could I model self-less giving if I restricted her decision? I began to wonder who this lesson was for.

Two days later, Cadence appeared beside me at the kitchen sink, fiddling nervously with her turtle in her hands. “Mom, about this giving thing, I know I am supposed to give away something that is special to me and I know that I will come home with something that is special to some other girl, but if I give a way something that I care about a lot and it means nothing to the other girl, and I take home something of hers that I don’t care about but she’s sad not to have it, what is the point?”

I put down the dish in my hand and looked out the window for an insightful answer. “I don’t know,” I said honestly. What is the point exactly?

For two more days, Cadence pondered her selection and finally landed on a stone angel from her collection. It was from a collection I gave her grandmother over the years who in turn, gave the collection to Cadence. There were two identical angels; twins sitting on opposite ends of the shelf. She decided that this was meaningful because the angel not only came through several special people, but that it had a matching partner which tied her to her soul sister as two parts to a whole.

She came home from the experience with a small dinosaur skeleton that her soul sister won at a science fair. It had meaning to both girls in that they are both lovers of science and animals.

The exchange was successful.

The lessons that came out of that week were profound.

We give in many ways, but it is only giving from the heart that has true meaning.

I could give away all of my possessions and live in poverty, but if the purpose is to be a martyr, to be glorified in self-righteousness, then it is not true.

Giving out of obligation is dove-tailed by resentment. Cadence seemed to know this all along. Giving because you ‘have to’ is void of joy and therefore is an empty gesture. My ‘give-away girl’ is not selfish, but true in her intentions. She gives easily in love and with kindness, but to give without truth of heart is as bad as being selfish.

When we give of ourselves because we care deeply, because we are grateful, because someone is in need, because we want to, that is love and that is true.

True giving makes me happy.

True giving is easy.

Real giving feeds my soul.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


I wrote and posted earlier today about thanks for kindred spirits. You will have to have read it to understand the significance here.

Fifteen-year-olds are not warm and fuzzy.

Fifteen-year-olds are not communicators.

Fifteen-year-olds see their parents as clueless.

In fact, fifteen-year-olds are closed doors and closed windows with a muffled sound coming from within; that is of course unless they are screaming heavy metal music.

My fifteen-year-old is text book.

After running from one kid event to another, I came home around 7:30 pm, changed my hat to that of the homework police, tossed pizza onto plates and checked my email. A comment on my earlier post stopped my hurried pace to something slow and speechless.

Fifteen minutes later, I slid back into my car with my fifteen-year-old to run him to his 8:00 pm athletic practice. I rolled into my excited monologue to share with him my meaningful day. I summarized from memory my Kindred Spirits post from earlier. I told him how people in my path on this journey of writing have been everything from fire starters to life preservers and that most likely, they had no idea how a quick email or word of support might have dramatically influenced my course.

Most importantly, I told him about an anonymous comment posted to me in response to Kindred Spirits. A person, signing as ‘Grateful to know you' shared that my being touched by a workshop piece fueled the courage for this person to seek and find publication. I rambled on to my son about how our actions, big and small, have ripple effects unknown to us and that these examples were illustrations.

As we pulled into the high school parking lot, my fifteen-year-old said to me, in an audible voice, “My heart is smiling for you because I know that yours is and I don’t know when I’ve seen you this happy. Way to go Mom.” and out he slipped.

I am not only having dessert in spite of a still full plate, but it is ala mode!


Giving is big this time of year; gratitude, the natural response. It’s the giving that thrills me, not the getting. My gifts remain untouched while I watch my family light up with excitement; that is the joy for me. But this year, I am humbled by a gift that I received and continue to receive by a web of kindred spirits.

To be honest, the foundation for this magnificent gift was built by my mother and her mother before her. My mother is a spiritual giant. Her faith moves her to ways of reaching out beyond herself, beyond her loved ones, to total strangers. Her recent “adoption” of a Burmese family began with teaching them English and has moved to a relationship akin to family. Her mother before her, living in extreme poverty with ten children, always found a way to give to those “less fortunate.” It suffices to say that a lineage of giving and gratitude have equipped me with the tools needed for a caring life.

Irish women, at the same time, are self-sacrificing and inherently deny themselves true fulfillment. It was that way with me and writing. It gives me such immense pleasure that my Irish psyche deemed it as indulgence. Perhaps it is, but I was convinced it was an indulgence I should be denied; after all, there are limited hours in a day and much to do. For years now, writing has been the dessert at the end of a meal. If you clear your plate, you may have dessert. My plate was always full.

In August, I was rescued from the doldrums of the life that I had created. Not an empty life, but a busy one filled with work and chores and the idea that I had to get it all ‘done.’ Suzy called me on fire with excitement. It had been a long time since I had heard from her and this person on the phone was newly created. She was exploding with enthusiasm on a journey of writing after attended a workshop in Oregon. Having known Suzy since my childhood, the thought that she hopped a plane and attended a “group” anything was fairly surreal. The author and workshop were coming to our area and she insisted I find my way to it. It had been years since I had written anything. I thought perhaps writing had gone out of me. Suzy was persistent.

Fighting my way to Jennifer Lauck’s workshop was not an easy task. Appraisal classes to study for, my daughter’s eighth birthday that weekend, car trouble, the financial component, and of course the Irish guilt that this was ‘for me.’ I knew one hour into the workshop that I was being infused with magic. I felt like an empty vessel being filled with validation, inspiration, enthusiasm and wisdom. I left committed and directed. I felt connected to this group in attendance; diverse backgrounds, different styles, different motivations, yet all the same in our passion for words.

Until this point, writing was for me and me alone. I shared with my family and in no way minimize their enthusiasm or encouragement. They said things like “You should be a writer!”

Should be a writer.

I didn’t know how to ‘should be a writer’. Their kind words stroked my ego and this was good but lacked credibility. After all, they loved me. They had to say nice things. Moreover, they were not themselves writers.

I began my blog shortly after and was suddenly immersed in a circle of support from the women of that workshop who also entered the blogosphere. Reading and commenting on one another’s works, we stayed alive in the spirit launched at the workshop. Our individual blogs took on definite styles and flavor and each one was like an on-going good book.

I cannot thank Carrie enough for her diligence in reading and supporting us, in spite of the monumental tasks she is called to accomplish each day. Her devotion kept the embers of the workshop fire glowing. The flow of writing seemed to be coming more easily and I still found myself giddy every time I was alerted that a comment was posted. With each comment, I was still in awe that someone, somewhere not related to me found the desire to look to see what I had to say.

In spite of all of this reinforcement, life continued to assault me with too much to do. The pace of my business quickened and deadlines meant giving up writing, and even sleep, to keep up. My blog remained quiet. My visits to others, halted. Old ways took hold.

An email from Terry, an incredible writer from this workshop, with a one line compliment and a request to “link” our blogs sparked renewed determination. I had been quite content on my island blog, floating with an occasional shout from neighboring islands… but a link! This was like a blog bridge from one to another, a tangible connection. Flattered I agreed whole-heartedly and felt this bridge could not be a path to no where, and so I posted.

My enthusiasm was short lived, however, as I could not justify the time for this ego petting. So much work tied to quantified compensation beckoned. My energy zapped from numbers and forms and deadlines. Dead lines. My writing must wait. I really began to slip back into the old routine. No dessert with a full dinner plate.

I was swamped with work and just managing to stay afloat. Sitting down to the monotony of my work, I opened an email from Susan from the workshop, with whom I felt an indefinable connection. She was just ‘checking in’ to see if everything was OK since I had not posted in a while. She told me that she looked forward to my writing and hoped all was well. I cannot explain my amazement. The idea that someone actually visited my site frequently enough to notice I had gone quiet baffled me. Susan, I am sure, did not realize at the time that her email was a life preserver, tossed in at a critical moment. I started treading water and then swimming. Work could wait one hour. In fact, one hour a day would not make or break my business. I felt as if I had been pulled from a riptide.

Channels unblocked and inspiration seemed to be everywhere. One morning, I opened to find a comment from a woman I had never met in Missouri. I ran to my husband like a kid on Christmas morning after seeing evidence of Santa; I have readers!!! Someone I had never met!

And then another.

And another

I soon discovered that Carrie had made a suggestion to her readers that they check out my blog. The circle widened and the gifts of inspiration and support expanded. It is as if a tiny thread connects us in a web that spans from sea to shining sea; Kindred spirits, all on a journey to seek inspiration, to uncover the truth, to share our lives in a meaningful way.

This web of kindred spirits is a gift greater than any I had ever hoped for. If I am never published, I will not be unfulfilled. I am so filled and so grateful to this circle of women who give and give and give. You have given me courage, inspiration and insight. I am blessed and grateful to all of you and this Christmas; need not a thing under my tree.

Thank you, you have given me the best gift ever.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Not long ago I sat in my car, parked in a driveway in Southbury waiting to do an inspection. The woman was 15 minutes late to meet me and would be 15 minutes more. The familiar clench of anxiety twisted in my stomach as I knew it was near impossible for me to make it back in time to pick up my daughter.

Having whipped up plan B and plan C, I sat back in my car, opened the windows and took notice of what a beautiful autumn day it was. I made a promise to myself to carry a book from this moment forward for times like these, as sitting idle feels uncomfortable. I began to make lists of things to do, ideas to write about and then moved on to organize my briefcase.

Through the tall trees and proceeding up an endless driveway, I saw a young mother with a baby in a stroller, a toddler by the hand, a kindergartner bouncing ahead and a golden retriever trotting contentedly at her side. Instant melancholy flashbacks overwhelmed me of my own offspring and the days gone by. I missed those years. I really loved that time of our lives. It was so very simple; so uncomplicated. I wish I could go back from this hectic, challenging time of too busy schedules, too heavy problems, so many unknowns.

For another five minutes, the flashback family trudged up the long hill to their home and I could hear the chatter and squeals from the little ones. The mother held tight to the dog’s leash as it strained in the direction of a squirrel, readjusted to push the stroller one-handed and raised her elbow to fit the kindergartners backpack under her arm; the juggling act all too familiar. I remembered being right there, wishing I had two more hands; longing for the day when they all walked independently. Had I known at the time about the kind of juggling I would be doing ten years later, perhaps I would have realized the beauty of those moments.

I remembered the other side of those times; feeling like there was no ‘me’ in the picture; searching for a few minutes here or there of ‘alone’ time. I wish I knew then how quickly that would all be gone. Fleeting moments.

It occurred to me that I have spent most of my life looking forward, and now here I sat looking back. More importantly, there was something very real between sweet memories and hopeful futures; something called now. Memories are beautiful and plans important, but the only tangible part of life is now, this moment. This hectic time of teenagers and middle-schoolers would, too, be gone in a flash. I am guaranteed that 10 years from now I will miss this running around and the energy of my household. Living in what was or what might be allows a robbery of what is.

There are people in this now that I am not connecting with as I scurry quickly along to what comes next. Now has tastes and smells and feelings that I miss as I rush on to the next moment. I sat quietly in this state of revelation, teaching myself to enjoy the peace of a delayed schedule and marveled at the leaves.

This morning, God sent yet another reminder. Being up everyday before I would like and before the sun, I slipped into my office to grab my camera. Listening to the coffee pot gurgle and drip, I step out into the cold morning to greet the sun.

“What are your doing?” my teenager mumbles as if I am a mystery.

“Catching a moment.” I answered, slipping back in for my coffee.

I look at the image on my camera, realizing that it is still a little dark and decide to return in a moment when the sun is a smidge brighter. Relishing my first hot sip of coffee, I return to my place on the steps only to find the stark reminder that “in a moment” isn’t the same as being “in the” moment.

A wise man once said “life is what happens while we are busy making plans.”


Well its up... now how do I get out?

No problem Dad, We've got your back... well leg!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Universal debate confirmed by tree parking lot survey...

Women like the fat trees, men like the skinny ones.

Brad: "It will never fit in the door!"

Nancy: "Don't be a scrooge, its perfect!"

Brad: "Absolutely not! You have no concept of space! It's too big!"

Cadence: "Please Daddy... you can make it fit, I know you can!"

As we dismount the flat bed of bailed hay, families and trees are gleefully removed. Brad stands sheepishly by the tractor, his tree alone in the tractor shovel. He avoids the faces of the other men, feeling their pity from afar.

Several men heave the green giant into the netting machine; two more join in to force the tree through.

The women in the parking lot gaze with envy, eyebrows raised in a gesture of approval.

“Nice tree,” they smile at me with a ‘you go girl’ tone.

“Nice tree,” one man comments to Brad, eyebrows raised in a ‘how are you going to fit that in the house’ way.

“You caved,” comments another. Brad points his chin in the direction of Cadence skipping toward the cookies and hot cider with eight-year-old joy.

The men nod and shake their heads at the same time, offering understanding to their fallen comrade.

“Good luck.” they offer in a ‘wouldn’t want to be you’ tone.

I look at the tree and realize it does look a little bigger than it did in the field, but it does have to fit into the doorway eventually, doesn’t it?

Friday, December 08, 2006


Much attention is given at this time of year to gifts. The dictionary describes a gift as something given to somebody, usually to give pleasure or to show gratitude. Gifts are a hot topic in my house; in fact, my twelve year old son emailed to me his Christmas list in alternating red and green letters with links to web sites reflecting the best prices. Although we all reach a point where the giving is more the emphasis, my children are still in the receiving phase and are clearly concerned with the fact that, with little more than three weeks until Christmas, I have not yet begun my shopping.

Discussions of non tangible gifts have also been a topic in my house lately. I have been talking with my children about being blessed with God given gifts; all different from one another. Each of them possesses wonderful strengths in obvious weaknesses. I truly believe that the key to happiness is to recognize our own strengths, our gifts, and to use them for good.

As Cadence and I list the different gifts people are given, I am challenged to stretch from the obvious to make clear my point that everyone of us has them. Some people have talent in art or singing or dancing. Some are brave and become our protectors and leaders. Some are thinkers and become inventors, doctors and scientists. Some are strong and help build things. On and on we ramble and it occurs to me that so many people go through life not opening the gifts they were given; choosing to keep them wrapped or hidden or simply unacknowledged.

By midday I am motivated to brave the cold and to begin my quest for tangible gifts for Christmas. I realize that I am late starting, but remain determined not to let that steal the joy of gathering the objects I will use to give pleasure or show gratitude. The parking lot is crowded and the temperature 20 degrees. The wind whips as I open the door and I wish I had been more thoughtful about my choice of jacket. I notice a woman with long curly black hair and a long camel-colored coat shuffle her bags in order to cover her face with a scarf, leaving only her squinting eyes exposed.

I begin to cross the lot and see a man driving a blue van slow his hurried ascent across the lot in hopes of grabbing a nearer spot to the door. He halts, tosses his hand flippedly upward like “go ahead” to me while rolling his eyes and banging the steering wheel. I realize that the gifts being sought, although perhaps to give pleasure or gratitude, are not being gathered happily by all. I walk holding my sweater-jacket closed, shoulders pushed forward and head lowered to the wind. I can’t help but notice him.

He wears a red plaid flannel shirt sticking out of the top of his navy blue ski parka. He wears blue jeans and sneakers and on the exterior, looks like everyone else. There is nothing about his appearance to give a clue about his intellectual challenges. There is, however, one tell-tale sign that he is indeed different from the rest. As he pushes a long line, perhaps 20 carriages in the direction of the store front, he wears the biggest smile I have seen in a while. His eyes sparkle as they meet mine and I smile back and comment on the cold.

“Oh it sure is cold!” he bellows with glee. “Somebody’s happy!” he yells pointing to himself, as he forges ahead with his train of carriages. With a wind chill of 5 degrees, he trotts on smiling and waving.

Some would say his life is hard.

Some would say he recieved little in the way of gifts.

Some would say he is handicapped.

I say he is more gifted than most.

He holds the secret to happiness. It doesn’t matter if it is cold or if his job is hard. His gift is pure untainted joy and he uses it to light the parking lot of hurried and joyless shoppers. Of all the skills, talents and gifts we collectively posses, his outshines the rest. Few of us can feel that kind of joyful heart by simply being here. I wish for a moment that I could step inside of his spirit and know what it is to find real happiness in saying hello to a stranger. I feel humbled by this man, who does not know how to complain or feel frustrated. My spirit doesn’t come close to this kind of perfection.

I take his enthusiasm and wrap it around my shoulders, suddenly feeling warm in spite of the weather. Receiving this gift has indeed given me pleasure and I accept with gratitude.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


At Jennifer Lauck’s “Writing for Life” workshop, she shared the concept that little nuggets of information, of wisdom, would come to us day to day and that we need not worry about writing them down. They would, she said, be there when we needed to pull them out. They are sort of pieces of a tapestry to be woven together later when the time is right. I chuckled at the time, knowing that so many things float in my busy mind as I whiz through life, dashing as if to win a marathon. I pictured these little ideas on post-it notes on one wall of my brain.

I spin and juggle and organize and reorganize, writing down my schedule in fifteen minute increments, knowing that if I don’t, something will fall out of my head and be lost. I know this because in spite of my attempts to control my hectic life, this information fall out happens often. I felt insecure about my post-it note wall of ideas, envisioning them caught up in the craziness in a post-it tornado.

But Jennifer knew that little seeds of wisdom somehow pass through the tornado and plant themselves in the deeper soil of the mind. Unconsciously, I planted three of these seeds together, collected from three wise women. As good seeds do, they sprouted and strengthened and climbed the walls of my mind they have changed the way I view life.

The first seed came from Terry Whitaker, who shared in her writing that everything we do is a choice. There is only “I choose to or I choose not to.” In this theory, “I’ll try to, means I choose not to.” This is quite a revelation to me.

Most of my life has been spent believing that “I have to….”

I have to work.
I have to make a deadline.
I have to do laundry.
I have to bring my kids to functions.
I have to exercise.

I choose to?

Choose to?

I watered this seed with great care as its potential was enormous!

Living this way carries the weight of tremendous personal responsibility, everything around me there because I choose it. But it is balanced with weightless unburdened freedom of choice. I think about everything that makes me feel pushed and pressured. I feel that I ‘have’ to do so many things, dictated by a life filled with deadlines, business and obligation. It is as if life is being done ‘to me’.

And yet…

I don’t ‘have’ to clean the house.
I ‘choose’ to clean it because I like to be surrounded by order.

I don’t ‘have’ to go to work.
I ‘choose’ to work so that I can live in this house in this town surrounded by stuff I choose to buy.

‘Choosing to’ rather than ‘having to’ is a concept that will require complete reprogramming. There are of course things that we are not in control of choosing. We cannot control others or the weather or illness or the many injustices that surround us, but we can choose how to respond.

Busy-ness bombards me as my business increases and I choose to engage and work through it, leaving little time to spend with my newly sprouted vine of wisdom.

So busy that I hardly noticed the next little seed pushing through its shell and stretching out its fragile, but determined roots. This seed came from Jennifer Lauck in a recent post where she writes about Time. Jennifer speaks of reprogramming her mind to believing that she “has” time rather than being in a state of “not having enough time.”

“I don’t have time” is a phrase I use no less than twenty times a day.

I don’t have time to see that property today.
I don’t have time for this computer problem.
I don’t have time to get to the grocery store.
I don’t have time to listen to you kids fighting.
I don’t have time to write.

I have too much to do!

And yet…

I have the same amount of time that everyone has. I have every minute of everyday. I have now. God willing, I’ll have tomorrow. Time is the one thing I never run out of until I die!

I have been fooling myself into believing that I was somehow ripped-off on the time thing. That somehow, others got enough and I was short-ended.

But I have every minute.

Every minute is mine.

I have time.

What to do with my minutes is my problem.

How to fill my time is my problem.

How I choose to use my time is my solution.


I watch as these little sprouts take hold and grow. They wrap around one another and grow as one vine and I do not try to separate them.

My choice, my time.

The phone rings, the assignments are faxed and busy-ness reaches a new level for me. More work than ever and I choose to take it. I slide other things over for now, knowing the work will fade away after the Holidays and it is time to ride the wave. I am choosing to let go of some things to make room for the busy-ness this moment. The laundry piles are clean and unfolded, the dinner plan take-out again. My choice for now. So busy that the third seed, quickly tossed and forgotten, goes unnoticed as it forges beyond the neglect of the gardener. This seed was grabbed in haste from Carrie Link, cast quickly to the soil and forgotten.

Carrie wrote recently that ‘who we are’ does not equal ‘what we do.’ This is a concept I have toyed with for years, not having the courage to call myself a writer. What I ‘do’ for a job is different from who I am. I have been a waitress, an appraiser, a teacher. None of those things are who I am at all. But Carrie’s insight went beyond my old debate with calling myself a writer. She talks about how we can ‘do’ so many things without a joyful heart, leaving the doing empty.

I surly can list miles of self-sacrificing deeds as a mother, wife, daughter, friend.
But ‘doing’ without ‘being’ is nothing.

I can give to charity, but if it is out of obligation, it is a taking.
I can fold my husband’s sox, but if I am resenting him for it, they would be better left unfolded.
I can engage my children in activities, but if I am complaining to them about it, I am doing them harm, instead of enriching them.
I can volunteer at school, but if I am angry about giving the time. I am a hypocrite.

The sprout grows and weaves its way in front of my eyes. Its leaves shine and shimmer as it winds it way toward ‘Time’ and ‘Choosing. The three commingle into strong and magnificent growth.

My time.
My choice.
With Joy.

The pace of life will be set by me. I can choose chaos or peace.

I can choose frustration or joy.

I can over-fill my minutes or be gentle with my time.

I can allow busy-ness to become who I am, or I can write.

I am grateful to three wise women for providing these life-changing seeds of wisdom that growing in my garden of thought. I choose to water them, spend time nurturing them and will joyfully fill my life with their blossoms.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


“Mom, the kids at school say there’s no such thing as Santa,” Tyler speaks into the silence of him drawing and me washing dishes.

“It’s really just you and Dad that put the presents there.” he says with certainty, shooting me a look out of the corner of his sky-blue eyes. I glance over my shoulder, Tyler head bent over to the left, hand busily moving over the paper while he draws.

“Yeah right,” I answer rolling my eyes and shaking my head, my usual response. I turn from the kitchen sink to face him, “Like I have the money to buy all that stuff and mysteriously sneak it in here Christmas Eve. Sure,” I snicker with my best ‘you’re crazy’ look over the top of my eyes and then return to the dishes.

Tyler’s foot taps on the chair and I see his reflection in the window, lips puckered and pulled to one side in contemplation. “You’re gonna have to tell me you know.” he announces to the back of me.

It was the second time recently that I had been commissioned with those words by my ten-year-old. The first time was in less familiar territory. Bounding off the bus in his usual reckless style, Tyler zipped in the door, flung his green back pack to the floor and a bubbled a rhythmic chant. “Put the quarter in the vending machine and out pops a baby…” the sing song tone carried the ‘naa naa na naa naa’ sound of teasing.

“What are you saying?” I asked, not liking the sound of it.

“Put the quarter in the vending machine?” Tyler looks at me eyebrows raised, one side of his face pulled into a dimple, “Out pops a baby?” his head bobbles back and forth, eyes wide. He looks at the ceiling in disbelief at my confusion, apparently expecting a different reaction.

“You know,” he sighs, “put the quarter in the vending machine…out pops a baby, get it?”

“Where did you hear that?” I stammered, feeling lips roll tight.

“On the bus.”

“Well don’t say that again and you know where babies come from.”

“Did you and Dad put the quarter in the vending machine?” he asks with the sound of the devil in his voice.

The time had come.

The big talk was looming.

I wasn’t ready.

I did not anticipate it to be this way. I had planned the dreaded task to be on my terms with a well rehearsed monologue and his father beside me. “Any questions?” we would ask after dropping the bomb, our sweet blue-eyed boy looking bewildered.

No, impromptu was not going to work for me. I reached in desperation for an adult way out of the confrontation. Smiling knowingly, I launched the perfect stall.

“It seems that kids are talking about some grown up things on your bus and the information they are giving you may be incorrect,” I hear myself say like a 1950’s librarian. “Your father and I will sit down and talk with you about grown up things together, but first, you need to show me that you are ready for grown up information.”


That’s me.

But how on earth do I discuss birds and bees and the facts of life with a child who still believes in Santa? I am certain it is clearly stated in the parenting book somewhere that these truths are to be revealed in alphabetical order, and that means Santa before sex! As long as he believed in the big guy, I was off the hook.

“Is there such thing as Santa?” he repeats as I stare stupidly at the dish in my hand, my stall tactic foiled. Until now, I have been safe with the ‘I don’t know about you but I still believe in Santa’ answer, but the alphabetical drum is beating and I must begin to march.

“You are asking me about more grown up information,” I lead into my next stall, “and I will talk with you about that tonight if you can show me that you are ready.”

Tyler twists his mouth while he thinks about this deal and goes back to his drawing. A couple more hours of innocence and I secretly hope he will forget by this evening.

After dinner, my son clutches my arm and marches me off to my office, silky blond strands shifting left and right as he walks with determination and plops himself on the white wicker love seat, arms crossed like ‘now I’ve got you.’ I wonder to myself why I haven’t prepared a lovely explanation, justifying why we have lied to him all of these years.

Door closed, air thick, he begins. “Look me in the eye,” he says “and answer me the truth!” My throat tightens as I stare back at my judge and jury, stomach flipping with anticipation. “Is there such thing as Santa?”

I muster up every ounce of mother strength inside; meet his steal blue eyes in a locked gaze and answer, “Santa is absolutely, positively REAL.”

Tyler’s nose crunches, eyebrows pull together as he jumps to his feet, hands thrown up and slapped back down at his sides. “How can you look right at me and LIE?” he says in horror, pacing.

I grab him by both shoulders and pull him square in front of me, eyes locked once more.

“Santa is kindness and love and the spirit of giving. He is a magic place that lives inside each one of us and comes to life in the feeling of warmth when we give to others and make them smile, and that is, without a doubt, very, very real.”

Tyler’s shoulders come lower, frustration easing out.

I look at him with a one sided smile. “There comes a time in a person’s life when he crosses over to the adult side of Santa and it then becomes his responsibility to keep that magic alive for all of the children in the world.”

Tyler’s eyes soften as I continue, “You are now part of making that magic and keeping the spirit of Santa alive and real for the younger children.”

“Kind of like an elf?” He asks, eyes twinkling.

“Exactly,” I answer, “Welcome to the other side.”

He breaths deep and sighs, “I promise I won’t tell Trevor,” he offers sliding his hands deep into his pockets and rocking back on his heels, very grown up looking. A dimpled grin spreads wide across his face, erasing the look of worry and betrayal. Lips roll together in the way of holding a secret and he leaves my office, spirit inflated with new magic.

I sit down feeling warm and relaxed. I worried so much about pulling the joy out of Christmas by facing this truth, but now the magic lives on; the loss of innocence replaced by the mature joy of giving. I don’t know if I can find the same ease for the next alphabetical truth, but this moment is a parenting gift and truly holds the magic that is Santa.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


“Mom, I need to talk to you,” my fifteen-year-old says as he steps into my office and closes the glass-paned door behind. I hear the white wooden chair being pulled out from the wall behind me and I disengage my thoughts from the report that stares out of my computer, grateful for the interruption. Swiveling my chair around, I see my son bent forward, elbows on the knees of his ripped jeans, hands clasped together in front of his chin. A face to face conversation approaching, I brace myself inside.

“Have you found anything of mine?” he asks through the long strands of hair hanging down across his face.

“Like what?” I ask, “Have you lost something?”

“Just anything. Have you found something that belongs to me? Like five things?”

Confused, intrigued and certain that this will require a parenting lecture that I’m not prepared for, I tell him to be straight and ask the question he came in with.


My jaw locked and then slowly fell open, eyes bulging. My head snaps upward as I open my mouth to speak. “You’re having SEX?”

His hands unclasped and gestured palms down in a way to indicate that I should control myself. “Relax Mom, no I’m not having sex.”

“Then what are you doing with five condoms?” I try to collect myself, remembering the importance of being approachable as a parent.

“Alright, you see, it’s hard for a fifteen year old to get a job. Lots of my friends have applied all over town and the all of the employers want you to be sixteen….”

“You have a job that requires CONDOMS?” I shriek in a voice that isn’t sure if it’s meant to be rage or hysteria.

“God Mom, calm down,” he collects himself upright in the chair. "See, I’ve started a business. Kids are too embarrassed to buy condoms for themselves, and I’m not, so I buy them, and then I sell them to kids for more than I paid and I make money.”

Oh, capitalism, I think. Supply and demand. Free market trade. Many a success story comes from entrepreneurs capable of recognizing a market demand and filling it. “You’re a CONDOM DEALER?” I yell.

“Geez Mom, calm down. It’s not illegal. I’m not selling drugs. Condoms are perfectly legal and besides, if a kid was going to have sex, you’d want them to be safe wouldn’t you? So it’s kind of a public service. For the good of the community.” he smiles a weak smile, head bent in that ‘come on, you understand don’t you’ way.

My head is spinning with a hundred remarks and I don’t know what it will spit out first. “Where exactly do you get the condoms?”

“CVS,” he answers and I wonder if the cashier is someone I know. Did you see Nancy’s son in again for condoms? That’s 20 this week! I feel compelled to find out who the cashier is so I can explain that my son is NOT having sex with every girl at school. No, he’s just the school’s CONDOM DEALER!!!!!

“You can probably get arrested!” I tell him, hoping to pull out something intelligent about wholesale/retail license laws.

“I’ve only sold one,” he treads lightly in self defense, “OK well if you find them…” he begins and decides it best to leave while I am speechless.

Salt bath, I think. A wise woman recently told me that a salt bath has a way of calming and washing negativity down the drain. I hate baths, but tonight might be my maiden voyage.

“Mom,” son number two approaches with a smile, “Are you in a good mood?” My twelve-year-old enters with a giddy face, saucer blue eyes twinkling mischievously.

“Probably not,” I answer just clearing the path to “NO” for the loaded question I am sure he holds. Hand slowly moves from behind his back triumphantly holding a role of toilet paper forward, grin spreading across his cheeks.

“It’s mischief night and all the kids in my school agreed to paper one tree,” a well practiced look of longing slips across his face. “Can I? Just one?”

“Absolutely not!” I bark and rattle off the description of vandalism.

“It’s just toilet paper,” he looks bewildered, “It’s not like egging a house or the bologna and mustard stuck to the car thing.”

I don’t even ask what the bologna and mustard thing is; don’t want to know. He continued to plead his case at dinner to his father and I, but we hold our ground.

“I’m the only one who won’t be going out.” he shakes his head, sad eyes blinking. I explain that other parents don’t condone this type of activity so he will certainly not be the only one. I should have then gone on to speak about standing on principal and doing what is right, but instead…

“No one will actually know if you did or didn’t go out,” comes out of my mouth, offering him a read between the lines face-saving solution.

His brows crunch, mouth turned down on the edges in disgust, “You want me to LIE about it?” he snorts righteously, “I would never LIE!”

Oh good, I think, at least half of his moral backbone is intact: Vandalism OK. Lying not OK.

I hear the Morton’s box calling me from the spice cabinet, Forget the Calgon, Take Me! Oh yes, a salt bath is looming.

Later on an errand into town, my eight-year-old remarks about a female couple that we saw walking on the sidewalk. “Mommy, are they in love?”

“Yes, I believe so.” I answer.

She is quiet for a bit.

“Is that strange for you?” I open the conversation, not sure I am up for any more this day.

“No,” my daughter says with ponder on her face, “Actually, I’m OK with that. God just made us each who we are, and He meant for us to be on this earth and be attracted to someone else to be together to raise a family. So it really doesn’t matter if a woman is attracted to a woman or a man to a man; if they’re in love, its how God made them.”

I am impressed by her open acceptance of what is clearly a foreign subject and before I can say anything, she continues, “And for me when I’m an adult, I think I’ll be attracted to men and women.”

Oh great honey, and maybe you can join a COMMUNE with free love and be a nudist!

How did I get here?

This is not my planet and these are not my people!

Where did the little tow-head, bowl cut, blue-eyed babies go and how did I end up with COMMUNE-LIVING, VANDALIZING, CONDOM DEALERS?

I wonder how cold the ocean actually is at the end of October. I will need much more than a bathtub of salt water to wash this day off!

Sunday, November 05, 2006


Autumn leaves have always held magic for me; a remarkable, delicate finger painting done by angels on nature’s grandest monuments. The trees tell a story of beginnings and endings and beginning again. Autumn’s colors and crisp breezes have always announced fresh starts to me: new teachers, new outfits, new notebooks and new relationships.

Autumn leaves mark the beginning of a season of sweaters and football games; fires in fireplaces inviting families to cluster with warm apple cider. The leaves appeal to almost every one of my senses. Breathtaking brilliance, orange and red, illuminates the tapestry of my neighborhood. I love the way they smell and the sound and feel of them crunching beneath my feet and swirling under the car; my very favorite time of year.

Ten years ago, I discovered a different view of autumn. As former condominium dwellers, Brad and I became homeowners and I was delighted when my new lawn was sprinkled with crunchy auburn and amber. I was soon to learn that homeownership was a right of passage into an annual game of chess with Mother Nature. The fall leaves are her invitation to the game.

As our new lawn was littered with my beloved autumn leaves, I became aware that as lovely as they looked, they indeed would have to be picked up and removed. Novice to the game, we watched our neighbors, young and old, begin to move their pawns.

The first decision is when to begin to play and then which techniques to employ.
Carlo, a 75 year-old man from Italy makes his first move in early October as the first ten or twenty leaves hit the ground. We chuckle fondly at the people we know, my father included, who think they can stay one step ahead of Mother Nature by dancing close beside her. This approach was much too aggressive for us. Silly to do the same job over and over again; cleverer to wait for them all to fall and clean up in one fell swoop. It seemed logical.

As our first autumn fell into full swing, we begin to feel the eyes of the elders in the neighborhood watching, wondering if we were aware of our responsibilities; no doubt worrying that we intended to turn our entire property into a compost pile. Perhaps waiting until the bitter end, though logical, was not socially acceptable.

We decide the time was right to begin and opted for the “family style” approach; playful quality time with our children, at one with nature. Whistle while you work. A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down. We would spend the weekend making light of the task; it would be fun! We prepared to make our first move. Mother Nature was ready.

Weekend after weekend she whipped up storms of monsoon proportion. Winds howled and rains pounded and I was certain I could see her laughing in the image I remember from the old margarine commercial; Don’t Fool with Mother Nature! We watched as layer upon layer of wet leaves added to our growing compost pile. The weekend family plan was not working out.

Determined not to be defeated, I decided to handle this woman to woman and on the first sunny day, I went head to head, equipped with the most sophisticated tool that homeowner lawn care had to offer… my very own leaf blower. In a matter of minutes, I acquired a knack for the “power tool” and immediately wondered what all the fuss was about. It was surely easier than vacuuming, absolutely more fun and it only had to be done once a year. Piece of cake!

The cake crumbled at the edges, however as I approached the southern boundary of our property. Until that moment, I felt relief knowing the elders watched with approval and I held my blower with confidence. Uncertainty crept in as I walked the property line, blowing my yard clean and leaving the leaves on their side. I looked at my feet and realized that the leaves I was blowing were from my obtrusive red maple whose leaves covered a large area of my neighbor’s front yard. Feeling responsible and neighborly, I backed myself, blower ready, into her yard to blow my leaves home where they belonged. Surly I was winning aged approval and when my leaves began to commingle with those from her trees, I retreated back into my own territory.

At days end, Trevor rubs the sleep off his three year old face and beams with delight as we venture out into my giant gathering of leaves. Tyler bounds off the school bus, wild energy racing through him as he tosses backpack and body into the crunchy blanket. The boys are more than eager to rake and in a short while, two amazing piles are the icing on the cake. Darkness approaches, husband arrives and satisfaction fills me.

“High winds and heavy rain by morning…” the weather man grins; Mother Nature’s messenger. “Check!” My husband and eldest son scramble for the leaf bags, racing into the dark to meet her challenge. Mission accomplished, they retreat into the warmth of the house, hot chocolate and homeownership duly admired.

Later, with little ones nestled under the covers, we retire to our bedroom exhausted; the good kind of spent that comes from hard work. The wind whistles as Mother Nature keeps her promise but, no worries, the leaves are done. One last glance outside to admire our efforts, I notice the wind is coming from the north and there, in our northern neighbor’s yard stands and enormous oak dwarfing my red maple. The oak had just dropped its leaves and one by one, they tumble to our yard.

Madness creeps into my head and I contemplate standing on the boundary with my blower, holding back the enemy at the front line. I wish for the rains to come to hold the crunchy little monsters in place, but dry and airy they tumble. Feeling defeated, I succumb to the tired in me and crawl into bed. My wish is granted during my slumber. The rains come, firmly embedding the layer of oak leaves in place; in my front yard. “Check Mate,” I hear her say.

Saturday, October 28, 2006


1. SHY, BASHFUL, DIFFIDENT imply a manner that shows discomfort or lack of confidence in association with others.
2. SHY implies a constitutional shrinking from contact or close association with others, together with a wish to escape notice:
3. BASHFUL suggests timidity about meeting others, and trepidation and awkward behavior when brought into prominence or notice: a bashful child.
4. DIFFIDENT emphasizes self-distrust, fear of censure, failure, etc., and a hesitant, tentative manner as a consequence.

“She’s shy,” my mother would say.

“She’s shy,” my teachers would say.

“I’m trapped,” I would correct them inside of my head.

It’s a stupid word…shy.

It’s a word everyone uses to explain why someone doesn’t talk. I think they assume there is nothing to say, but my head is always bursting with thought. I become good at tending these thoughts; collecting and saving them so that they are not wasted.

Other people let the thoughts come in and rebound right back out of their mouths. They have something to say and assume that I don’t. The door to my mouth remains on lockdown and my head becomes crowded.

Each thought that comes in is like a tiny seed and I carefully plant and water it. As it sprouts, I prune and weed and allow it to twist and wrap around until the moment when it finally comes into bloom.

I’m happy in this garden of thoughts.

I long to share them and I do so carefully with a chosen few. Growing up, my mother is the main recipient of my bouquets. She is safe. She understands that I could not, after toiling in the soil and tending so diligently, simply pluck off and hand over the blossom like a two-year-old yanking the head off a tulip. No, I need to share it from the roots up. To start where the seed was planted and take it all the way to bloom.

As I grow older, some of the walls around me begin to crumble. With close friends and in small groups I begin to ease open my mouth. Still, new situations, big groups and big personalities leave me diffident. I garden ferociously behind my crumbling wall, digging new beds and producing new varieties.

As I learn to invite people in to share my treasured botanicals, I discover that not everyone is like my mother and wishes to share from the roots up. The world is filled with blossom pluckers; get to the point people. Efficient talkers who prefer to say the most in the least amount of words and expect the same in conversation. I am not good at this back and forth plucking and swapping, and I retreat back into my garden.

And so I write. Here I can plant and water and prune and blossom and need not pluck the heads off of my thoughts. I can pull up by the roots, shake off the dirt, and arrange my garden as it pleases me. Flower-haters need not enter the gates. You are welcome to wander and take as you please; no blossom plucking allowed.

Friday, October 27, 2006

R & R

Ahh vacation…

Lying on my back I am free of all responsibility.
No one asking me to cook for them.
No chores calling me.
No errands to run.
No reports to type.
Little beads of sweat gather on my forehead and am aware of how hot is seems
but someone arrives with a cool drink and I drift off into a dream.
Five days of blissful R & R.

OK, so there are a few differences between the flu and the Caribbean ,
but the similarities are many!
And with a trip to the Caribbean not on the immediate horizon,
I must say, five days in bed with the flu is looking pretty good right now.

Does this mean my life is completely out of control?
Will I be lining up for that flu shot?
No sir.
Just stick a little paper umbrella in my cough medicine please.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


The following is taken from a 1950’s Home Economics textbook Intended for High School girls teaching them to prepare for married life.

Have dinner ready: Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal – on time. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him, and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospects of a good meal are part of the warm welcome needed.

Prepare yourself: Take 15 minutes to rest so you will be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your makeup, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh looking. He has just been with a lot of work weary people. Be a little gay and a little more interesting. His boring day may need a lift.

Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives, gathering up schoolbooks, toys, papers, etc. Then run a dust cloth over the tables. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift, too.

Prepare the children: Take a few minutes to wash the children’s hands and faces if they are small, comb their hair, and if necessary, change their clothes. They are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part.

Minimize the noise: At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of washer, dryer, dishwasher or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet. Be happy to see him. Greet him with a warm smile and be glad to see him.

Some Don’ts: Don’t greet him with problems or complaints. Don’t complain if he is late for dinner. Count this as minor compared with what he might have gone through that day.

Make him comfortable: Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or suggest he lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him. Arrange his pillows and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soft soothing and pleasant voice. Allow him to relax and unwind.

Listen to him: You may have a dozen things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first.

Make the evening his: Never complain if he does not take you out for dinner or to other places of entertainment; instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure, his need to be home and relax.

The goal: Try to make your home a place of peace and order where your husband can relax.


I propose the following revisions for the millennium man. This is intended for High School boys, teaching them how to prepare for married life.

Do not expect to have dinner ready as soon as you walk in the door. You have no idea what kind of day your wife may have had on the home front. In between endless laundry, constant refereeing and running errands in the rain (i.e. banking, dry cleaning, grocery shopping, post office, etc.) the dog got loose and chased wild turkeys into the woods requiring retrieval, the five-year-old’s tooth fell out causing mass hysteria, and the baby threw up on the living room carpet. Come home prepared to help out.

Prepare yourself: Take fifteen minutes before your walk in the door to shake off the workday and any residual hostilities that may remain. Your wife has been with chores and children all day and needs you to come home with a cheery disposition. Stop at a florist and pick up a single rose. Her boring day may need a lift.

If it appears upon your arrival that your wife has been attempting to sweep back the tide all day, help her by picking up and putting away any clutter and debris left over from her day in the trenches. Your wife will appreciate the effort and it will give you a lift, too.

Be ready to take over with the kids for a while. Your little treasures can be extremely demanding and your wife could really use a little break to regain her sanity.

Be happy to see your wife and encourage her to take al little time for herself (i.e. take a walk, a bath, or just sit and do nothing for a few minutes.) Remember that although your day may have been difficult, you have at least left your job behind; she is never off duty.

Some Don’ts: Don’t come in complaining about your day or bragging about your exhilarating power lunches. Her lunch consisted of peanut butter and jelly crusts and two spoons of someone’s unfinished yogurt. Instead of expecting dinner, call her early to see if she can arrange a sitter so you can take her to a fancy restaurant to be waited on instead.

Give your wife the opportunity to relax and unwind. Use the weekend to spend quality time with your children so that your wife can find some space to remember who she is. After a full day alone with the children, you will understand why this is so important.

Listen to her. You may still have a lot of business on your mind but she hasn’t spoken to another grown-up person all day. Let her talk first. You can catch up on current events when the children are in bed.

Make the evening hers. She has toiled all day without complaining to meet everyone else’s needs. Perhaps take her to dinner and a movie; try to understand her need to get out of the house.

The goal: show your wife that you appreciate her efforts to make your home a place of peace and order and make some time for her to relax.

**Note: The instructions above apply to families with Stay-At-Home Moms. If your wife works another job in addition to the hearth and home, plan to go out or do take-out regularly, plan on half of the childcare being your responsibility, and hire a cleaning lady.

Monday, October 16, 2006


“I know how I want to die,” I felt my head visibly jerk and snap upward as my daughter’s words jolted me back from the silent drive. The road ahead, newly paved created the perfect backdrop for the yellows and reds of autumn. The statement seemed so misplaced. “I want to die smiling.”

“Hmm… I suppose that would be the best way.” I responded, more sure of navigating the road under me than the one my daughter was asking to journey.

“So if I ever was going to be hit by a car or shot, I plan to smile because if I’m going to die anyway, I want it to be smiling,” In the rear view mirror I saw her grin a straight line and nod which told me she was certain.

“Well, I sure hope you won’t be hit by a car or shot! I think I’d like to die peacefully. Maybe in my sleep.”

“Oh No! I would never want to die sleeping. People around would be shaking you and wondering if you were dead or not. I want it to be quick and fast so I won’t feel anything. Besides, sleeping wouldn’t be smiling.”

What to say? Is there a best way to leave this life? No good answer. No perfect scenario. No real choice. In spite of our wish to write our future story to include a comfortable ending, it is not ours to determine.

Instantly, time rolled back to October 31, 2004, the day Uncle Larry died. It was morning and I was folding towels, warm and “mountain breeze” fresh out of the dryer. “Hello, this is Branford Hills Health Care calling about Lawrence Gallagher.” Instant flip in my stomach as I grabbed for a pencil and paper. “Fever…infection…. hospital.” I was the contact person by default since my mom moved to North Carolina. Only the middle-man, I told myself. I called my mom to relay the names and numbers. She made direct contact and they spoke of the DNR on file.

Uncle Larry.

Uncle Crazy.

He entered many family gatherings dressed as a character called “Crazy Guggenheimer” from a skit in a Jackie Gleason show singing a soppy Irish song. He wore brown and orange plaid slacks hiked up high around his belly, a gray flannel Fedora hat with the brim turned downward and a funny smile stretching wide across his face that stuck his chin out far. Uncle Crazy. He was always bubbling with warmth and an endless string of one-liners.

He took his place as #4 in a family of 10 children, he himself the only one to produce none of his own. Perhaps it was that fact that made him so lovable. There were no children day to day draining the father out of him and he greeted each one of his nieces and nephews as if we were his favorite.

He came from a family riveted with poverty. As en elder in the clan, he made it his business after leaving the nest to check in regularly with Mama, always slipping a fifty dollar bill into her needy hand. He was often the reason that my mother and the younger children knew Santa. Devoutly Catholic, he was charitable, faithful and rooted deeply in his church. He married the love of his life, a large, gruff woman who ruled with an iron fist. I feared Aunt Kay. Her white hair snugged her head in a roller comb out and her eyes small and dark. Her face wore disapproval and her voice flat and cold. They never seemed to fit but Uncle Larry loved her.

Years after Aunt Kay died from cancer; Uncle Larry began to replace her with the smooth hot burn of vodka. His home an hour away and my mom his closest living sibling made it hard for the family to know the consistency and intensity of his decline. A bad fall and then another, head injury; the vodka had taken charge. He bounced from hospital to nursing home and finally, landed in a competent long care facility in the town where my mom lived.

Visits to the home became awkward over the years. Uncle Larry’s reality inched slowly backward in time to where I was his sister and my children his nieces and nephews. Eventually, he forgot that he had ever married and stopped recognizing all of us. Occasional glimmers of him shone through, like the visit where four-year-old Cadence belted out the Star Spangled Banner and Uncle Larry fished in his pajama pants for a dollar to slip her; part of his trade mark. He made due with a sugar packet.

“I’ll leave North Carolina now,” my mom said.

“I should go to the hospital,” I told her, “I’ll call you from there.”

I should be mature enough to handle what I have been commissioned to do. I find myself still feeling like the child instead of the adult and I fear that I will be asked to sign something at the hospital. Do Not Resuscitate. No Extreme Measures. The family has decided…

I find Uncle Larry in the Emergency Room. Machines monitor his blood pressure and an oxygen mask sits on his face. I sit beside him, the stench of bowel and hospital air. No one speaks to me or even seems to notice I am there. Uncle Larry’s legs stick out from under the checkered gown, bones and white hair. I timidly reach out to rest my hand on his leg to tell him I am there. Cold. So Cold. I try to arrange the sheet to cover his legs. “He’s cold,” I say to the nurse who comes to write on his clipboard and I wonder why they seem not to notice the smell.

“We’ll be moving him upstairs soon.” She tells me and whisks away, white shoes squeaking like basketball sneakers. Thank God, I think because the smell is making it hard to swallow. The staff excuses me to the hallway as they prepare Uncle Larry to move to a room. I am told to follow. In the elevator, I wonder if the smell will ever leave my nostrils and stare at the numbers lit above the doorway. As we move off of the elevator, the smell moves with us and I realize it is coming from Uncle Larry. I wait in the hallway while the nurses clean him up and I talk to myself about being brave.

“You can go in,” I am told and I see Uncle Larry has blankets on his legs. I stick my hand out to feel his thin, soft skin. Warmer now. Better. The smell is gone. I see a plastic bag attached to a tube sticking out from under the blanket with dark brown liquid and perhaps blood. I look away quickly. Moments later a doctor enters, then another. I am asked to leave and suddenly there is much action. Scrubs in, scrubs out. All talking in the language of medicine. Confusion. “Why hasn’t this or that been done?” A short dark-haired, dark skinned doctor approaches me. Indian perhaps.

“Your father?” He asks
“My uncle,” I say.

“He is very ill. Do you understand what is happening?”

“Yes,” I say, but my face must tell him something else.

“His lungs are filling with fluid. If we do not intervene, he will pass.”

A strange word for a doctor, I think, and I explain about the dementia and diapers. “The family has decided he would not want to live this way.” The family… as if I am not one of them.

“I understand,” he tells me and explains about Morphine.

The family, I keep thinking. Some other entity, not present. I know they are right. I know my uncle Larry would never have expected that the circle of life meant that he would return to the state by which he entered the world, helpless and unknowing.

I can’t shake the words out of my head. Lungs filling with fluid. Like drowning. I try not to think. In my head it is like the scene from ET where Elliot is screaming, “Help Him! He’s Dying! Do something!” Elliot is feeling ETs feelings. Am I reading Uncle Larry’s?

I am told I can go back in.

Machines are gone now. Nothing measuring the threads of life sustaining him. I try to speak to him but nothing comes out. His eyes roll and flicker and I wonder if he is screaming inside. Help me, I can’t breath. What if the morphine simply quiets the voice, not the mind? How is allowing someone to die not the same as killing?

I realize now that I am here to usher him out.
To usher him on to eternal life.
I am the only other character in the scene and I have no script.

Breath in, breath out.

I touch his soft cheek. Try to hold the sweet image of him peaceful, but the Help Me voice screams in the back of my mind. I push it out.

Breath in, breath out. Slower now.

No doctors. No nurses.

“I love you Uncle Larry,” I whisper, then say the Lord’s Prayer. I stroke his white hair back and rub his cheek.

Breath in. Pause. Pause. Breath out. Slower still.

“It’s OK to go now,” I tell him around the lump that fills my throat, “Go with Jesus now.”

Breath in. Pause. Pause. Pause. Pause. Breath out.

I stroke his head. “It’s OK,” I whisper.

“I’m here,” a voice says, as my cousin Patty slips into the room. Thank You Sweet Jesus, I think. She takes her place on the opposite side of the bed and tells him she loves him.

Breath in. Pause. Pause. Pause. Pause. Pause. Pause. Pause. Breath out.

It is probably five or fifteen minutes but it seems like days that we stand there; stroking, whispering.



“I think he’s gone,” I say as he breaths in again.

Patty’s eyes giggle. I remember she is known for nervous laughter at funerals and I am grateful for the release. So grateful not to do this alone.

Finally, it is over.

We say good-bye and tell the nurse who simply nods.

A peaceful parting?


I think Cadence is right.

Smiling would be good.


Upon returning home from a solo trip to church one Sunday morning, I was greeted by Cadence emerging from the bathroom “clean and shiny” with her wet hair neatly combed. I was pleased to see that Brad had bathed her, perhaps for the third time in her two and a half little years, but it was the neatly combed wet hair that sent me riveting backward in time. “Did Daddy comb your hair?” I asked. “Yep!” she smiled and suddenly I was sitting on the brown carpet of the den with my back resting against my father’s knees having my wet locks detangled.

It was not any sort of regular ritual. In fact, just having my father home and awake was a treat in itself. I suppose he didn’t work so much more than other people did, but his rotating policeman hours meant he was often sleeping or working when we were awake. In many ways, my dad was a mystery to me. Often, I would see him wake as we were trailing off to bed.

Seated at the wood grained laminate table beside the kitchen window, he would make a meal out of peanut butter crackers. Butter knife in, spread on unsalted side of Ritz cracker, cover placed on top, salt side up. He would never eat a single one until he had the entire sleeve assembled and stacked in two perfect towers. Methodically, he would polish his shoes to a perfect shine, strap on his weapons and fearlessly head out into the dark to rid the world of crime. There was no doubt about it. In my mind, my dad was a superhero.

The image was affirmed for me in third grade when I brought his “Commendation” in to school for show and tell. Normally, I would be too shy to stand in front of the class to speak, but the framed piece of paper said my dad went beyond the call of duty. Holding it just beneath my chin for the class to view, I felt its power and I bravely stood and shared the story of my father’s efforts to stop a criminal. I watched the faces of the students, eyes wide, stretching for a good view. The children of plumbers, bankers, businessmen and carpenters. They stared with looks of envy, amazement and awe and I surely walked a little taller that day.

Not only was my dad a crime-fighting hero, but he could fix anything! From sinks to hairdryers, my dad did it all. I never worried when something went awry; my dad did what had to be done. He approached most of life this way; giving up sleep for that extra job or passing up lunch to save money for Christmas gifts. He had the discipline to work through anything. He had uncanny tenacity whether it was solving a jigsaw puzzle or a brainteaser; there was no quitting until the job was done. To this day, I regret not inheriting just a little bit of that diligence and discipline that placed my dad on higher ground.

When I was in college, my dad morphed from superhero to the knight in shining armor who would ride in on his white horse (police car) to rescue me from flat tires, empty gas tanks and muggings. He was always just minutes away no matter what the crisis, which leads me to believe now that he watched more carefully than I realized. Still, he seemed to know when to step in and when to look the other way.

I felt like a celebrity when I entered the police station and walked passed the security desk. The title “Serge’s daughter” brought privileges that few were entitled to and came in very handy when caught speeding.

But it was the hair combing that brings the fondest memory of my dad. Like my daughter, I had long and sometimes unruly hair that was a challenge to tame after washing. Like my mother before me, I do my best to comb my daughter’s hair in a kind and civilized fashion, but the time management of motherhood does not allow for the luxury of totally pain-free combing. On those unusual days when my dad was home and awake in the evening and my mom was still occupied with some other mundane task, my dad would comb the tangles out. He approached each on with the same determination he faced a jigsaw puzzle and yet he never once tugged a hair on my head. Slowly and gently, this crime-fighting superhero produce neatly combed hair that brought a smile to the otherwise dreaded task and moments of closeness that were ordinarily missing.

As I stood looking at my daughter, I gladly surrendered to letting Daddy do it better, knowing that a hero was growing in her heart. It made me aware of the small things that I defer to her “daddy” for fixing or solving and made me wonder what role my mother played in this image building. The twinkle in her two year old “yep” said quite clearly, “my daddy can do anything!” and it warmed my heart to know exactly how that felt.

I don’t ask my dad to save me anymore. My dad may no longer fight crime or fix my flat tires and I don’t know the last time he combed my hair, but I know that if I bring my dad a tangle, he’ll still remove it without tugging, just the way a superhero should.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


I suppose it is possible to divide everything into three.

Whether it be a workday, a pregnancy or a good book,
everything has a beginning, a middle and an end.
Most of us don’t really think of life as a triad until we enter the middle.

During the first third of our lives, we are busy forging ahead trying to figure ourselves out. We go through varying stages of rebel and excel and by the time we reach the middle, somewhere in our thirties, we have somewhat grown into our lives.

If we are lucky, life fits fairly well at this point and we go on to weave the fabric of our story.

Our best years.

This is the time when careers are built, bank accounts are filled, titles are earned, properties are established and children are raised. We have a new definition and sense of “home” that differs from our youth. We are now the masters of our castles, the rule makers, and the ones to kiss and make it better. We work hard to create the physical space while filling the heart of our homes with love and security.

I am in the middle of the middle and looking forward; trembling with fear and brimming with excitement as I watch the people I have helped to create cross through the next 10 – 20 years. I nurture, nudge, scold and support them on this journey, guiding them to the threshold where they will cross to their own middle. I realize that once they enter, it will be my time to step out of second trimester and make my final move.

Some people refer to the last trimester as ones “Golden Years.” I imagine the manner in which one crosses into the final phase has a great deal to do with personality; cup empty or full. Few, if any, leap without looking. It is the sort of transition that is carefully planned for and if one is lucky, eased into with a partner. This is the time of downsizing homes, retiring from jobs and making comfortable but decisive lifestyle changes. I can envision myself sort of side-stepping, sashaying really, across with one eye opened, holding my breath until I’m sure the ground is solid beneath my feet.

I have definite visions of what this time will be like for me:
my husband, retired and happy by my side,
a home that is established, paid for and full of memories,
children flocking home on the holidays toting spouses and little ones,
a bank account that will sustain us
and grandchildren that will visit often and spend the night reminding me that the circle of life is intact.

These are my blueprints which are probably similar to those of most of the women I know. I am sure that at one time they belonged to my mother.

As human beings, we share an illusion that that we are the designers of our own blueprints and that our life story is ours to write in advance. 1997 was a long and painful year for my mother, full of endings and beginnings. She endured divorce, three surgeries and in the middle of it all, the unthinkable: the loss of my brother, her youngest child. The tragedy of her life was overwhelming and the fabric so tightly woven was beginning to unravel. Finally, the sale of her home upon her and she was being pushed over the threshold into the last trimester.

I admired her courage in carrying on, even though the picture looked nothing like her original blueprint. Perhaps it was the indestructible nature of Irish women, perhaps it was her unshakable faith, but closing the middle chapter for my mom was anything but smooth and easy.

For my mother, the middle had played out all on the same stage.
The scenery, the props and the performers unchanged behind the curtain.
She married my father at the age of 19, thrusting her into the middle quite early.
Having grown up the youngest of ten in a poor Irish family,it was a welcomed change.
My brother came in her 21st year and I followed less than two years later.
After an apartment or two, they moved into our family home when she was 25 and it was there that the memory making would happen for the next 35 years.

This was the stage where two more children would be born, countless pets would be brought home and teenagers would be grown.

In this place, family meals were shared, training wheels were shed, and drivers permits taken.

From this home, children left for college, for the military and to make homes of their own.

Under this roof, grandchildren were rocked to sleep, tickled and given cheesecake for dinner.

On this stage, good-byes were said to the marriage that started it all, and then finally, to my brother, who left before getting to the middle.

Births, weddings and funerals.
beginnings, middles and endings unfolded here for 35 years.
Strangely, I felt no sadness in parting with the house of my childhood.
I do not understand why except I believe that my memories lie in the people, not the structure, but for my mother, I imagine it was like saying good-bye to a lifetime. I suppose if the blueprint were intact, she could have eased out of the middle and downsized into the next phase. Instead, divorce forced the house sale and by brother’s death brought despair. I saw my mother floating through a dark uncertain tunnel.

For weeks I helped her sift through her life deciding what remained of value.

Dainty china saucers and never used cappuccino cups.

Stacks of photos and children’s childhood trophies.

Garden tools and kitchen items intended for feeding large families.

We packed the “middle” with all of its significance, into cardboard boxes taped neatly and labeled for an unknown future. The “middle” was then neatly stacked into a 10 x 20 rented cubicle which would house her life in cardboard until the ride emerges from the tunnel into the light again.

I did my best to make light and cheer of the task, but never before had I seen a book shut so abruptly without marking the page. When and where it would open again was a mystery. Stepping out of the middle usually means taking most of your life with you, not packing it away.

I told my mother that it would be exciting to search for a new place and tried to make her see the temporary displacement like the dormancy of a tulip bulb.

I know this to be true, that the bloom is even more appreciated after the wait, but it was, I’m sure, hard to see from behind all of the cardboard boxes.

Saturday, October 07, 2006


“Ward Dear… I’m worried about the Beav…” I can still picture her dressed neat as a pin in her meticulously clean home, hair done up but not overstated; pearls and modest healed pumps adding a demure touch of class and her frilled apron a dash of wholesomeness as she stood with a plate of freshly baked cookies. June Cleaver… the perfect wife and mother. As a young girl, I knew that someday I would be a mom just like her.

My current day perfect mother role models are the real-life moms who “never let you see them sweat.” Perhaps a hidden camera would reveal something all together different, but from my vantage point, superimpose a 19” screen around them and I see June Cleaver in contemporary clothes. Take for example my neighbor and dear friend, Loraine.

She works as a nurse several nights a week, pulling into or out of her driveway in the dead of night.

She has two children, a husband, a dog and a beautiful home that would proudly welcome a spontaneous visitor at any time.

Her hair is always perfect, her laundry always done and put away, her children always sparkle and her car is in showroom condition.
Her garage is immaculate, dinner is always ready and on the stove, she is always at least 15 minutes early and she never raises her voice.

Her children are involved in many quality programs, they go to church every Sunday and her garbage cans never stay out more than one hour after the trash is picked up.
I’d like to say the only difference between us is that I have one more child and a cat, or that having those additions explains why a visit to my home requires one hour notice for me to scramble franticly to make the house presentable. But, I’m afraid it is more than that.

My hair is always pulled back and loose strand jump out everywhere as if to broadcast that I do not have it all together.

My laundry is always in the process of being done with one load in the washer, one in the dryer, one on the kitchen island waiting to be folded, one at the foot of the stairs in a basket waiting to go up, and one upstairs waiting to be put away. The choreography is quite something and as one load finishes the wash cycle, each load shifts forward one position, almost by itself.

My children normally sport holes in the knees and have one or the other row of teeth brushed.

My car would be a jackpot for a drive thru version of “Let’s Make A Deal” as one can find almost anything from fossilized French fries to bibles.

My garage is the home of unwanted things that my quintessential “middle-child” husband “might need someday,” and therefore it cannot house cars.
Dinner is never ready, we are always 15 minutes behind schedule, and my children are so accustomed to yelling that they only hear me when I whisper.

My kid’s extracurricular activities seem to add stress instead of well-roundedness, we’re two for four on Sundays at church, and my garbage cans have a 24 hour after pick up minimum.

Even my own mother, though not June Cleaver, had a better handle on running the family. Home cooked meals were ready at 5:00 when Dad arrived home, the laundry was done, and her four children were involved in at least eight activities collectively. Living today in the point and click information age should bring ease for me, but something about life seemed simpler back then. When my mother said she had eyes in the back of her head, I believed her and wouldn’t have dreamed of rummaging around her scalp for proof. When she said “If I have to stop this car…” I believed that life as I knew it would be over if she did. I never once recall informing her that hitting children was against the law.

Even though I know that June was made out of completely different fabric, I still can’t seem to let go of trying to fill her shoes. Just recently on “Crazy Tuesday” I took my best shot. On crazy Tuesday I watch my neighbor’s children until 5:00 and then pick up the sitter and head to work myself. I try on those days to have dinner made and on the stove by noon, work clothes ready to jump into, and a freshly baked snack ready for the three big kids returning home from a day in the trenches.

On this particular Tuesday, I felt that I had it all together and minus the apron, I was hot on June’s heels with freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, a glass of milk, a napkin and a neatly sharpened pencil for each child arranged at the kitchen island. I had sincerely believed that I could fill their little tummies and supervise their homework in this tranquil environment in the 40 minutes I had before dressing and picking up the sitter. I greeted them at the door and was as cheerful as June on her best day, minus the pearls. “Hi guys! How was your day?”

I was nearly knocked over by flying backpacks and a flurry of coats and shoes and they vanished. I took only a minute to coral the shoes, hang up the coats, pile the backpacks and I waltzed, minus the modest heeled pumps, to the kitchen. If I did have my hair neatly done but not overstated, it would have fallen out at a mere glance into the room. Crumbs flying like nuclear fallout, milk spilled, a “you took my cookie” argument and a pencil swordfight made me sure of one thing, June used tranquilizers… on her children. After eight and a half years in this most rewarding of jobs, I was beginning to realize that I was doing something wrong.

Now occasionally I receive complements on my mothering. “I just don’t know how you do it!” From outside, they see a soccer mom, room mother and a person who smiles while driving even when all six passenger seats of her van are filled with little heads. It began to occur to me that the rest of the world doesn’t know that I’m not June material. As long as they don’t see behind the scenes, perhaps I could be satisfied with a June-like reputation, even if it is a façade. This idea placated me for a while and I was able to put my June quest to rest.

As usual, when it is most impossible and all odds are stacked against me, June rears her ugly head, most recently during a nasty bout of the flu.

Day one in a fever haze I rose from the couch to fold laundry, make my husband lunch (which I don’t do when I’m feeling well) and attempted to vacuum. No one in the house tried to stop me. My husband has surrendered to my stubborn Irish will and my children quite honestly would fully expect me to rise from the dead each morning to make them breakfast .

Day two I did laundry cleaned the bathrooms and read stories to the children.

Day three I actually got up to bake peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies. By that afternoon, I could have killed June and I collapsed on the couch defeated.

My husband came home and fed the children dinner (fish sticks and chicken soup) and leaving the kitchen a mess, ran an errand of mercy to buy “sneezing, coughing, fever, aching so you can rest” medicine. No sooner had he left when the unthinkable happened. The behind the scene cameras caught me live!

If you put an intellectual and contemporary twist on June, she would be named Roz and low and behold, she stopped by to drop something off for a project our sons were working on together. Roz very efficiently runs a big family (four children) in a big house on her husband’s big income and has a home environment that child development experts would use as a model: anti-violent, hypo-allergenic, proactive and politically correct. Her husband coaches sports, she plays tennis, and they are both active in school and community. Her children were always on the honor list, serve the student council and sport advertisement quality attire at all times. This is surely the type of person I require a one hour notice for on my best day.

I quickly surveyed the area as she rang the doorbell and became acutely aware of the fish stick/chicken soup aroma. Dishes spilled out of the kitchen sink and an earlier attempt at the laundry ballet left two unfolded baskets as a homey centerpiece on the dining room table. But the living room! This was the heart of the madness with me as the main exhibit.

Having not showered or combed my hair, I was looking especially ravishing lying among the crumpled blankets, a folded up dirty diaper nestled beside me that I just couldn’t get to the trash. Toys were strewn about as if an entire daycare left in a hurry. Cups of milk and crumbled cookies represented the self serve dessert my children had arranged. Shoes and jackets lay exactly where children shed them, in the doorway and I noticed the glass paned door entering our home was smeared with something that was likely at one time edible. The TV roared with an inappropriate cartoon that I’m certain Roz has banned. The vacuum lay among the rubble laughing at me for having dragged it out in the first place, and a roll of toilet paper I had been using as tissue was artfully rolled across the room.

As I heard Tyler open the front door and say “come in” I waved wildly to the children to signal that I could not have company—germs were everywhere!

“Don’t come in, I have the flu,” I squeaked, hoping that she would back out quickly without getting a chance to take it all in.
No such luck!
She had a flu shot of course.
Her son dashed up the stairs with Tyler to his room, which I later learned looked much like his father’s garage.

“Oh honey,” Roz oozed with sympathy, lips puckered head shaking back and forth “what can I do to help?” As she proceeded to roll up her sleeves and the roll of toilet paper, my hopes of a June façade quickly evaporated. “Let me at least put the vacuum away. Where does it go?” she said with a pouty frown, head tipped to show she felt my pain.

It pretty much roams room to room, I thought to myself as vacuuming, like the laundry, is a process never finished. She stayed long enough for whatever self esteem I had to surrender with my body to the flu and as she blew little kisses good-bye to Cadence through the food encrusted glass paned door, I knew once and for all, June Cleaver doesn't live here.