Turn, Turn, Turn

The college freshmen walked toward the student union to check in. She was excitedly focused on what was in front of her when she heard her name called from behind. It was her mother. “I didn’t get to hug you good bye.” The freshmen was startled, she gave the obligatory hug and continued on her way. The mother returned to her car at the curb, and she and the father drove away.

This morning on my walk my neighborhood was full of moms and dads taking first day of school pictures of kids. The children smiled at the camera, depending on their age, with big excited grins or embarrassed “can we get this over with” grimaces. There were no pictures at my house for the first time in 20 years.

This morning I ran into my daughter’s ,now retired, kindergarten teacher in Starbucks. She asked if I noticed all the little ones lining up for school. I told her I had dropped my little one off at college yesterday. She clutched her heart.”How was that for you?” “It feels worse today.” I replied. She shared a memory of my daughter from all those years ago. I remembered how much my daughter loved K4 and this teacher. I remembered how I had tried to talk her pre-school teachers out of advancing her to kindergarten. “She could stay, but she’d have to co-teach the class,” they laughingly told me.

I know that this next phase of our lives will be just great. But right now I’m feeling nostalgic for hands to hold and parent teacher meetings. I know I’m not alone. If you’ve ever dropped your oldest off at college you understand. If you’ve dropped your youngest off at college you feel my pain.

I know what I need to focus on are the blessings this day represents. Two healthy, mostly happy kids who worked hard to get themselves into college. Two young adults starting the next phase of their young lives. The boy I dropped off at the university 6 years ago is on his own now, a college graduate. He’s a different person than the boy who asked us as we prepared our exit, “You mean you’re leaving now?” His little sister and I had made his dorm bed and hung his clothes. His father laughingly said “Yes, we won’t be staying at college with you.”

I can only wonder at the growth and changes that the little sister will experience during her college years.

I’m not the first parent to realize that everything we do as parents to love and nurture our children is to get them ready for this day. My husband was only half joking when he shared his thoughts to a young neighbor mom. Her little darling in the pixie bob with the almond eyes, a beautiful gift from China. She showed us her little pink glittery shoes and and told us how kindergarten started next week. “You ‘ll love them so much, buy them hundreds of shoes, and then they’ll leave you.” he predicted. And in the end that’s what happens.

But it’s a wonderful journey. One I’m sure we would never want to miss. And It’s timeless. It will be repeated next fall with others, by  this year’s high school seniors. And 18 years from now by the moms pushing the buggies down my street today. You see the clueless freshmen who forgot to hug her mother was me. I never dreamed I’d be in my mother’s  shoes one day. Sad, happy and grabbing one more hug from a girl focused on what was in front of her. I’m just say’n.

Perspectives and Promises

A Summer blog delayed by writer’s block;here-to-with something I’ve never experienced. Whether I’ve been asked to speak extemporaneously or write and article on anything from “Apples” (love’em if they’re Gala) to “Z”. I’ve never been at a loss for words. But since my last entry I have been silent in the blog-o-sphere, and I think I know why.

Early this summer an old and treasured friend suffered a horrible loss. And her pain has been front and center on my mind. Truly, writing on any number of subjects seemed trite and meaningless. (And those who know me know how I love trite.)

I would like to write about something my friend said to me and a group of friends who had gathered to share support. “I have no patience anymore for people’s complaints.” She was talking about an element of her job and she struck a chord. I mentioned her comment to another friend, who likewise has had her share of loss and challenge and she immediately related to the sentiment. She said that at a similar time in her life a neighbor fretted over the “wrong color of some new carpet, and I thought ‘I don’t want to hear it.What are you complaining about?'”

I know we all get tired or overwhelmed. Sometimes things just pile up on us in our days. Just recently at work, I spilled a 9 by 13 dish of quiche that a roomful of breakfast seeking ladies were waiting for. It was a mess.And while I allowed myself a level of aggravation and and an exclamation of, “Holy Cheese and crackers!!” I refused to tell the story as a complaint. Spilled quiche, really? So not worth complaining about.

It seems like daily I hear in the media stories of work/road/waiting-in- line rage. And the stuff that goes on at youth sporting events is really scary. If the worst thing in your life is how long it takes for your morning coffee to be placed in front you or the blown call at the 7th grade soccer game you, my friend, are living a charmed existence.

No, I want to focus on the important stuff. The good stuff. Friends and family who pull for you. Show up when you need them. Pastors who give a sermon with one or more insights you may not have thought of. Kids who say “thank you.” Spouses who say “I love you” or fill your gas tank. People at work who tell you they appreciate your hard work, or creativity. Neighbors who keep an eye on your kids or house or pet when you’re not around. Doctors and nurses who show up every day working to keep other people healthy. The list goes on.

Now, I know I won’t stop thinking or commenting on things that I wish were different. Life isn’t perfect. I’ll be at a Major League ball park this week. It will be hot. Someone will be wearing something (or not wearing something )that will seem to me an insult to fashion, good manners and health. I’ll be on a plane or train one day and there won’t be enough leg room. But while I’ll notice these things , I’m going to try real hard not to complain about them. Joke maybe, or roll my eyes, yes. But complain about them no. Life is short. I have too many blessings. I’d rather be a glass is half-full kind of person, and thankful for the glass.

This summer, some sad things happened to some good people I know. You probably know some sad stories too. Let’s leave any complaining to those folks, they’ve earned it. But let’s try to be one of the reasons they can navigate thru it. With a hug, a joke, a casserole, or a prayer. I’m just say’n.

To Cry or Not To Cry

“Mom, you’re not going to cry at graduation are you?” My daughter asked me. Translation: please don’t cry, or set your hair on fire, or any other parental hi jinks. I’m not going to cry I assured her. I tend not to cry at graduations, I view them as true commencements, beginnings. So I planned to stay dry eyed.

She probably didn’t believe me, because I am a cryer.  Big time. I cry at sad movies. When Kevin Costner says to his dad in  the movie “Field of Dreams”  “Wanna have a catch?” I tear up.  My kids always look at me in darkened theaters while I sniff at “My Dog Skip” or any other “family” movie.

I cry while watching TV.  Hallmark movies really do me in.  And the commercials are worse. But I said  I would not cry Sunday at Graduation when my youngest marched in while they played Pomp and Circumstance.

Forsythia and Offspring

Forsythia and Offspring

Sitting at my desk in my bedroom I have a marvelous view. Well, beyond the scraps of paper, lists, old photos, and the detritus of empty boxes and what-not no one knows where to put so it ends up on Mom’s desk. But over the top of my laptop I see into our back yard. And there in full Spring glory– forsythia. Actually, two forsythia bushes grow along the back property line along the fence of my suburban yard. I love the lilac tree, and the daffodils are dandy. But the forsythia are spectacular.

Now, before you mistake me for an avid or even proficient gardener, know that all this blooming excess was here when we bought the house over twenty years ago. And though I have enjoyed the blooming times I have done little to nothing to augment the flora and fauna on Bayridge. Although I greatly appreciate beautiful landscaping and gardens my efforts through the years have dwindled down to container gardening. Now I know that packing a few pots full of petunias and pansies is to gardening what taking a stroll with the dog is to training for a marathon. No comparison. And though I may even read another blogger’s post on gardening (Trowel Tart, quite amusing and informational) I never actually garden per se.

But, I do enjoy those forsythia.

But before you envision two beautifully sculpted shrubs let me confess that they are both gone wild. By that I mean that our attempts at pruning and shaping have basically been failures. I grew up with a “handy, mechanical type” father and a mother who spent any free time reading. No gardeners there. My husband descended from a long line of city dwellers without the prerequisite land to grow things. And so, when we first became proud owners of “real” estate we thought we’d become gardeners but alas,our interest lasted only a summer or two and what we didn’t turn to green grass we paved into a patio. But we kept the forsythia.

We have almost every year attempted to “shape” the bushes. I did learn the basics of shrub care. Prune the old wood, trim after flowering and before the leaves turn. (Although I did like the recommendation of one old master gardener that the best time to prune was “when the knife was sharp.”) But mostly we just never got it right. Some years we would over prune and have no blossoms the next year. Other years we would neglect the bushes and the bloom would be spotty.

So, today, Mother’s Day, I was enjoying the blossoms and thinking how out of control the bushes had grown this year. Wishing I had done a better job of shrub maintenance and care. But I came to the task an amateur. I took no courses, followed no probationary track, I just became a forsythia guardian. I tried my best. I fed and watered them. I tried to force my will on their growth patterns. But despite my efforts they grew into their own space. One too tall to be called a shrub, towers over the fence. Long yellow arms reaching for the blue sky. The other neither square or round like the ones I see in other yards and in books. Rather, an unusual oval of buttery blossoms bending toward the lawn.

And I think I know why I love them.It’s been and adventure trying to shape them, not unlike the one I’ve enjoyed as a mother. You see I came to the task an amateur. I took no classes, I followed no probationary track. I just fed, watered and loved them. I tried to shape my children in all the usual ways. Say “please and thank you.” Do your homework. Be honest. Be kind. And now in the sunshine of a Sunday, one just about to step into college the other already out, they are magnificent. Their father and I did the best we could, but really the Sun and the sky, the rain and the soil was already here. They may not be perfect specimens, but they are themselves. Reaching for the sky. Full of a bounty of color and verve. We all do the best we can as mother’s and fathers. We want them healthy and happy.But even as we try to shape them into successful adults we have so little control into the shape they will finally embrace. It is well enough to see them strong and tall becoming their own true definition of themselves.

The forsythia is beautiful this year. I’m glad I can appreciate how well it’s doing with and in spite of my best efforts. I’m just say’n

Leaves of Memories

Well that autumnal feeling is upon me and it feels good. That is the direct opposite of how I felt as August days dwindled down at the end of summer. When the kids are little moms say, “They’re ready for school to start.” What we mean is “I am ready for school to start.” We want our house back our kitchen clean and the floor clear of wet swimsuits and other summer debris. After camps and rec. department activities end, the days become long aimless periods between dark evenings notable only for how bad the bugs are biting.
But somewhere between a new driver’s license and the ability to get themselves to their own tennis lesson or friend’s home, a change happens. They begin leaving “childhood” behind, and the status quo alters. At first imperceptibly, she babysits, instead of needing a sitter. Or you notice that the Fourth of July is not quite as exciting as Christmas Eve to him anymore.

When they were little we planned all types of activities to keep summer boredom at bay and yes to create summer memories too. One summer the three of us had our own book club. Something of a feat considering the 6 year difference in their ages,but fun none the less. My daughter and I would make “real” lemonade from scratch at least once each summer and were constantly on the look-out for new recipes for the summer classic. That’s not even counting “backwards day” or lunch-time bike-ride picnics. And as an official graduate of “Mean-mom School” I told my kids they were not even allowed to say they were bored or had nothing to do until at least the middle of July.

But last year my daughter and her best friend went and bought their school supplies without me. (I wonder if the other Mom missed this too.)And this year for the first time since she was three the lemons went unsqueezed in the fridge.

This is the last summer when “school” means the red brick building in our town, and I’m not liking it.

So her father and I were feeling sad with the wind down. Not at all happy about the passage of time. And then we both remembered our own junior summer. How excited we were to be seniors. How the school seemed like our own little kingdom and how everything seemed just ready to pop with excitement and fun, in spite of papers, tests and projects. If our own parents were sad about only one more summer until we left for college we surely didn’t notice.

And so I decided to put the the mopes away.The fall of my senior year was crisp and colorful. And cool sunny Fridays still cause me to remember the feel of my cheerleader’s sweater. I wasn’t sad to leave summer behind to the extent that I could not enjoy Fall and neither is my daughter. The backpack is new, the pencils are sharpened and its another school year to learn and grow. The glass is full, the path is waiting, “mean moms” not withstanding. It’s another beginning, and it will bring it’s own “firsts” and memories to fore. So she’ll enjoy this time and I’ll enjoy watching her enjoy it.And in the end that maybe the best part of parenting, even for a “mean-mom graduate.” I’m just say’n.

Golden Time

Summer time is “golden” time. And I’ve enjoyed getting to know the Golden retrievers who have been part of our “pack.” They’ve all been unique dogs, possessing the central characteristic of a golden. People-love. A vet treating one of my dogs summed it up this way. “He’s a golden so he will mope when he’s not with his family.”

Our first Golden was Kalahan. Selected from a shelter as a gift for my husband, basically the smartest dog I’ve ever known. A friend once told me “he’s not a dog he’s a person in a dog suit.”

Kalahan, could open a peanutbutter jar, and not leave teeth marks. He opened drawers, and rearranged stuffed animals-neatly-under the dining room table. He also retrieved items on command. An especially helpful trick, when my hands were full of baby. He never growled or frightened children. But he guarded his “charges” loyally, always placing himself between them and approaching strangers. Eating the babysitters dinner seemed to be a small price to pay for such devotion. When it came time to help an aged Kalahan on to his next home, we were all bereft. But he looked at us with his typically wise eyes and bid us fairwell with grace and dignity.

The children were young and I missed a walking partner so seven months later we brought home Yankee. He joined our family at two-months old a few days before the Fourth of July. Hence the name. (Which my husband came up with in fear that the kids would name the dog “Guy.”) Although only a puppy, Yankee was always ,to put it simply, huge. He grew taller than any other golden I had ever seen and though I kept his figure svelte ,he weighed in at over 100 pounds. Other golden owners would stop me and ask where I had gotten such a mountain of dog. Yankee just smiled his golden smile and waited to be petted. And that was Yankee’s gift. A large heart just wanting some love. If Kalahan was one part of the canine IQ scale, Yankee sat on the other end. I never had to clear the counters of food. Cookies out of the oven could cool on the kitchen table and I could leave the house! Yankee seemed to have no faults except for his inability to fit places. Which was fine with me since that included most of the furniture. He just lumbered through life. My son, a teenager at the time called him “Sweets”. And never was a nickname more justly deserved. When Yankee did not wake up last July 5th the entire neighborhood was shocked and saddened. No one could belive he was 12 years old he seemed like such a puppy. One neighbor remembered how just a few days earlier,Yankee had appeared on his back porch gave one bark to be petted, and than trotted home. “As if to say ‘goodbye” to me , he mused.

“So,” my husband said as this year’s Fourth of July neared, “we lost Yankee last year at this time and a few months later you brought home Ethel Merman.” Well, her name is actually Bella. Named by the family who turned her into a local Golden rescue group. And like Ethel Merman she sings. It’s loud, really loud, and untrained ,and full of gusto. It’s a fullthroated song of joy when any of the family returns home after a prolonged abscence of say 5 or 10 minutes. She also sings when friends arrive. Bella is also our retriever most likely to truly play fetch -for hours and hours if she could. She is, my husband says, our most athletic dog. To use his basball analogy , Bella is a centerfielder, Yankee was a DH, and Kalahan was a baseball executive.

Loving a golden means sweeping up soft mounds of golden fur, having a large supply of tennis balls , and keeping track of your socks. It also means unconditional love, and being the recipient of that daily “golden smile” that means “I love you, and it’s so great we are all together.” What more does anyone need? I’m just say’n.

Innaugural

With time on my hands and spring doing it’s re-birth, re-fresh number in my mind as well as the landscape, I’ve begun this blog. I wanted to have a place to jot down thoughts and ideas for a long time now that I could share with friends and family. Much of what I want to write about will be pretty basic stuff. I’ll be pretty informal. Community, friends, kids and of course ( if you know me you know I’ll work in) dogs will often be the topics of my musings.
The things that I’ll write about will interest you I hope. Since you may be a part of my experiences you may even appear in this blog. But I promise to be discreet. (And to try to work the kinks out of this whole blogging/technology thing.)
It’s been over a year since I’ve lost my forum for sharing insights ,thoughts, and laughs with many people every week. I’ have missed that. This blog is my attempt to re-connect and share that experience again. No big political discourses, no toplofty pronouncements, just the musings I have as I walk the streets of the ‘Bay. You may be thinking about some of the same things, or I may trigger a similar chain of thought in you. I hope at least to share a grin or two as we meet in this medium. Bear with me as I ramble/blog.
I am “just say’n.”