Saturday, March 1, 2014

Being in the Now (even when the now is 1 degree)


I know, "Live in the present," "Be in the now," "Enjoy today," .... when you're  living in the middle of the Polar Vortex you're thinking blah, blah, blah, right?!

'Cuz when the air hurts your skin, and every step has you worrying you're gonna break your neck fallin' on the ice, and everyone keeps going round and round with cold and flu season.... um, it doesn't make you enjoy the present. It does not feel like a present. It feels like that gift you'd like to return. Immediately. For another season. Balmy summer. Mild spring. Perfect autumn. Anything but the now. Which is midwinter in Massachusetts.

But then there's me. How can I abandon my love, my madly passionately in love with true love, the state of Massachusetts, when it is in one it's four perfect seasons?! Perfect. Perfectly imperfect? Well, not to sound Pollyana'ish, but I am remembering to appreciate the good sides of winter. Yes, even in March, when it is ONE degree when I walk out into our yard to let out our doggies at 6 am. No need for an -s for degrees. Just degree. Singular.

Winter, you ask? What are the "positives" of winter? The cold? The high heating bills? The constant shoveling and snowblowering and salting the driveway?

Yes, even with my dry skin and split finger skin and humidifiers ablazing, I am still appreciating the winter in Massachusetts.  I know I may be in the minority.

And I probably don't love winter for the same reasons some other people do. Some people love the winter because it gives them the opportunity to go skiing or snowboarding every weekend.

My appreciation for this season is for the lack of action, the inaction.

Don't get me wrong, I adore the fresh green newness of spring. I embrace our family getting out of the house and back into outdoor sports. And I love the heat of summer, the pool, wearing less clothes, the freeness to be outdoors all the day and night. And my favorite season of course is autumn, the brisk air requiring a sweater while we go apple picking and pumpkin picking and through the corn maze and trick-or-treating.

What I love about all those seasons is the opposite of why I love winter.

Those seasons are full of hustle and bustle and activity, which is fun and great, but it also makes me appreciate winter's inactivity.

Of course we still go sledding and walk the dogs daily and exercise, but the coldness of winter invites us inside, to be cozy and warm. The interiority of the cold season is what I enjoy. The fire in the fireplace, board games, reading books by the fire, drawing, playing, baking, cooking, all of these are what makes this season so wonderful for me to share with my family.

And I often admit to my friends' who can't get enough of summer that I actually find the intense humid heat here exhausting. I find myself saying that we wait all winter for summer to arrive to be able to spend so much time outdoors, and then are reminded of the reality of summer: the intense heat, the suffocating humidity, the mosquitoes, the deer ticks. Just when you think "Ah, a summer evening, I'm going to go enjoy my lemonade in the yard," you are attacked my mosquitoes, find a deer tick on your leg and flee inside the house. Ugh. Exhausting. As much as I always thought of myself as a beach lover when I was growing up, spending all my summers on the beach in Malibu, I've realized now that I can get tired of the heat on the beach very quickly, even with an umbrella and thirst quenching drinks and the frosty Atlantic to cool me off.

What?! Blasphemy! Who does not adore every single millisecond of everyday at the beach?! This is how I feel when I admit my feelings to winter weary East Coast friends. Which I understand. I do. I like to defrost my frozen bones as much as the next New Englander.

But for me there are positives to life outdoors during winter here. A big chunk of my life is spent walking my two large dogs. During winter, I find the fresh cold air to be invigorating. It feels wonderful to get big lungfuls of cold air while I walk my dogs everyday.

So, even while I am wincing when my skin hurts walking my dogs on single digit winter days, I remind myself to stop and enjoy the beauty that surrounds me. I continue to feel so grateful to live where I live. My yard and this neighborhood makes me feel as if I live in Tahoe, which for this California native is one of my favorite beautiful outdoor locations. The trees and the clear blue sky of winter here inspires me to take off my glove (ouch!) (yes, I gotta get a pair of those genius gloves that allows you to have them on while touching the iphone screen!), and take photos of all around me, everyday.

That blue sky?! Are you KIDDING ME NOW?!!!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

I am afraid to not be afraid

So here I am again, trying to write.

Trying to share with the world thoughts, and maybe images, that will forever be out in the ether, out in the universe, out on the internet.

How does one decide to do this? I am not like international movie star Julia Roberts, where I present a persona to the public, play roles of others on screen, share only what I choose in interviews, and then retreat to the protected seclusion of my fortress of wealth and power and security guards, allowing nary a snapshot of my children to the world's prying eyes. No, I am a middle-class middle-age regular ol' American mother, who wishes to write and share about this journey of parenthood, of life, but then.....

It is the 'but then's' that scare me. That stop me. That prevent me.

I am tempted to read all the How Much and How Little to Share on Your Blog articles I can get my hands on. I am tempted to hand out little tidbits of sharing, all while protecting the motherlode. Because this world we live in is a scary one. Yes, yes, I know "It has always been a scary world, and it will always be a scary world." But, let's be honest, here, in America, in our current world, in 2014, it feels a whole lot scarier than in the past. Planes flying into buildings. Monsters massacre baby children in kindergarten. Predators wait to steal children at a moment's notice. Sick humans search the internet to find images to further their sickness.

With all of this, how is a person supposed to share? How is a mother supposed to do anything except exert all her energy to protecting her children, her family, their safety, their privacy, their innocence?

Sigh.  I sigh a lot in parenting I've found.

I had a mom friend, whose children were a few years older than mine, and we would get into heated discussions over what I considered being realistic and she considered being overprotective and unrealistic. Her children, ages 7 and 9, rode their bikes down the street to visit their friends, as we did in the 1970s. I could not imagine the day when I would feel safe allowing my kids, then 4 and 6, to savor such freedom as I did in the days of The Partridge Family and Zoom. And, now that my kids are now 9 and 11, it still feels to me like at any moment an unmarked van could drive up and toss them in and drive away, never to be seen again. She argued that there were no more abductions than when we were kids, that it just felt that way because the instant access to the news allowed much more information to be shared and known. I have never googled those statistics, and I am not sure it would matter. My number one job as their mother, as their parent, is to keep them alive. Some would argue, as she did, "No, your number one job is to make them independent, so they can fly the nest." And my cynical answer would be "Yes, that sounds all fine and dandy, but they can't fly the nest if they are gone or dead."

Ah, yes, the morbid nature of the worrying mother.

In the ensuing years, I have spoken with countless other mothers who feel the same as I do. Not that I take a vote at every casual school pickup conversation. This subject comes up with parents, male and female, all the time, with friends and even strangers. Many parents do not even question it anymore. Of course they do not allow their child to go in to the restroom by themselves. In an instant something can happen that will change the innocence of the child forever.

But then comes the question of age. The child grows older. The female parent can no longer realistically insist the 11 year old male child go into the female bathroom. A policeman I know would, without hesitation, stand in front of the door and tell people "My daughter is in there, you will have to wait." Part of me would like to drive over to our local police station and ask them their official stand on this subject. I told my own kids this yesterday. I would not allow my 9 and 11 year old to remain the car while I went into the store for a moment. My 9 year old daughter stated "You don't trust us." And, as much as I would like to assure her that the world is a safe place, instead I've told her what I've told my kids for years: "We live in a world where there are bad people who might take you away or hurt you. My job is to protect you."

I am guessing there may be some parents who chuckle and shake their heads at this point in my saga. "Ah, that worrywart mother, she needs to just relax and not fret all the time." And I would respond "You parent your way, I parent mine."

Because it all boils down to that, doesn't it? As I wrote in a previous blog post, about the subject of figuring out how far to go to protect my kids from physical injury, versus allowing them freedom to adventure, my ultimate response is: "No one is going to walk up to me at their funeral and say "Well, at least you weren't overprotective."

And back to the subject of writing. I would like to embrace the "Let go of all fear and write" philosophy. I think it sounds great, in theory, to write with the credo of "Have no insecurities when you write." But it isn't just about me. If I write about my family, about my children, that is sharing their stories, their personal lives, their world, also. And, with the internet, once it is written, it is out there, forever. Same as people warn about posting on Facebook, once it's out there, it is out there forever. Anyone can look at all that is written by you and about you. Do I have the permission of my children to share their lives and their world? When writing on the internet reaches literally the whole world?

So. I'm figuring it out. As the blog title states, a work in progress.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

They did not have central air in the 1830s

Central air is a good thing.  This is our first summer in our new home.  The last time we had central air conditioning was two houses ago, 6 summers ago.  For the last 6 years we had window units.  Very loud window units.  Very ineffective and very loud window units.  So I am appreciating the silent beauty of central air.

But now that I've lived a month into my first summer in Massachusetts, I can see why many of my neighbors opt not to have it.  Right now, at 8 am on July 21st, it is, I kid you not, 65 degrees outside.  Ahhhh, so lovely, after the heatwave we just endured here.  Scorching heat, highs of 93, with bazillion percent humidity.  But then yesterday was cool and overcast.  My daughter even wore a light sweater.  We were able to have the windows open all day.  I really like that.  I keep saying "Wow, in the 12 summers I lived in New Jersey, it never once cooled down, between Memorial Day and Labor Day."  I found that very draining.  Am I getting to be an ol' granny?  Probably.  (Not that there is anything wrong with being an ol' granny.  Ol' grannies are awesome!)  Another thing I love about Massachusetts: it sometimes cools down in summer.  (Yes, I absolutely already realize that bitter winter is mere moments away already! haha!)  It kind of reminds me of what is so neat about visiting the beach, how it cools down at night, and after feeling (happily) so hot all day, your body says ahhh, and you wear a light sweatshirt, and smile at your luck at having both hot summer day and cool summer night.

Fireflies.  Yes, they have them here.  This was a large question for my children and me.  We love fireflies.  I did not grow up with fireflies, what with them not exisiting in California, where I spent all my childhood summers.  I am equally as fascinated by them as my children have been every summer since they were aware of the yard and its inhabitants.  We had many happy nights of them chasing the fireflies around with their bug boxes, catching some, oohing and aahing at them, and then releasing them back into the warm humid night.  We have only seen a few so far here.  Read above paragraph for explanation.  From what I saw in New Jersey, not that I'm a lightning bug expert!, they seem to come out the most on the hottest and most humid nights.  When 9 year old Aidan was looking forward to summer vacation beginning, he said "If it were summer already, my only homework would be watching fireflies and eating smores."  That made me smile.  And made me feel we are providing him, and his sister, with good summer memories.

And one of our new Summer 2012 memories is our first trip to Old Sturbridge Village!  And we chose the hottest day of summer to go there! hee hee, not the hottest, but man, it gave me new appreciation and respect for those pioneer men and women (and children!), who lived during those New England summers in very hot homes, wearing very many layers of clothes.  It is a wonderful place, reminded us of Greenfield Village in Michigan, with recreations, and originals, of residences and business buildings from the 1830s.  The kids got a kick out of the photos showing one of the original houses being transported down the highway.  History, history, history.  That is one of the elements of living in New England that I had been looking forward to so much.  The funny thing is, I am not usually a history buff.  Just another thing about Massachusetts that brings out the love in me!

Okay, seriously?!
Massachusetts, you are gonna need to stop being such a show off!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Hot all day sports camp, and how parents leave

In the long continuing saga of How Am I Supposed to Trust my Child with Strangers?, I had my first experience with leaving my child at an all day sports camp.  With people I had never met before.  During a heatwave.  With public restrooms.  Next to a busy street.

"Oh, Liz, you silly nilly, there is nothing to be afraid of, he will be fine." is what I'm imagining some parents are thinking upon reading this.

But, fortunately for me, and unfortunately for them/all of us, I discovered I was not the only parent who was trepidatious at this first experience.  I had mini-therapy sessions with other moms and dads as we dropped our sons off.  The extreme heat.  The need for hydration.  One dad unapologetically admitted he had told his son "You will die if you don't drink enough.  Do you understand this?"  The question of will they use the public restrooms alone.  The graphic terrifying subject that parents who did not know each other moments before will discuss with each other.  And then seconds later we share sunscreen with those who forgot, trust coaches we have never met before, and drive away.  Somehow we do that.

In the end, yes, all was well.  It is always a learning experience.  I tend to hold my breath.  Well, hold my breath, and also drive by the field one hour later, just to assure myself things are going okay.  And upon seeing my son at pickup, ask him how much of his beverages he drank during the 5 scorching hours since I dropped him off.  And be glad I gave him extra bottles when he generously gave a bottle to his friend.

Sigh.  I just sighed.  I do alot of sighing.

Oh, did the child learn anything at the all day baseball camp for 4 days?  I'm sure he did.  But I also learned my own stuff too.

Sometimes he seems so tall and mature.
Here he seems so small and young.
Probably me reading into it. And that cooler full of hydration.

Someday perhaps words will be invented
to describe how mothers feel about their children.

I'm pretty sure it ain't a childhood summer
unless you go somewhere still in your pajamas.

It all looks fine, the field, the exercises, the capable adults in charge.
And then I had to walk away.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A love story, in pictures


Our first family trip to Cape Cod

Cape Cod


New England

I had always dreamed of one day living on the East Coast.  Maybe it was the English major in me.  All that academia, history, the land of literature.

But I didn't expect it to feel like coming home.  I've lived here for only 5 months now, during the latter part of a winter, one springtime, and half a summer.  And yet, it continues to feel so natural, like "Ahh, yes, this is where I am supposed to be."

Is it because I lived for awhile in Cambridge as an infant?  No, I don't think so.  I think it is because of alot of reasons.  One of them is that I have realized I am a woods person.  A green trees person.  A rugged coast type person.  I loved growing up spending summers in Los Angeles.  I still consider myself a huge fan of LA, of 12 months per year sunshine, sandy beaches, flip flops, outdoor living.  And when I visited Sedona, I had thought I might want to retire there someday.  I considered myself a lizard type person, who loved the dry heat and to soak up the sun's rays.  (Well, through sunscreen.  My sun's rays soaking up days for a tan was over decades ago.)

Now I think I would miss the seasons too much.  Having lived in New Jersey for the last 12 years, I have enjoyed every year the change from hot summer to cool fall, the leaves changing colors, the snow, and the return of spring.  Raising children in the seasons is an added pleasure.  My kids are growing up in the yard, investigating fuzzy caterpillars, putting fireflies in their bug boxes, gathering autumn leaves, and building snowmen.

I had been to Cape Cod once, 20 years ago, before I met my husband.  It was a short visit, I borrowed a friend's Jeep, and drove up the coast to Maine, took a boat to Nantucket, which was so pretty, with its cobblestone streets, and quaint charm.

We were so excited to go to Cape Cod together as a family for the first time.  It was a lovely holiday, reunited with friends-who-are-family, playing baseball, body surfing at the beach, building sandcastles, and eating scrumptious food.  My heart was full while watching fireworks, with my seven year old daughter on my lap, the smell of sand and sea in her hair, her stuffed animal on her lap.  Life is such a blessing, and I am appreciating every single day of it.

Isn't it the cutest little cupcake of a house?!!
Don't you just want to pinch its little cheeks?!!

And you walk out the door to this view:

I would love to be a boat person.
Except for all the seasickness I get.

My hearts.

My girl.

After body surfing fearlessly,
(with me hovering fearfully. Hey, I grew up with Malibu's riptide.)
they engineered complex waterways for their sandcastle.

7 yr old Ashley and I had so much fun
making this patriotic dessert together.

I enjoyed my morning stroll while everyone snoozed.
I rejoiced upon finding a Starbucks.
Coffee is good.

Me and my coffee dug this morning view.

I just loved walking by all the architecture of Cape Cod.

A lovely sunset to end a lovely day.

I look forward to many future adventures in Cape Cod with my family.  We are New England transplants.  It's gonna be a good ride.

I love Massachusetts, Part Deux (without the bad parts. Maybe.)


That is how I would sum up Massachusetts.  If I had to sum it up in one word.



That would be my tie for one word description.

I am in love with Massachusetts.

There, I've said it.  We can take our love affair public now.  Wait, is Massachusetts reciprocating this love?  Well, it must be.  Because why else would it be so green, so beautiful, its people so friendly, and grow so many huge insects.  (oh, I was going to leave out the bad parts?  Okay, then I definitely will not talk about what our front screen door looks like at night, when our porch light has been on.  And I will not even mention the minivan size green insect that flew in, unbeknownst to me until I saw it on my bedroom wall as I was about to turn off my bedside light for the night.  Light.  Do you see a trend here?  I need to google why they are so attracted to light?  And why Massachusetts must grow them so large?!  See how I am NOT talking about this?  And I will most definitely not mention how my 9 yr old son told me how many profanities I apparently blurted out while I was trying to capture in a Tupperware with a lid this huge green Massachusetts alien flying insect, kind of like a grasshopper crossed with an F-14.  Why capture him?  Was it a kindly Buddhist-hurt-no-living-creature act on my part?  Um, no, I was just thinking the quantity of green alien goo that would be spread on my wall from smooshing that size of an insect would be too much to witness.  Or remove from wall.)

Hi! What's up?!  Oh, really?  I talked about large insects.  Hmm.  Go figure.

Love.  Love this place.  Love that I live in my own nature preserve.  Love that there are woods surrounding our yard with cute little chimpunks skurrying cutely all over.  Love that a mama turkey wandered through, without a care, with her little turkey babies following her.

And the fact that it needs to rain every single day to maintain this green?  Does not seem to bother me one lick.  That's what happens when you're in love.  Nothing bothers you about your beloved.  Even its insects.  (Doh! There I go!)

The green, the green, how can I tell you about the green?  I swoon at the lushness.  I faint at the richness.  Trees and leaves and plants and flowers all seem to shout "Hooray!  We live in Massachusetts!  So we are going to be extra vibrant green and beautiful!"

I'm woozy from love.

Down the street there is a pond that is really only a puddle that can remain there if it keeps raining.  So I found myself telling the rain, outloud, "Keep raining! The puddle needs you!"  Yes, in front of my children.  It will not surprise you I refer to myself, and they now join in, as "crazy."  The great part of this puddle?  It is host to ducks, and baby ducklings, who just ooze cuteness, and a turtle.  Yes, I pulled over my car to save a turtle.  It was a few feet into the street, I grabbed a towel in case I had to pick it up, (why would I randomly have a towel in my mother-of-two-minivan?  If you have to ask, do not enter my minivan without a hazmat suit on.) but I did not need the towel, because once I approached the turtle, it turned back towards the lush forest, and the inviting puddle/pond, and tried its best on its little turtle legs to scurry away from me.  Which it did veryyyy slowlyyyyy.  And then for days I imitated for the kids, who were unfortunately not with me to share this magical turtle saving experience, the turtle trying to "hurry" away on its little turtle legs.  I am a genius comedienne.


Wait!  You said you weren't gonna!!!

I know, but c'mon.  It had to come.  All this damp lushness had to bring out slimy creature talk.

But now I will leave it.

Massachusetts, I know most Hallmark cards of love would not comment on your large insect population, but still, consider this a declaration, again, of my love for you.

Swooningly yours,
The Lady Whose 7 year old Daughter had to come into Mommy's bed in the middle of the night because of that huge green insect incident minutes before sleep.