At the Intersection of Atlanta and Cosmic

Travel is an amazing thing. To be able to transport yourself from one locale to another, interact with places and people, to touch what was only seen in a photo at one point. Perspective shifts, lives meld, and the world keeps moving. Each of us with our own little world, our little world that intersects with other little worlds.

On a flight from Albany, NY, I had the opportunity to meet a young soul. Her name is Faith.
I had been wheeled onto the airplane, given priority, as the 'boot' I was wearing afforded me a wheel chair and handicap 'priority'. I waited at my window seat on the plane, wondering who would be occupying the space next to me. A 20 year old dirty blonde with dread locks stood staring at me, then said, "I guess this is 20B," to which I replied, "You have found your spot in this world! Have a seat."

It was quicksilver. The moment that two strangers can decide that circumstance has set the best situation out for you. Small talk ensued, as we asked about one another's reason for the flight.

She was 'home' visiting her mom and working on living that dream of travelling on the road. The little bus that her mother purchased and painted purple, well, it broke down. Faith had other plans that included her boyfriend in Florida, not stuck in upstate New York with a broken down bus.  The boyfriend purchased a ticket for her to fly back, so that they could be together. There was a band, a job offer for the boyfriend, and music. When you're 20, sometimes that's all you need in this world.

We discussed life, anxiety, growing up in a small town, small minds, and small people. Then we went large. The cosmos, the Great Maker, Butterfly effect. The note that we all suffer, in one way or another, the fear of being 'less than', of missing out on the 'dream' or the chance to change. The fear of change, the fear of the unknown, the exhilaration that every new step brings one closer to a new reality. Living in the moment, for the moment, not the past, nor the future. Higher thinking, mental, emotional, and physical well being. The opportunity to experience life on life's terms, accepting it all, and creating our own sense of belonging.

Our 2 1/2 hour flight became a theoretical discussion worthy of most 600 level Philosophy courses. A young girl, who had lived a bit, but not experienced enough... comparatively speaking. We shared our love of music and travel. Commiserated on our distaste of small minded busy bodies, judgmental souls, and the restraints of the world.  Our flight ended with warm wishes for safe and soulful travels, not just for that day, but for the rest of our lives. We had connected, shared, and then took a small part of one another's lives, dreams, souls. Touched another human. Intersected our lives and created a new reality and perspective.

Our encounters in life, as 'spontaneous' as they seem, are moments of dreams, snippets of wishes, handfuls of hope, stitched together to create our new reality and perspective.


I yearn to feed my own understanding of this world, an understanding that I so desperately yearn for.

There are so many things out there that scream for attention. We willingly add more information into our minds through surfing the internet, watching the evening news, interacting with others. It is a daily onslaught, and one that I crave too often. My mantra, 'Sapere Aude,', taken from the philosopher Kant, doesn't help either.  I live my life wanting more information, seeking out others' ideas, yearning to understand what makes things work, why people act and interact the way that they do. I'm certain that I am not alone in this, however, I'm also certain that not everyone's mind runs this way on a regular basis.

I can't get enough. I see the world as inextricably linked. One thing feeding off of another, feeding into another. A flow that when interrupted, changed, re-directed,  creates some incredibly profound changes. Some of those changes are not necessarily discernible to everyone, but in my mind's eye, I see the shift 'in the force'.  There is a moment of no return. That time in which the slightest shift takes on a whole new meaning, a new divergent course that creates a new reality.

To be able to find the nuances of a soul's intent, is difficult at best, and is the thing that I guess I will never understand. Fragile things, souls are...  breakable. Broken. Just remember, as you walk through out this life, try not to harm, try not to hurt.

To Err is Human

Failure is horrible. Right?

Remember what it was like the first time you failed, and failed miserably? How did that affect who you are today? Did you change the way you approached something, how you dealt with situations in later years, did it make you re-think how you handled a task, or even your responses to someone?

I am of the firm belief that failure teaches us. First and foremost, it teaches us humility. Something that our society, and a new generation of young people don't necessarily have much of now days. We will be surely facing a group of young people, many of whom will be completely deflated, as they face the first time they weren't awarded for 'showing up'. Living under the grand delusion that they are so unique, they will eventually become cynical beings who learned too late in their lives that even though we are all unique, wonderful characters in our own right, we really aren't that much different from our fellow man. No sparkly, shiny 'happily ever after' in sight, they will miss the teachable moments. They will miss out on the upside of failure, the ability to learn something new.

Edison, Ford, and Einstein were blissful failures at many points in their lives. Those failures of their own making ensured that we had new understandings, deeper meanings, and a better quality of life. I do not make these things up. Look up the real history behind these men, you will find that (and is usually the tale we tell our grade school children who struggle with math) Einstein failed math in grade school ~ miserably. The difference in he and others?  They had the ability to look beyond the failure, press onward, hope that there might be some other way to accomplish what was needed to succeed.

Missing too, is the opportunity to reflect on past errors. There's a camaraderie with parents when they share their tales of parenting horrors. "Been there, done that" is almost dismissive. Assuring one another that being human, making an error, learning how to correct our past failings, it brings us closer together as people. You are not alone....

When our parents were growing up, some of their parents imparted the past failures of their lives so that they would not have to replicate the same mistake. Alas, much as in human nature, children do not always heed their parents' cautionary tales of mistakes. They, in turn, suffer many of the same failures, or worse, create even more issues that were not there to begin with. No matter what we do, inevitably, our children will forge their own path in this world, making some of the same mistakes along the way. It is our responsibility to be there. Not to pick them up every time, but to re-assure them that they are still valuable, productive members of society, and that this is just a temporary set back, NOT the end of the world.

Think about a given trade or career. A world class chef will tell you that there were numerous failed attempts at dishes that they are now renowned for. An engineer learns, not only from his own mistakes made, but studying previous mistakes made by others. A successful businessman will tell you that they studied other's mistakes, as well as their own, in order to 'build a better widget'.

Failure teaches us to become more industrious, 'think outside of the box', manage our time better, become better stewards in society, and above all, allows us to be human. When something doesn't go 'our way', we don't need to have a melt down, nor do we have to beat ourselves up (although, most likely, many of us will do one of those things at one point or another). It allows us to empathize with others, letting them know that they are not alone in their daily dilemma. It brings us together, allows us to care, makes us more human, and gives us the opportunity to allow ourselves to recover.

So, let your kid fail now, when they're young. Allow them for those moments of disappointment in themselves. Assure them that it is part of the learning process. They will become more well-rounded, clearer thinking adults when they have to face those demons in later years.

As Alexander Pope once wrote: "To err is human; to forgive, Divine".

Isn't it nice to think that we are modeling the concept of our Maker, who, upon seeing our faults, still loves us, no matter what?  With that, we can move on to be better, wiser souls.

Santa Lives in Sun City

Labor Day ~ food stuffs to make, things to grill, and me, without any of it readily available. I've been cleaning the house and doing laundry for 3 hours. It's time for my escape. My son gives me the opportunity, and offers me the opening, requesting ribs and sausages for the grill. I willingly comply with the request, packing my purse, armed with a phone and a debit card.

A ten minute drive to the local grocery store, music blaring, windows rolled down (the air conditioner in the car doesn't work), as the automatic transmission slips grudgingly with each gear. I am free of the housework that begs to be completed, even if it is only for a short respite. 

As I begin my trek into the store, my mind whirls around the family finances. I won't be able to buy the ribs that my son wants, they're much too expensive for us. Maybe I can find a few pieces of meat on sale, ones that might 'do the trick' and I can always use the chicken in the freezer. I muddle around in my mind's eye what our meal will look like. Fresh corn, a couple of kabobs with red meat, a package of sausages, all on sale, are what our celebratory meal will be. It's expensive, even on sale, but we don't get the chance to spend time together and eat leisurely on a regular basis.

My heart begins to feel weighed down by the burdens of my world. I begin trudging back to the soda aisle to pick up our afternoon beverages. My face must have looked grim for certain, and then, he showed up.

Out of nowhere, a man was standing next to me. Older, with a white beard and a smile on his face. He looked like any other gentleman that could be wandering in the store. Nothing terribly special in his appearance. Nothing, except his eyes that were peering through a set of glasses. They were a piercing blue, and they were within a foot of my own.

He was leaning in toward me. Putting a hand on my shoulder, he cheerily exclaimed "Smile!"

Taken aback, I took one step away, breathed deep, and tried to put on my best smile for the nice old man.

"Of course, I should smile." I responded half-heartedly. My breathe barely pushing out my response in an audible tone.

"No! No, no, no! That will not do! I mean, you should smile! It's a beautiful day. There is so much that you and I can smile about. So much!" Grinning ear to ear, he patted my back, and held out his hand, as though to point me in the direction that I would be walking in.

"Oh, you're right." I had a tried and true response. One that I use when I need to remind myself that I'm not infirmed, one that puts the point home that I am capable, if I chose to be.

"I'm upright, breathing, and on the right side of the green." My smile put a twang of happiness that really wasn't quite there into my pat response.

"No my dear girl. That's not what I mean." He had to have seen the puzzled look on my face when he was trying to correct me.

"Sweetheart, there is so much that we can smile about. We are both here, standing in a place, able to make a purchase. We are here for others, getting things that will make them smile. If you think about it, there isn't a day that goes by that you don't make someone else happy, make them smile." The warmth of his voice was like a hug from my daddy.

"I am simply here to remind you that you should be happy, you should smile. Think of every day as having a little bit of Christmas in it. There's always something magical that happens, if you look for it." His grin, grown full, depicted that of a soul that was truly happy.  His eyes, how they twinkled, his dimples, how merry......

I stared at him, looking into his eyes, and felt a rush of warmth come over my heart. In return for his words of encouragement, I smiled. This time, genuinely, a big smile. My voice trembled a bit, overcome with a bit of emotion that snuck up inside of me, and I whispered a 'thank you' to him.
 I turned to say something more, and he was gone.

Walking away, my heart filled with hope. The kind of hope that you get around the holidays. Hope that encourages. Promises of better things, and feelings that come when you think there's a chance that your situation will turn around, sooner than later. Tears welled up and fell silently on either cheek.

Picking up my last bits of items, I made my way to the check out line. I kept looking for 'him'. The older gentleman was no where to be seen. The cashier was pleasant, and nothing else remarkable occurred on my way out. I even waited a moment in the parking lot, thinking that I could catch just one more glimpse of him, but I didn't.

Driving home, I realized that Santa lives in Sun City Center. Maybe he was looking for me, maybe it was a chance meeting. Either way, he's sharing his message of hope, reminding whomever he meets, that even on Labor Day, we can celebrate the grateful heart of Christmas. And just to make sure, we can smile.

One Large, to Go.....

I have to tell you a secret, I don't cook dinner on Thursdays.

OK, so the crew at the local pizza shop knows that I don't..... alright... the kids at the grocery store where I pick up the sodas know it too. But that's it, other than you. It's a guilty pleasure that makes me smile, every Thursday. It's a break from the dinner dishes, the prepping, planning, and cooking of a meal. My family is fed, my teens happy for the ritualistic treat, and I can enjoy an evening of relaxation.

Pizza.... go ahead, say the word out loud ~ no one's around. You smiled when you said it, didn't you? Now, another exercise (bear with me friend, I promise you, it is necessary). Think of various times that you've eaten pizza. Remember them? Good.

From an educated guess, most, if not all of your memories are positive, maybe even really happy. They are ones, like my Thursdays. I would even venture that there were parties surrounded by a few of those slices, or a grateful boss that sprang for a snack to show his appreciation for a finished project.

Oh, the left over pizza you had after a long evening of frivolity? Weren't you glad that you had THAT as a 'go to'?  College dinner/breakfast? See what I mean, you can't think of, eat, or say 'pizza' and be miserable. You just can't help but crack a bit of a smile.

My favorite memory of pizza is from a long time ago, when I worked in the family deli, where we made the treat that makes smiles. Daddy had just opened his business that week. It was a summer day, and I was ready to make subs, dish up home-made salads and beans, and of course, make pizza.

New business owners tend to do this huge mental build up in their mind's eye of how their first days will be. Bustling and exceedingly busy is the hopes that they all place their lofty thoughts. The reality of still moments that lead to quiet hours finally set in.

The small town we lived in was supportive. More so, our neighbors and family friends. This one particular Saturday was quiet. A few people trickled in, ordered a bit of cold cuts, a pound of this, a hoagie or two. The large, antiquated, brick-lined oven had been sitting patiently, waiting to be thrust into service.

'Pépé Lorde' strolled into the front door that day. He was our next door neighbor, and our family had 'adopted' him and his wife as surrogate grandparents. Pépé was old and wore a hearing aide. He and his wife lived with their daughter, son-in-law, and their teenage children.  Seeing Pépé walk through the door made me smile. He ordered a large pizza. Daddy said I could make it, and with his supervision, did so. While the pizza was baking in the oven,  the two men talked and walked around the small floor of the deli.  Daddy pointed out what he had done, and what he was planning to do, once business picked up.

I got to 'ring up' the sale, and had to figure tax, as the deli's first cash register was an antique. Pépé glowed with pride as he watched me, and praised me for my prowess. "Geez Larry, not only can she cook, she can do math! She'll make someone a fine wife!"

A bit embarrassed, but proud of my accomplishment, I thanked Pépé for shopping with us. Daddy shook his hand and thanked him for the business and asked that they let us know how their meal was. As we retreated behind the deli counter, Pépé opened the front door of the deli and stepped out onto the large form-made concrete stairs. As he closed the door behind him, he appeared to look around with pride at his new gastronomical acquisition. Then, as though he had done so a million times before, turned the pizza box on it's side and wedged it under his left arm, as if he were carrying the Sunday paper. 

Daddy and I groaned. I started out after Pépé, but my father grabbed me by my arm and stopped me. He pulled me close to him, and quietly, but firmly, told me that I needed to make another pizza, just like the one I had before, and it needed to make it quickly. There was a sense of urgency to his directive, so I did.

While I was preparing the second pizza of the day, Daddy was on the phone with Pépé's family.  Pépé was walking across our front lawn toward his home, along with his new possession tucked under his arm, and they could see him out their kitchen window.  Daddy explained that we were already making another pizza, it was in the oven cooking, and when it was ready, he would send me over to deliver it.

I delivered the second pizza to the neighbor's house a short while later. Pépé's son and grandson, Jack and John, were in the carport, still ribbing Pépé about the family meal being 'ruined'. Betty, Pépé's daughter, came out, chastising them, and then thanked me for the effort.  When it was all said and done, we were all laughing, and agreed that I should probably deliver pizza to them when they ordered.

See, it's like I said... you can't help but smile when you think of  pizza.

"To Do" List

This world moves very quickly, and during the course of a 24 hour period of time, we have implanted in our minds, things that we'd like to accomplish. Lists of "Things To Do" is what runs through my mind, and usually is scribed somewhere on a 3x5 card.  I am such a lucky woman to have a few of these 'lists' around.

One is my 'General List for Work', which includes the simple tasks that I don't always do on a daily basis, but need to be accomplished. If they're real 'technical' (legal documents) they get a special list of 'Paperwork for Work' list all to their very own. These lists are usually accomplished in a relatively short amount of time, and when the tasks at hand are completed, the list is simply thrown away.

My home has a few lists of it's own. One's a general "Housecleaning To Do" list, another boasts the title of "Projects @ the House", while still another holds the coveted "Important Dates/Times" list. Why, you might ask, are lists such a prominent part of my life? It reminds me of all of the things that I not only expect my self to execute, but what others are relying on me to complete as well.  I have to admit, that sometimes, just sometimes, there are a few items on the list that don't get completed, but I still cross them out, as though the task at hand was done. It's not cheating, after all, most of this is just to organize my thoughts, my wishes of how I'd like my world, my day, to run. Not like the 'List Nazis' are gonna check up on me and my follow-through, right?

These items, the one's that I put on my 'list', which ever one it may be, are usually a chore, task, errand, etc. that needs to be completed, but isn't something that I REALLY want to do. So, my dearest friends, I have decided that I want to create a list (NOT my 'bucket list' ~ that has different parameters) that has some positive connotation to me... be it just fanciful, or even a tad practical.

1) Dance the night away
2) Learn the secret to happiness
3) Discover why men have to be the driver when the other passenger is a female
4) Read for a minimum of 4 hours each day of whatever you want.... (I know, for me, unrealistic)
5) Tweet at least 5 compliments to 5 different people each day (watch your following grow!)
6) Give a hug to at least 4 people a day.
7) Imagine "What if.." on a scale so huge, IF it were to happen, your life would be forever changed.
8) Spend time alone, no electronics around, and reflect on those people who mean so much to you.
9) Sing, loudly, to your favorite music while driving around 'back roads'
10) Find out who teaches kids to jump on chairs, couches, or beds
11) Meditate on positive people, places, and events in your life...
12) Spend a day with someone under the age of 21, they are FASCINATING!
13) Write a letter by hand to a dear friend or family member, put it in an envelope, mail it!
14) Send a "Thinking of You" note to someone you just thought of (See #8)
15) Order something, anything, online, to be delivered whenever ~ as a gift to you.
16) Take a 2 month trip down the Rhine, visiting EVERY castle along the way
17) Take a horseback ride under the full moon (again!)
18) Spend a night watching a meteor shower
19) Go on a photographic expedition of an area that's always fascinated you
20) Find out who teaches kids to jump in mud puddles (see #10 ~ they might be able to help)

I know I've got more... but I'll end it here for now ~ as soon as I accomplish a few of these, I'll be adding another. In the mean time, get going, you've got a list to make and things to do!

A Family Portrait ~ Just in Time for Christmas!

We currently live in a lovely little sub-division, neatly dotted with look-alike homes. I would venture to guess that well over half of the properties have children (ages ranging from 0-21) residing with their parents. Many of 'the first families' in the neighborhood still exchange Christmas cards, goodie baskets, and of course, the holiday family portrait, the same one that Aunt Eunice in Topeka gets in her Christmas card.

I had been honored to have been asked to take THAT family picture for a young couple this last holiday bout. The family was dressed in matching flip flops, shorts and adorable shirts. They looked like something out of a catalog. We discussed where the picture would be taken, who would sit where, and what palms should be in the backdrop. The pool had to be in the photo too... I mean, you can't JUST have the kids in shorts for a December picture without the constant reminders that 'we live in a warm climate' screaming at your relatives, who are most likely buried in 8 feet of freshly fallen snow.

It was perfect, they were perfect. They sat together, the young couple grinning, the children excited. Then it happened. A flip flop fell off, much to Mommy's chagrin. Daddy explained that 'you are a grown up 4 years old, you need to act accordingly and not flop around like a fish.' Apparently, the two year old decided that since he was NOT 4, he SHOULD flop like a fish, and in doing so, inadvertently hit his mother squarely on the bridge of her nose. Her nose began to swell, and the tears she was producing were ruining her perfect make up job that she had administered to herself earlier that morning. After we applied ice to her nose, the dog ran into the planted palm, dumping its contents onto the newly scrubbed brick pavers. The children became whiny, as what began as an exciting moment became a comedy of errors. It was close to nap time too ~ and I could feel the frustration taking a toll on us all, as I wanted to claim 'nap time' along side the children.

Before the day was through, we did manage to get a couple of pictures taken, one of them actually made it as 'the' picture for the holiday greeting card. The young mother thanked me for my time, and was exasperated over the whole ordeal.

The young mother lamented about the photo shoot, claiming that nothing comparable had EVER happened like this before. She was clearly embarrassed and frustrated. I explained to her the cliché lines that I was once told, that this was something she'd look back on and laugh about. I then shared my family's own little holiday picture shoot extravaganza with her.

All four kids, ages 6 months, 2, 6, and 8 years of age were dressed up, well coiffed, and ready for it. The diaper bag was packed for the trip to the Department Store Photo Studio; otherwise known as ~ "we still have floor space, what do we do with it to make money" area.

We had made an appointment, but due to the New England weather, either the photographers, previous appointments, or all of the above were running late. I liken waiting with small children in a confined public area as an opportunity to expose any and all dysfunction a family has or COULD have. As you can guess, our 3 1/2 hour wait consisted of the typical stressors that a young family would encounter: the 4 diaper changes, the toddler that was ready for her nap 1/2 hr before the sitting, and two kids that wanted nothing more than to go back to the toy area to dream of what Santa would bring them, began to fray our nerves.

My husband and I began getting short with the children, then correcting one another. We were, after all, in public. I had been smart enough to bring my 2 year olds favorite stuffed bear, aptly named "Bear", to sooth her while we waited. By the time we were ready to select the backdrop, figure out where we were sitting, and get the children in place, there was nary a smile in the place. Tears ran down faces, whining ensued, and complaints of 'This is stupid!' and 'Why do we need to do this?' made me reflect on whether or not it was truly a good idea.

The children were constrained into poses, yes, constrained, as between each shutter click, my husband and I mumbled words that a sea-fairing soul would identify easily. The two year old, to the point of being un-consolable, was offered "Bear" and would not part with him. Growling under a pasted on grin, we told the kids that there was just a moment or two more, and all of this nightmare would be over..

The photo was lovely, my grandmother even said so. My parents and in-laws cooed over the portrait, which, to this day, sits prominently in the living rooms of their homes. When a friend comes to visit, they point out how much the children have grown, and how they have/haven't changed. Every time I look at it, I smile, and am grateful that I don't have to re-do that day again.

We have taken only one other official family portrait, many years later. The kids were much more at ease, there was no need to wrestle with diapers or snacks. There were moments, ones that were spent grumbling about one little thing or another. The photos, after all, are a snapshot of what we are, what others see, when we're in public.

Goinkalinks Need Not Apply

My father was a busy man. He worked for a large corporation and ran the front lines for them at the district level. A number of years in management, he knew how to work a balance sheet and cut shrinkage. It was a normal practice when I was young to go into work on Sundays (when there were things such as 'Blue Laws') to do price changes and stock shelves.

Daddy knew what worked and how to manage people. He could joke with you and get his point across subtly, or, he could be down right, in your face, quietly harsh. My brother and I were pretty much handled as employees of his. We had our work to do, expected outcomes, and when the business of home was running well, we'd all get a bonus (good Christmas presents or a needed family trip).

The man had a way of using the psychology courses that he took in college to his advantage when he was raising my brother and I. Reverse psychology? My old man was the master of it. So much so, that I think they used him for the examples of 'what worked'. He also utilized a vague label, one that makes me smile today, but back then, would make me extremely concerned.

"You, Suzy, are the Chiefest of Goinkalinks" he pronounce to me at the family dinner table one evening.

"I'm a WHAT?"

"Goinkalink. You know... there are schmoinkers, nixies, and then, there are goinkalinks. You, my dear, are certainly a goinkalink if I ever saw one."

I sat there, not certain as to whether or not this was an admonishment of behavior, or a reflection of my personality. Exactly what the old man wanted. Being a very mature seven year old, there were certain things that I was certain of, but this goinkalink thing, I wasn't sure if I really fit the mold.

"Daddy, what's a goinkalink?"

"Why, it's exactly what YOU are. What you do, what you say, everything, it makes you a goinkalink." He chomped on a piece of meat, smirking at me, and chuckling to himself.

When Dad didn't like what we were doing, but realized that it was his 'opinion', he would pull that now family-famous moniker out. If he wanted us to think about our next move, he wanted us to take our own view, we were graded at some level: chief, head, general, or colonel of goinkalinks.  At times, when Dad knew that he was being a bit hot headed, and to diffuse the situation, we were goinkalinks. When he wanted us to figure out that what we were doing was being independent, taking positive steps, taking calculated risks, we were goinkalinks.

To be a goinkalink was to reflect on what you said or did, review your station, think about where you were going, on more than one level. It was a 'time out' for both Daddy and us, to figure out whether or not one of us was out of line or over-reacting. It was a label that, just in the sheer craziness of the sound of it, made you stop.

As time went on and we grew older, Daddy would call us goinkalinks in a loving manner, to tease us. It was our job to figure out whether we were doing something positive, or if it was a negative. We had caught on to the old man's game.

One pleasant summer evening, my brother and I cornered him at the back yard picnic table. He divulged his little secrets to us. Daddy explained that he could 'label' us, and allowed us to create what a goinkalink was in our own minds eye. He was allowing us to find our own moral compass, with a bit of guidance. Those child and developmental psychology courses in the late 50's and early 60's really created some twisted souls, Daddy being one of them.

Flash forward to twenty years later.... My husband and I were with our two youngest children, seated in my parents living room. We were talking about something that I thought was pretty 'normal' in our world, when I saw a flash in my Dad's eyes, one that said 'I don't know what that kid said, but it didn't sound right' moments. To save Daddy from embarrassment, and to save my children from a lecture on what would and wouldn't be accepted conversation, I jumped up and exclaimed "Just like a goinkalink to say that, don't you agree Dad?"

The old man's eyes twinkled. A warm glow came across his face, and his body relaxed.

"Indeed. I didn't realize you were raising a bunch of goinkalinks Suzy! You should have said something."  looking directly at my two children, and then back at me, winking and giving a soft smile.

"What's a goinkalink?" my 15 year old daughter asked. Her 13 year old brother seated next to her, placing himself on the edge of the couch, was also eagerly awaiting the definition of this new and exotic word, a title, the label they'd never heard before.

"Why, it is YOU!" I proclaimed.

Did you Win Powerball?

The line moved slowly. There were numerous people, bustling in and out of the store, things to do, errands to run, all on a time frame that seems too small for any given day. I stood in line, shifting my weight back and forth, almost patiently waiting to get to the cashier. The buzz around the customer service center was about the large $600 million Powerball that was about to be drawn that very evening.

I shuffled my items down the beltway toward the woman at the scanner. She smiled, asked if I found everything I needed. My reply to her, "Yes, thank you, but I need a winning Powerball ticket please. Make it four tickets, there are four of us at home."

The girl rang up my total, ran off my four chances at a blissful life, and handed them over with a smile and a wish of 'good luck'. The ticket was then unceremoniously folded with the receipt and placed in my clutch. As I walked out of the store, I began to think of what I would do with all of that money.

My first priority? I'd contact the only CPA that I've trusted. Invite him to fly down to Florida, meet with me, and offer him a 'full time' position working for me to take care of my vast sums of cash. He'd be needed, as I'd have too many 'friends' that haven't recalled my telephone number in years, calling me up and asking about my health.

Next? I'd set up trust funds for my kids. Certain amount every year ~ done. A stipend to be paid out to each set of parents, as well as each sibling ~ done. No 'going back to the trough'. I'd fix up my home, find a family that needs it, and give it to them. I'd buy a nice car (under $40k) that gets good gas, one for each of us. Then, I'd throw a great end of year party for the students at the grade school I work at. There would be enough to finance the completion of the 140 schools without Wi-Fi in the district. I'd set up a fund that would be specifically used for specialists for ESE and Gifted students for each school that has a need.

My next venture would be to fund shelters to take care of abandoned animals. Give them a home, medical care, and find permanent homes with loving families.

Lastly? I'd just find a nice couple of homes to buy. Nothing too big. Something a tad secluded. Hire a teacher full time for my kids, and find some local grocery store that wouldn't know who I was, so I could continue to grocery shop without problems.

My list, when it was done, included a number of friends, some that I haven't seen in years. Nothing too elaborate, but a year's salary to each sounded appropriate. After the list was tallied, the numbers crunched, I realized that I would be giving away 9/10ths of what the prize was to be. I'd be living a comfortable life, and as long as I was not a spendthrift with that 1/10ths, I'd be good until my final days.

I guess I didn't win tonight, but what a nice opportunity these few hours gave me to dream. I figure that it was OK that I didn't win. I was going to give most of it away anyways.

A Broken Soul to Mend

What do you do with a broken soul? Very few of us are lucky enough to have walked through life without having our heart trounced upon and torn asunder. Our soul, often a fragile thing, is something that can, in life, wither to near non-existence out of desperation to save what is left of what we know as 'self'.

Our lives are inextricably intertwined, all of us. Each serving a purpose in supporting either the nurture or the demise of that heart that is so tenuous perched on serenity or sadness. Case and point: My more than weekly visits to the local grocer has created and fostered a unique bond with those that work there. They know when I'm 'spoiling' my husband with his Rocky Road, and when my children have a sleepover by what I purchase. In turn, I asked them about their lives, how their college courses are going, what time the grandchildren are coming over to visit, and whether the wife got the application for soccer camp. It is a brief visit, but a nurturing one.

My visit the other day, quite like any other, was filled with sundries for the home. Upon checking out, the cashier said "You don't look like your cheerful self today ~ are you ok?". It was a bad day, it's been a grueling few years. I imparted a short comment about worrying about my children, and how difficult the present moment seemed. What came next was an amazingly earnest, brutally heart-opening moment.

"I worried myself. Had done so for years. Tried to protect and shelter my kids from the ups and downs of this world." the cashier started.

She stepped out from the small area behind the scanner and began bagging the last of my groceries. With a deep breath, she stopped, stared me directly in the eyes, and began again.

"My daughter had been given everything, I made certain that she went to a good school, fought for her when things weren't going right, and made sure that if she was emotionally uncomfortable, I would be there to take that problem away." Her tone deepened, her voice became quieter. She was sharing something lodged deep in her heart.

"My girl got out on her own, and couldn't handle it. She buried her emotions and problems with drugs and alcohol when I wasn't there to resolve her issues, because she never learned to deal with it by herself. She died of an overdose two years ago." My heart sank at her candidness; she had just opened up her chest cavity, bared her broken-ness, and was sharing it with me.

"Be grateful for the times you can't save them now. They will learn how to handle it, become stronger, and hopefully, a better person for it. This too shall pass."

My eyes began to well up with tears. Ache poured out of my heart, I was no longer thinking, but feeling completely, the anguish and lack of control that a parent really has. The feelings that we all have at times, when the world isn't working the way we need it to.

Tears streamed down my face, and the woman with a broken heart moved passed the bagging carousel to me. We gave one another a hug, knowing that there was nothing else we could do but share our hurt.

I left the store, still crying. I guess I needed it, and I guess my hurt helped my cashier feel that she was making some difference in someone else's world, view the problems at hand in a different light. I was reminded that we all carry a pain, an ache, a hurt. Something that can one day, hopefully, heal.

What's Your Soundrack?

I really love being able to sing along with the newest release from Pierce The Veil. Not many moms really appreciate all the work that these guys put into their music. Death Cab For Cutie, Green Day, and of course (with a sigh) My Chemical Romance are amazing groups too. My ringtone hasn't changed in 5 years, it's "I Gotta Feeling" from the Black Eyed Peas... it just seems right to have a cheery, positive song when the cell phone rings.

I bring up music because my life has been based heavily in it. Growing up, the "Heart of Rock and Roll was still beating" and there wasn't a time, when given the opportunity, that music wasn't playing, and I, singing along. I love all genres, for the most part, and go from hip hop, death metal, pop, and dub stepped stuff on a dime. I really am amazed that there's still people who can find another way to skin the vinyl off the cover and remold it. I am a sucker for those artists who can represent what The Clash did for me when I first heard them. I don't slam dance anymore, as my doctor has suggested that my bone density might not be able to withstand the punishment at this juncture of my physical life.

Shaking what my momma gave me? No... my mom and dad taught me how to Stroll , jitterbug, and Mash Potato. Television gave me some amazing inspiration. A great show had these girls in not-so -appropriate outfits dancing on our TV once a week. "Solid Gold Dancers" is what they called them. I wanted to be one of them! After years of emulating these moves, I 'brought it' one night to a dance floor of a night club in Boston. Some cute guy asked me to dance, and then questioned if I worked as a 'professional dancer'.... that was my warning shot that I should probably tune down my 'Solid Gold' performance on the dance floor!

Besides my love for dancing, I sang. Some would say I do an OK job carrying a note, but me, I never got to where I thought I should be, for a myriad of reasons. The surgery on my vocal chords and removal of my toncils, all in one operating room visit at the age of 17 kinda put the ka-bosh on my confidence and abilities. I still sing, just not as well as I'd like.

I had received some voice training in college, and before that, my vocalizations were everything from State competition pieces, opera, and fronting a garage band that covered Pat Benatar, Quarterflash, and Joan Jett.

When I moved to Boston, my weekends entailed traversing the city and visiting different places, 'finding' places I wanted to return to. One of those places was this lovely little tourist trap called "Lily's Piano Bar and Grill", right in Quincy Market at Faneuil Hall . There was a baby grand piano and a handsome, Berkley music student playing away every weekend.  The glass enclosures that ran down either side of the building were noted, one as "North" the other as "South". I can't recall which side 'he' was on.. but you could always find him and the music by listening for the plinking of keys over the din of people.

I sang then, literally, for my supper. Even though I was gainfully employed, there was little in my budget for 'entertainment'. This gifted young man, his amazing musical ability, and the chance to sing in front of people without anyone laughing at me, was perfect. I'd be fed a bowl of chowder by staffers, make some tips, and some wonderful patrons would indulge me in adult beverages. Hour after hour during many beautiful Saturday afternoons were spent there, encouraging me to continue my love for music and singing.

Now days, my neighbors get to hear me singing in the shower if my bathroom window's open. They're most likely not impressed, as I skip from tune to tune, not recalling words, and sometimes, calling out just a few notes as my mind races form one song to the next. Music, to me, in many regards, is like playing a word association game. The difference for me is that when I sing certain chords, hit particular chorus lines, or maybe a stanza, my mind's soundtrack skips to the next song that I associate with that particular moment. God forbid I get on my Amy Lee kick... You're gonna hear all of the songs on the Evanescence "Fallen" album, some of them twice, then I'll finish it off with my stirring rendition of 'Call Me When You're Sober', hopefully to finish before the neighbors call about me!

Everything, from the rides on the school bus, cruising in my car, dancing around the house, celebrating with friends and family, it all has had some type of music associated with it. The songs might not be playing for all to hear, but in my mind's eye, the music is at full blast, like a bad 80's montage that's all good to me.

Just Another Day In Boston......

It really doesn't matter what I think, it's all about what I know.

Living in Boston for many years, the city that I still love, had changed me. There are protocols that don't necessarily 'fit' other areas of the United States, but I learned them when I  moved there and adopted the culture. Watching what has unfolded the past week, I realized that some don't understand certain customs, traditions, and social protocol that is indicative to, and is part of the fabric of this great city, and those great folks that live there.

Rather than hash out what the 'media reports' are saying about all of the craziness, let me tell you about the city on The Charles, the one from my point of view.

1)  If you want to go visit a friend or family member, you don't 'drop in' normally, you call ahead. Boston streets and suburbs are tight, literally, emotionally, and physically. You live, like in other older, major cities,  practically on top of your neighbor. Because everyone is physically close, it's a matter of giving someone space, about showing respect to your loved ones and friends.

Once a city filled with immigrants, its' families still live close to one another. 'Triple Decker' living usually means mom and dad live on the first floor, your sister and her husband live on the second floor, and you get to drag your groceries up to the third floor. Close enough to be there when family needs one another.

2) You know the neighborhood businesses and their owners like they were family too. My little apartment was directly above a wonderful little deli with a small wall dedicated to sundries. Gus and his wife immigrated from Abruzzi, Italy, raised their children, and made home-made sausages every other day in their deli. I was a young, single woman who made very little money. Once a week, Gus' wife would set aside a meal portion of their dinner for me, waiting for me when I got home from work. At least once a month, Gus allowed me to 'put stuff on the cuff'. My neighbor upstairs, "Mother Mary" would make me omelet sandwiches on toasted Italian bread for our Saturday lunches together. I, in turn, would run errands for her, help her move her furniture, or complete a project.

We all knew each other's birthdays, quirks, and likes. Chicken soup, tissues, and ginger ale would be left at my door if I was really sick. It was a family, it's what you did when you lived that close to one another in Boston. That's what someone who was "good people" did.

3) If you are a woman, AND you travel by subway or bus in Boston to work, you most likely wear sneakers. Even with an expensive skirt suit, socks and sneakers are the norm for most women. Cobble stone and brick lined streets and sidewalks are unforgiving to any pair of heals that a woman would wear. The added benefit to wearing sneakers, you could out-maneuver other people on the sidewalk. This comes in handy during rush hour, when you need to make the 5:15 Downtown Crossing train, the 6:10 bus out of Haymarket, or catch the Green Line from Park Street. Sneakers are about fast walking, fast moving, getting to where you want to be, when you want to be there.

4) Spring does not officially begin, nor is it celebrated in any grander fashion, than Patriots Day. This day is set aside for the REAL first Red Sox game. Before that, if you attended an earlier game, you were watching a winter warm up session. Sitting amongst the fans in the bleacher section, or now, perched on top of the Green Monster, you feel the breeze off the ocean, promising quietly, warmer days ahead. Winter can be harsh, it's cold grip releasing the choke hold on a beautiful parcel of land that begs to breathe in sunlight and warmth.

You show up in Hopkinton at 4:30 AM on Patriots Day, anticipating your brief encounter with world-class runners, and receiving a full sensory experience of humanity, wave after wave of running class, to begin their journey from this auspicious starting point. Homes throughout the town are open to all that wish to stop in for a cup of coffee, offering runners a place to stretch comfortably and wait for the time their wave is due to the starting line.

 If you decide not to wake up that early, you bargain with your friends, which pub you will begin your marathon sojourn, close enough to the finish line to say "I was there". It is, after all, a right of passage. Many businesses are closed, and if they are not, a planned 'day off' is almost expected.

It is a joyous day, a day in which Bostonians celebrate their defiance against a monarchy that valued nothing but raw materials and money, not people. The acts taken over 230 years ago by brave men and women would define a new country, one that valued the individual and what they held important. A city, at numerous times, under siege from a hostile ruler.

A co-worker asked me the other day, "So, like, this is just a big 'day off' kind of thing?"
I reflected on that for a moment, and my response was just a nod. How could I relay to her what Patriots Day is to a Bostonian?  It came to the forefront of my mind, how fiercely close and loyal Bostonians are to one another, and to their city. How this 'just another day off' really is about Spring coming to a beautiful city, the freedom that running gives, endurance of physical and psychological pain, the triumph of what we call 'The American Spirit'.

I guess to some, it could be viewed it as just another day, but, it really doesn't matter what others think about Boston, it's all about what I know.

Hand Wringing In The Dark: What Grammy Taught Me

Most folks that I know share wonderful memories of time with their grandparents. I've got a few of them myself. No, I'm not going on a diatribe of what occurred from ages 3 to 19, but I figured it would be a great 'self reminder' to write out what Grammy taught me to hold as important.

There are often times as a parent when I question how I've handled my children and issues that crop up on a daily basis. The situations at work that might frustrate some, I try to take a step back and decide the best course of action. When thinking of how my actions and reactions appear to acquaintances, friends, or random strangers, I try to be mindful. Grammy taught me that my actions can and do effect all parties involved, however small it may seem.

My favorite memories of Grammy and her wisdom are those that I will always cherish. The visits to her home while I was in my first years of college were amazing. One of thirty two (yes 32) grandchildren, you tend to feel as though you're 'lost in the crowd'. My visits to her after classes provided me the opportunity to get to know my grandmother as a person, not just the lady that could out-cook, out-bake, and out-clean my own mother.

One visit brought me to her home after a harrowing teenage day. I just wanted warm cookies, milk, and someone to tell me how much they loved me. We sat in the kitchen for a short time, overlooking the arbors of grapevines and the many rows of pine trees that stood in her back yard. After the comfort food, we moved to her immense living room. Sitting on the ottoman of the chair Grammy reclined in, she began to ask me how things were with my friends and classmates. I began to recount to her, a tale fitting of a typical teen. I relayed to her how one of my closest friends had used a secret I told her against me. Blackmail for the most part, of the emotional type. As I opened up about the sordid (or so I thought at that time) details, Grammy sat, nodding her head, then tilting it to one side. She was thinking about how she was going to respond.

Waiting on her pearls of wisdom, expecting her to give me advice about the exact issue at hand, Grammy asked me a question instead. "Why are you doing that with your hands Suzy?"

Hadn't she heard a thing I just told her? I bled my heart out, told her stuff I wouldn't tell my mom, and all she's interested in are my hands?

Grammy had watched every bit of my movements, my breath, and specifically, how I was wringing my hands, all while listening to what I was SAYING.

"Suzy, you tell me that this young lady is your friend. Would a true friend have you wringing your hands about your relationship with them?" The bomb had been deployed by this petite woman, whose soft voice could pierce even the thickest armor.

To this day, I consider my relationships by the hand-wringing that does or does not happen.

A year or so later, and many more visits, I was driving by Grammy's home. I had planned on stopping in to see if she needed anything, or if she was up for some company. It was getting dark. There were no lights on in the house that I could discern. A few times, I had pulled in after dark, and not seeing lights on in the house, left. She was older, and most likely in bed early, so this wasn't much of a concern.

I don't know what it was, there were no 'issues' or problems to solve this time. I just merely wanted to see her. My mind raced to thoughts of her being ill, or worse yet.... Hopping out of my little red Mustang, I made my way to the back porch and rapped on the door. A moment later, the light ticked on, and there she was. She invited me in directly to the living room. It was too late to be eating, and the kitchen had been cleaned for the night.

When we arrived in the living room, there was one small light. It was a battery powered lantern. Perched perfectly next to her reading chair, it gave off just enough light to illuminate a few feet away. She had been reading by this light just a few minutes before my arrival.

When I asked why she used this, Grammy explained that because it was just her, there was no need to have 'a bunch of lamps blazing through the night'. I then imparted to her the number of times I had passed by or pulled in the driveway and left, because I didn't see any lights on in the house. She giggled, patting her small, work-worn hand on my knee.

"What is it that I would need to see? If I truly need to see something, I will shed light on it, or just simply put the thought aside until morning. There is nothing that I need, nor want to see in the dark that wouldn't look immensely better in the light of day." What an illuminating thought!

Grammy relayed to me that if there was something to be done, it should be done during the daylight hours. If it was still pressing on my heart, set it aside, it would be there, waiting for me to deal with it in the morning. We began chatting about the deeper meanings of how a life could be run in a more efficient manner. She shared about her latest read All Creatures Great and Small, telling me how much she enjoyed the characters.

As our visit ended, Grammy walked me back to the kitchen, turning on a few lights for me along the way. She gave me a hug and kiss, and as I walked down the slate stairs and walkway out the back door, she gave me her parting comment: "Sometimes, it is better to be in the dark. Certain things aren't always pleasant to view, no matter the type of light."

Knowing the deeper meaning of Grammy's words, it was not just about cheating the power company. It was not having to know what every other person is doing, thinking, or saying. It comes down to too much noise in the head that is unnecessary.

I like sitting in the dark, it frees my spirit.

Can You Believe What I Think They Said?!

Loving social media isn't always easy. Certain protocols, mostly 'learned' along the way, definite 'dos and do NOT's' that online society deems appropriate. You inevitably learn not to post something in all caps, or create too many posts in a given amount of time on Facebook.

When e-mail was introduced, there was a wide berth, but there also wasn't a lot of folks using it. If you are old enough to remember, the 'normal' office in the late 80's had a couple of computers. One, in particular, was the word processor's computer. The 'word processor' was a person who usually had a year or two of computer science education, and knew their way around a QWERTY. The novelty of sending a message from desk to desk was considered lazy and efficient.

Flash forward to MultiMate letters. Now, THERE was a word processing system. AOL was all the rage, and everyone wanted to hear 'You've got mail!' Let's not get into the awkward 'fashionable attire' of the time. Over time, 'others' were given the opportunity to 'dial up' to the world wide web.

We've come a long way baby. Tonight, after an evening with friends, I retired to my corner of the couch, pulled out the netbook, and started checking my e-mails (mostly junk mail). Went to my Facebook site, scrolled quickly through my feed, then answered a few notes that were direct messaged to me. I guess that my evening's conversations were not enough, as two of them appeared to be from the same people that I had just spent three hours with at the coffee shop. One was a reminder that I needed to show up for a 'girl's afternoon'. The other was a plea for a smart phone inadvertently left in the back seat of my vehicle. Simple comments, regards sent, smart phone delivered back at 1:30 AM to it's rightful owner.

Much of our conversations tend to be just that, simplistic conversations, interspersed with shared pictures of our weekend, generalized observations of life and the issues that we face. On occasion however, we are all 'guilty' of either venting our latest pet peeve or airing our grievances, politics, (fill in your favorite 'things you should not talk about at the bar') out on social sites. The magic of social media, coupled with our innate sense of our First Amendment rights, and the idea that others will rally behind our just causes. Sometimes, just once in a while, those messages are covert comments to a particular few. Undercutting, back-biting, nasty bits of ourselves that are dressed up as something less than.

It is just such a situation that has played out, more than just once, and not just my own experience. I have seen how adults play the role of insecure 13 year olds, taunting others, and ridiculing those they do not like or agree with. These venomous comments are interspersed between the family pictures, the 'friends night out' photo, and the ever popular memes of the day. I am not standing on a bully pulpit, claiming to have never taken part in the jousts and jabs. I have, over the years, become a much more savvy and sophisticated user of social media.

About a month or so ago, I posted a comment about how some adults act like children, and I'd rather deal with 9 and 10 year olds, they're more honest and upfront. I was making a commentary about a case that I was watching on television. Because EVERYONE knows what I am doing and thinking about when the post was made, the assumption was carried. Within a period of 2 hours, I received a number of direct messages. Guess I had ruffled a few feathers. More accurately, my message worried a lot of folks. They were trying to decipher exactly what THEY had done or said that would make me post something about THEM! Apparently, a few folks had not been on best behavior, nor had they lived up to the hype that they had posted on their site.

Thinking that things were taken care of and cleared up, I went to work the next day. After enough 'glares and stares', a few co-workers stopped me to ask how things were going. After dancing about the subject for a short time, one of them questioned the basis for my commentary online from the previous night, wanting to know who at work were the guilty party/parties. They seemed disappointed that there was no bits of juicy gossip to partake in. Even further yet, there was a bit of disbelief that I would be posting about something that didn't have anything to do with them or someone that they were aware of. It was a wake-up call. People were reading my posts and discerning what they wanted to read into it. Even when it had nothing to do with them, there was an example that came to their mind, something or someone that triggered a correlation.

Think about it, how amazing is that? You can post anything that you want on your blog, Twitter account, or Facebook page, and immediately, there is a line drawn between you and some other issue or person at hand. So many experts on social media have warned us about this. They've discussed how to 'clean up' your site, what you might want to avoid posting if you are on the job hunt, or further yet, what you should NEVER post if you work in any particular profession. There are social media specialists that are taking a handsome sum away from companies to tidy up loose ends. There are life coaches, marketing professionals, and public relations personnel working overtime to make certain that there is nothing out there that would be a detriment to the company employing them. Even the federal government monitors social media to make certain our greater good and security are not jeopardized.

So, what does this mean for all of the 'free spirits' who want to voice their ideas? Have you thought about what you're posting? Did you consider the comments that are made about your comment? Were you focused on those people that you weren't focusing on, making certain they caught your subtle sarcasm that wasn't even directed at them?

Enough questioning for now. Post at will.

What My Teenager Taught Me About Social Media, Acceptance, and other Stupid Stuff

My daughter is a co-conspirator. She has become my raison d'être in writing out what I need to write, addressing what I've had rattling in my grey matter for some time. It is due in no small part to a mother's love and want for understanding what she's 'going through'.

Social media was around before she could make her way around a keyboard, click a mouse, and post innocuous comments. I introduced her to my world of social media when I went back to college. Showed her a site that some kid created to link up other college students. I was using it to keep in contact with all my younger, hipper counterparts. When she was old enough to begin socializing on the net, I assisted her with an account. Now, the tables have not completely turned, but we are linked, site by site, arm in arm with each other as we navigate what is out there in the Brave-Not-So-New www. 

A car ride to the store just the other night is what reminded me that although I may have endured some of the growing pains that my girl has/will face, I have certainly never had to confront some of these 'rites of passage' in such a public way as most of our kids do now. Oh, for those parents that say 'my kid doesn't engage in social media'... that's great.  THEY might not, however their reputation, comments, and likeness do, no matter what, thanks to the 'classmates' and 'friends'.

I have not felt the slings and arrows of being un-friended at 15 by my 'bff' who just posted that deep, dark secret she swore to NEVER tell. Telling of tales, of those horrors we want to keep buried (exept to our buddies). Those things 20 or 30 years ago would take a whole school year to make it to 50 people, now only take a nano-second to get to 1,000.

The InstaGrammed weekend 'doings' of those friends, while sitting home waiting for them to call and get an invite, didn't happen to me.  I didn't know, nor did I care, as it was after the fact.

Flaming was something that happened when you walked too close to the bonfire set up at the keg party in the woods.

My girl and I talk, alot. She and I agreed that I am not the uber 'sheltering' type of parent, out there fighting teachers for the A+, calling other parents and asking them 'Do you know what your child said to mine?', or telling her she can't watch an R rated show because it contains the same profanity that she hears already on the bus or in school. I'm a rebel like that. When those 'sticky issues' rear their ugly head (because they will), we talk about it. Discuss the context of everything said and done, review what we think about it, how it makes us both feel. Earnest discussion, deep moments.

On that ride, she imparted to me that most of her friends consider her the 'go to' when there are daunting 14/15 year old issues at hand. They turn to her to vent, ask for guidance. My girl's inevitable young wisdom is imparted, and, like most parents or trusted adults, goes unheeded many times. She tells me that a vast majority of her friends 'have no clue'. Wise beyond her years, she has had the opportunity to bounce off ideas, thoughts, and feelings. She's gotten her share of 'real life' from her folks. She's debating on whether or not she'd want to be a psychologist, weighing out the fact that listening to other's troubles on a daily basis might be a drain to her aura of self.

I have to acknowledge that as often as we talk, as much time as we do spend with each other, there are things that my girl will face that I will never be able to completely understand or feel. She is sailing on her own, with me as the 'radio', into unchartered territory.

As I turned our car into our neighborhood, I realized something ~ Pierce the Veil tickets were still on sale ~ my girl had hmu on fb about it.


True story….

My husband Bill and I were invited to a ‘couples only’ New Year’s Eve party; friends of his from high school (that’s ANOTHER story all together, but not mine to tell).  This couple had five (5) children of their own, each about 2 years apart. They are wonderful people, let me get that out of the way… ok… continue: Their children were staying over at Grammy’s house for the night so that Mom and Dad could do this whole ‘no children allowed’ thing. It was a Friday evening, and we all worked.
Translation: Ladies, hope your 3 hour preparations can be sped up, as you’ll only have 2 to complete all of your little odd ‘going out’ rituals, get the kids fed and ready for the babysitter, and make certain you are available to answer the inevitable question “Where are my good dress socks?” and be able to follow up with a course of action.

We had two children, ages 4 and 6 at the time, and I was wondering how our friends, let’s call them Bob and Jen, could possibly go through a whole week of working 40 plus hours, laundry, dishes, dusting, vacuuming, etc… (all the things you do real quick when you find your in-laws will be arriving sooner than later). 
We arrived on time (this, as well, ANOTHER story all together!) and were greeted cheerfully by Bob.  I guess if I were Bob, knew that my kids were at my mom’s, and was guaranteed a night of freedom and, well, no ‘interruptions’ from children for 14-18 hours, I’d be that cheerful too. He swung open the door wide, grinning and inviting us in. 
The home’s hardwood floors and polished wood staircase SPARKLED. I expected to see a tidy, yet thrown together mess of toys in the corner of the living room, there were none to be found (not even under the couch). There were fresh cut flowers in an intricately etched crystal vase (the kind you don’t bring out where the kids can get at it) sitting on the coffee table. Music was playing quietly, and as I peered further into their home, I could see that the fondue was set, and the promised chocolate fountain bubbled away without any small beings hovering about it. Jen’s home was immaculate! Did I tell you that the floors SPARKLED?

We enjoyed the first few hours of chat, catching up on the details of what we were doing, and where we were going. There was a silent code of ‘no child talk’ that we danced around and stumbled around rather awkwardly. The three couples there had experienced a life that was engulfed with nothing more than issues with pediatritians, school woes, and the next best deal on clothes and shoes for the kids. Aside from the occasional debate about new vaccinations, or illnesses that our children had recently contracted, it was mostly a ‘child talk-less’ night.

I couldn’t help but admire how the sink was dry and shiny (if there’s a drop of water, it usually means they’ve just finished the dishes). The counters were free of clutter, and there was no sign that children lived in the home, other than the random pictures that dotted the downstairs rooms. I asked Jen how she could manage working and raising 5 wonderful children (the youngest at the time was 4 years old, and yes, they truly were/are ‘wonderful children’) and pull off entertaining us with such wonderful fare and a perfect house.  She pulled me aside, in a shocked sense, and asked me “Hasn’t your sister-in-law taught you how to do this yet?!”

“Damned in-laws”, I thought. For someone that imagined a good relationship with her sister in-laws, they were still holding out secrets from me. I guess I hadn’t reached ‘that’ point, where you share the deep, dark family secrets with the newest member of the family.

“What are you talking about Jen?” “The kitchen cabinet trick!” she replied.  Rather proud of herself that SHE would be the sensai to guide me in the art of cleaning a home for guests, she took my hand and led me back into her kitchen.

Opening her oven door, she produced what appeared to be half of the pots and pans that she owned, stuffed into her broiler and oven. I had been known to store pots and pans in my broiler, as New England homes are notorious for never having enough cabinet space. These, however, upon further inspection, were absolutely dirty! Grinning at me, but not saying a word, she brought me to the corner of the kitchen, reached up and opened two cabinet doors. Not knowing what to expect (other than dishes) I peered in.  There they were. The past day and a half’s worth of dirty dishes. Piled in, stacked up, and definitely in need of a wash.

“These are the spots you should make for yourself. You never cook when the guests arrive, as the dinner or hors devours should be ready and presented. So, that leaves you your broiler and oven for any of the really big stuff that you can’t put into the cabinets.” Giving me the tutorial of ‘how to entertain’, Jen was on a roll, and I let her roll….

“Then, you know, when you have that all filled up, you can use cups or mugs to hold all of your dirty silverware. Pick a set of cabinets, like these, that are furthest away from the clean dishware, and just start packing in the rest of your dirty dishes!” Simple as that.

My mind was reeling. This person is not the one that I know. The woman who’s children are always clean, shirts and dresses pressed, showing up like a Rockwell picture every Sunday morning for service, EARLY and smiling. This was the same woman who donated hours of her time to great causes, who ran the ‘mom taxi’ for her older ones and their friends, who would help run VBS for our church every year.

I took a deep breath, and a step back. “Why don’t you just put your dirty dishes in the dishwasher?”

Jen walked over to the washer, opened it and showed another full set of dishes that needed to be cleaned. “Already jam packed! I’ll just wait to run the water later. With all of us needing showers, we’d run out of hot water if I did laundry or dishes before guests arrived!” Well, at least that made sense.

The rest of the evening was fun, but I believe to this date, that I was in a state of shock, disbelief, and maybe even had an out-of-body experience. We left around 12:30, all of us taking advantage of a rare evening without children. On the ride home across town, I turned to my husband and began to spew out all of Jen’s ‘secrets’ of a clean home and entertaining strategies. My husband chuckled, then he realized what I was driving at.  It was the picture of the perfect family, living in a perfectly clean home, with perfect appetizers, and a perfect marriage. Maybe they weren’t so ‘perfect’ as we thought.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Flash forward five years later. Billy and I have two more children in tow, and I am selling real estate. Open houses every weekend, and excusing myself from Sunday services to set up for the weekly ‘featured home’ open house. On one particular Sunday, I was asked by a fellow realtor if I would take their open house in return of a favor. I accepted. It was a basement condo on a little side street in town. I no sooner set up the Open House sign outside, tying balloons to the banister leading down the outside stair well, when a familiar voice came from behind.
“Hey! You wanna sell me a place?” I turned to face our friend Bob.
The first thing that went through my mind was ‘Bob’s not in church’, followed quickly by ‘He must be checking up on me for Billy.’ (He’s a really nice guy, like I said, and he wouldn’t think twice to help out a friend in that regard.)

I invited him in, grateful for the company that he offered. Open houses can be very, er, boring. No one to talk to, you don’t want to be watching TV and appear to be ‘slacking on the job’. Truth be told, there’s only so much walking around the property that you can do, without a nosey neighbor asking you what you’re doing, how much they’re selling the home for, and asking if they can snoop around while their neighbor’s out to see how they decorate, as they’re not normally invited in.

Bob began to cry, and when I say cry, I mean, grown man, sobbing. I felt so helpless. He began to tell me that his marriage appeared to be over. He asked me if I saw it coming, because he certainly didn’t. He worked crazy hours to make certain that they had everything they needed or wanted. He had even taken work out of state for weeks at a time, just to make certain that the big checks kept coming in. I suggested that maybe the big paycheck wasn’t worth the loss of their relationship. Our conversation went from what was going on immediately with him and Jen, to how they would deal with housing, the kids, and what the future might look like for all of them.

Bob left that afternoon, after being there with me through the three hours of the open house. He kept telling me how lucky Billy and I were, and what a great relationship we had, and that he wanted that. Pulling up the yard sign and taking down the balloons, Bob said goodbye. We gave each other a hug. I told him to come on over to our home anytime he needed to talk to Billy. He agreed, and went on his way, head down, his little red compact car trudging out onto the street.

As his car moved further down the road, I thought back to the New Year’s party that they had hosted. It was perfect, so was the house. Everything seemed good. Now, all of those dishes jammed into the cupboard and oven came to mind. It just appeared that all was right. There were things undone, chores that were not completed. You wouldn’t know it by looking around at their home, it was perfect; until you opened the cabinet doors.

I’ve thought about that, over and over throughout so many days and years. How perfect others seem to be. How their life looks amazing. Their kids go to the ‘right school’, they’ve got great titles in the amazing companies that they work for. Their home is not only in a good neighborhood, but it’s in a great town. Weekends are filled with events and places, and then relayed on Monday morning at the coffee pot or water cooler as a badge of accomplishment. They go to the really nice restaurants, vacation in wonderful geographic locations, and have deeply held social or spiritual beliefs that they act on.

That’s how Bob and Jen’s life were. That’s how most every other person I’ve known is (or was). But, just like Bob and Jen, so many have a proverbial cabinet full of dirty dishes. I began to realize that the perfection that we all strive for, the façade that we manufacture for the rest of the world to perceive, isn’t always as glamorous as we really are living.
There’s a stat about Facebook users that had come out. Those that spend time on the social web site begin feeling depressed. The more time they utilize these type of sites, the more they feel less than. They look at the pictures of friends and family’s vacations, events, and other snapshots. You know, the one’s you take three times to make certain you’ll look good and the extra ten pounds doesn’t show as much. Yeah, you know what I mean.  Smiling faces (Have I got a family portrait photo story to tell you!) and everything’s perfect with you, your family and the world. Then, we wonder why those TRULY special moments that are captured by a whim, a freak chance, don’t seem to be garnished with the same 'so amazing' comments.

Just like Bob and Jen, we have our own set of ‘Dirty Dishes in the Cabinet’.  Not just a few, all of us. At one time or another does the mantra 'fake it til you make it' come into play. Alas, for most of us, we don't make it ~ not in the way we originally intended, and the dishes, well, they're  waiting there for us to clean them up.