Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring into Action!

Ahhhh, spring, welcome back, how I've missed you.  In all fairness, we haven't had a bad winter this year, and considering I only used the snowblower twice, once in October and once in March, I really shouldn't complain. But I will because I don't like to be cold.  As I sit here by the open window with the breeze blowing my hair and cooling me off, I'm ready for spring.  I love hearing the children's voices as they play outside, riding bikes, scooters and skateboards.  I love hearing their laughter as they jump on the trampoline and play tag in the yard.  I love seeing people walking, jogging and playing with their dogs.  I love seeing the plants as they peek their green heads out of the soil.  I love hearing the birds' sweet songs as they communicate with one another.

When I was a child, spring meant shedding my winter coat, pants and long-sleeved shirt and replacing them with shorts, a t-shirt and sometimes a jacket.  It meant crawling into the shed past the sleds and the shovels and digging out my bike and then racing off to join the other kids on the street.  It meant playing outside from the minute I got home from school until I was called in for supper or bedtime.  Hide-and-seek, TV tag, pickle and wiffleball became games played every day.

As a teen, spring meant planning trips to the beach with friends where we would don our bikinis topped with tie-dye tank tops, shorts and flip flops, climb in the car armed with Cokes and Doritos, crank the radio, unroll the windows (manually) and cruise to the beach.  Once there, we would walk up and down the boardwalk, stopping to play volleyball, grab things to eat, lay out on the beach, check out the guys and the shops even though, to be honest, sometimes shopping and checking out the guys were one and the same. We would cruise the strip in the car or on the backs of cool motorcycles driven by complete strangers who were flattered that we wanted a ride and glad for a chance to show off their bikes.  And as the sun went down, we would reluctantly climb into the car, crank the tunes and head for home, sandy, tired, usually sunburnt, and smiling. 

As an adult, spring days mean a chance to throw open the windows, wash them and the window sills, and let the fresh air fill our homes.  Spring days mean we can save money by not running the dryer and instead hang our laundry outside to dry while also allowing the fresh air scent to permeate our freshly laundered bedsheets.  Spring days means firing up the grill.  Those little plants poking their green heads forth means weeding out the ignored dead plants from the season before, watering, fertilizing, raking.  The children playing outside means another very large room to clean as we go into the yard and collect shoes, socks, and jackets discarded by our own children and their friends.  Toys need to be picked up, bikes and skateboards need to be put away, skinned knees need to be bandaged, bug bites need ointment, bee stings need to be iced, and children need to be bathed constantly.  The kids don't want to come inside for supper or bedtime, never mind to do their homework, even though they can barely keep their eyes open from playing so hard.  And at the end of the day, as they get tucked in, with the scents of bug spray and sunblock washed from their bodies, they are refreshed with their sun-kissed faces as they drift off to sleep, smiling.

Spring is also a reminder of things neglected over the winter. As we put on our short sleeves, we see flabby arms. As we put on our shorts, we see flabby legs.  Flabby WHITE arms and legs that need toning and tanning.  As we put on our sandals and flip flops, we immediately think pedicure.  Suddenly exercise becomes a necessity as we stress over bathing suit season fast approaching. 

Ahhhh, spring...I'm still sitting by the open window, exercising only my fingers as I type, sitting in the dark so I look tanner and covering my lower half with the laptop hoping the heat from it will burn off some of the flab, and all I can think of is getting out the tie-dye and hopping on the back of some cool bike or in a car with the girls cranking the music and cruising to Hampton Beach for some fried dough, and I am smiling. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Homecoming!

Homecoming can be defined or felt many different ways.  To some it means the big football game in the fall when all the school's alumni gather together at the game and then the current students celebrate at a dance later that night or the next night.  To a newly married couple, it may mean when the groom carries his new bride over the threshold into the home they will now share.  To a soldier and his family, it may mean when the soldier returns home and is welcomed with open arms by his family and loved ones.  To new parents, it may mean when they bring their newborn child home from the hospital.

For those of you who may not know, 2 weeks ago, my cousin Patty was rushed to the hospital after falling unconscious at home.  Patty was 8 months pregnant, and when she arrived at the hospital, baby Emily was delivered via C-section.  She weighed 3 lbs and 15 oz.  She joined her 6 yr old brother Johnny and 3 yr old sister Maggie and became Patty and her husband Ditty's 3rd child.  Such a little girl has become such a big part of her family's life already. 

Patty was found to have suffered from a brain aneurysm, and she never regained consciousness and never got to open her eyes to see her baby girl and her arms to hold her.  But Patty opened her heart.  She opened her heart by giving Emily life, she opened her heart by being the kind of person that touched everyone she met, she opened her heart by leaving people smiling as they remember her, and she opened her heart by donating her organs and giving the gift of life to others.  She also opened her heart to Jesus, and because of that, she is now in Heaven with her eyes open and her arms open as she dances and sings with the angels.

And I imagine she was dancing today and smiling as she watched her husband bring their baby home.  Today is Homecoming, homecoming for a little girl who has fought to gain the weight she needed to gain in order to join her daddy and her brother and sister at home, for a little girl who has been the smiles amid the tears, and who has given so much love at a time when there is so much sadness.

Yes, today is Homecoming. Welcome Home, baby Emily.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bad Words

In our house, I am often asked by my youngest children, "Is _________ a bad word?"  Or I'm often told by one that the other one said a bad word.

So what is a bad word?  Of course there are the swear words that most would agree are bad words.  But then there are the questionable words that some may consider bad words and others may not.  Growing up, we had words like "jerk" and "dang" and phrases like "shut up" that were considered bad words, and if said, required that you drop a nickel in the naughty jar.  I don't remember what ever happened to the money in the nickel jar, but I know there was money in it because I put some of it there.

My children will tell you that I still consider those to be bad words when said to one another.  My definition of a bad word is something that is said to hurt someone else, or a word used as a substitute for a "real swear".  But yet I still get asked if certain words are swears or bad words, and sometimes I think they ask me, already knowing the answer, but just wanting to say the bad word, knowing they won't be scolded if used in the context of questioning whether they should never say it again.

As I've grown from a nickel-depositing girl into a swear-defining mother, I have come across a few more bad words that should be added to the list of words I'd rather never hear.

The first is the C-word:  CANCER which I define as an evil disease that inhabits the bodies of my loved ones and poisons them and threatens to take or does take them away from me.

ALCOHOL: when abused, this can transform very nice people into not so very nice people who do things without thinking of consequences, who say things that hurt other people, and who don't own up to responsibilities.  Possible side effects are illness, cheating, lying and causing harm to yourself and others.

BILLS:  Annoying things that come, without fail, every month asking you for money.

DEATH:  The ending of a life here on earth; can happen at any time to good people, bad people, old people, young people.  Leaves people grieving and missing the one who is no longer with them, causes tears and sadness and is often met with anger, questions and an overwhelming desire to ask "Why?"

DIVORCE:  At least one person is always affected and hurt in a divorce, whether it is the person who never wanted the divorce or the children who lose out on seeing both their parents every day and have to split their time between 2 homes.

EXERCISE:  This is something we should all do, in some form or another.  Easier said than done, but necessary for good health. Some do this more than others, some enjoy it, some don't.  Every time I whine to my doctor about how I eat better and less than I used to, but I'm still not happy with my weight, she suggests exercise.  I try to argue that sit-ups make me nauseous, but she just laughs.

GROUNDING:  This is a punishment that we parents sometimes assign to our children which means that they can't go anywhere or do anything.  There are different degrees of grounding, i.e. taking away TV, taking away video games, taking away computer time, taking away phone privileges, and banning time with friends.  For parents, grounding means having to referee fights between siblings who now have nothing else to do but bicker with each other, having to play board games for hours or do arts and crafts because "there's nothing to do in this house", and hence grounding should be considered a punishment for both parent and child.

HALF-DAYS:  These are days when children get out of school early and force parents to have to make arrangements to either leave work or find childcare on days that they normally wouldn't.  Sometimes these days creep up on you without warning, and you get calls from your friends at work asking what you are doing with your kids after school, and you realize that they are home alone.

MONDAY:  A day that generally follows either a very enjoyable weekend or a very busy weekend and slaps you in the face with reality, usually very early in the morning.

WORK:  Something adults are expected to do in order to make the money required to pay the bills.  Side effects may include having to get up early, dress up, talk nice to people you don't really like and drive great distances to get to said place of work.  May contribute to loss of sleep, poor housework, lame suppers, and irritability.

So, please try to avoid saying these bad words, but if they must be said, as so often they must, get your quarters ready for my jar, bringing me to another bad word - INFLATION, because nothing costs a nickel anymore.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Getting Carded Makes Me Smile

I don't card people enough, meaning that I don't send cards often enough.  I buy birthday cards, but most times it's for the people in my family, or for birthday parties of my children's classmates.  I send Christmas cards.  And if I'm going to a wedding or a bridal or baby shower, I buy a card.  Those are the "mandated cards".

But it's the other cards, the cards that tell someone you care, the birthday card that comes from a friend who remembered your birthday and wanted to make you feel special, those are the special ones.

Over the past 2 days, I have received 3 such cards.  One was a card from a woman in my town whom I've always admired. I have described this woman and another woman in my town as the first ladies of Winchendon.  The reason for that is because they are both so giving, they give of their time, their resources and in doing so, they give of themselves time and again, and they do so, not for a reward or recognition, but just because it's who they are.  I would consider this woman a friend, although I don't know her phone number and we have never spent time together, other than to be at our children's basketball games together many years ago.  The card had an inspirational quote on the outside, but the words on the inside are what really spoke to me.  This woman was simply taking the time out of her busy life to send me a card telling me how much she enjoyed my recent blog about our town and how it affected her.  I was humbled by her words and by her kind gesture, and she made me smile on a day where my smile was hidden behind a cloud of sadness.

That day's mail also brought a birthday card from one of my first friends in Winchendon, a fellow hockey mom whose son was the first to befriend my son on his first day in 3rd grade at a new school.  She and I don't get together often, and most of our interactions were also spent at shared sporting events or driving our children to each other's homes, but she is a special friend.  It was she who I went to during the difficult junior high and high school years when progress report and report card days made me cry and feel so discouraged and lacking as a parent.  It was she who I cried to on my way home from parent-teacher conferences.  It was she who was a true friend and wasn't afraid of angering me or hurting my feelings when she told me that I needed to try a new approach and to loosen the reins a little, even if it meant letting my child fail.  She was the voice of reason for me, and it was my great respect and admiration for her that made me take her advice on more than one occasion when I am normally so set in my ways.  It is also she who inspired me to write a blog after reading her passionate and heartfelt words in her own blog, and not only is she a fabulous writer, but she bares her soul and speaks from the heart, and I admire that.

Today I received a birthday card from another dear friend who I had lost touch with for many years until we reconnected on Facebook a couple of years ago.  This friend and I were inseparable when we were in our late teens.  She knows my secrets and has kept them, she was my confidant, my other half, and her home was my second home.  We laughed together, cried together and have many great stories to reminisce about for hours.  We lost touch after I became a mom at a young age, and over the years, I missed her.  There was no big argument, no fight, we simply lost touch as our lives went in two different directions.  I remembered wondering what she was up to and wishing I could call her when I got engaged, married, and had my other two children.  But I always thought it would be awkward to call her after all that time had passed, and I wondered if it would be a conversation filled with silence and awkward moments, or if she missed me too.  After reconnecting on Facebook, we made plans to get together.  I drove to her home an hour and a half away, and I was so nervous and excited.  I had butterflies like it was a first date, except I wasn't worried about the end of the date, but the beginning.  I walked to her front door, and she came running toward me.  We hugged in a way that only 2 reunited friends could, and we both cried.  At that moment, no words needed to be said, as her hug told me all I needed to know: my friend missed me too.  We don't get to see each other often, but we talk occasionally, and when we do, it's all day for hours.  It seems that we never run out of things to say, just the way it used to be, as if time stood still, and we hadn't been apart all those years.  And the card today was a reminder of some of our times shared along with her words of comfort and love.  It was perfect and just what I needed.

So don't underestimate the power of a card because for me, "getting carded" these past couple days meant the world to me.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

I love this town!

I went to high school in Worcester, in one of the five public schools there.  My graduating class had more than 300 students in it.  I lived in the heart of the city, and I could walk to the mall. There were lots of job options for teenagers, and at one time I actually had 3 part-time jobs.  We had our choices of movie theaters that played every new release out there, a multitude of restaurants for any kind of food we wanted, a roller skating rink, an under 21 dance club, 3 bowling alleys and the usual array of hang-outs.  There was a lot to do for a teen on a weekend night, and we didn't have to drive far to find it.
I moved to the small town of Winchendon in 2000 with my 8 yr old son and my 3 wk old son.  My husband and I built a house here and built a home for our family.  It took some adjusting. When we were building our house in the woods, there was a large field across the street where you could see wildlife. It was nothing unusual to have groups of turkeys walk through our yard at times. And I can remember one fall day calling my dad and saying, "Hey, this is just like Worcester.  There's a man walking up my street carrying a gun."  Of course here this man was a gun-toting hunter dressed in camouflage and orange.  I can remember the time I was sitting watching TV, and heard a crash that was loud enough to knock a shelf off my living room wall.  I went outside to investigate, and found a hawk lying in the grass that clearly had crashed into my house.  Yes, I live in the boonies.
I've heard the Winchendon jokes, I've heard my town referred to as Winchentucky, I've heard that the toothbrush was invented in Winchendon because otherwise it would be called the teethbrush, I've heard the farm animal jokes, and I've laughed along.  It is here that I learned that a Jack and Jill shower wasn't just a bridal shower for friends and family of the bride and groom, but instead tickets were sold, and anyone could buy tickets and go to the Jack and Jill whether you knew the bride and groom or not because it was just a big party with the proceeds going to the couple.
We don't have a movie theater in town, and until just recently we didn't have a bowling alley. We don't have a dance club, and all of the restaurants in town stop serving food at 9.  Our McDonald's is called McDonald's Cafe because it is smaller than other McDonald's, and so I guess even though it serves everything that a regular McDonald's does, it is a cafe and not a "restaurant".  There aren't many job opportunities in town for our teenagers, and many of them cross the line into NH and work at the local Market Basket and Hannaford grocery stores.  Because our town is so spread out, our teens can't walk to each other's houses and my children have friends who live 20 minutes away, though still in town.
But what we do have is community spirit.  We take care of our own, much like a family does.  We are a tight-knit community.  Our Friday night football games are packed, not only with parents of players and students, but with other adults in town who enjoy the game and enjoy the Friday night lights.  I can go to the pharmacy, the bank, the dentist's office, the doctor's office, the pizza place, and I almost always know someone there.  Everyone knows everyone or knows someone who knows someone or worked with someone or is related to someone, and living in Winchendon is like belonging to a family.
I first felt this "family tie" when I went out with friends the night before Thanksgiving the year that my son was a senior in high school and playing football.  It was the night before the big game, and while out, I was told that there was a tradition Thanksgiving Eve where the cheerleaders, in the middle of the night, would come to the houses of the senior football players and decorate their front door.  I couldn't wait to go home.  I wanted to stay up and wait for them. It was like Christmas Eve, and I was waiting for Santa.  My husband went to sleep, but not me.  I waited and waited, sitting up excited in my bed.  Around 2 AM, I heard them, giggling and talking on my front steps.  I could barely contain myself until they left.  The minute they pulled out of the driveway, I whipped open my front door, and sure enough, it was covered in a piece of paper the length of the door, decorated in blue paint with white lettering with my son's name and number in glitter.  I smiled amid my tears of pride, pride for my son, and pride for his school, and this town with its wonderful tradition of making my son feel special for his last game of the season.  Those cheerleaders don't know what their small gesture, their carrying out of the tradition, meant to me.
Friday night one of this year's graduating class of less than 100 students was killed tragically in a car accident after another driver crossed the center line and struck his vehicle head-on while he drove home from his job at Market Basket.  I didn't know him personally, but as the connections go in this small town, my son knew him, my son worked with him, and I know many others who knew Joe.  I can't log onto Facebook without seeing posts from teens and adults who are mourning and grieving and wondering why this had to happen to their classmate, their co-worker, their friend, and they miss him.  
Yesterday I read his obituary and thought to myself what a bummer it was that his funeral was going to be held in Lowell Thursday morning. Not only is Lowell over an hour away, but the funeral was going to be held on a school day.  Today, I came home from work and checked my answering machine.  There was one message, a message from the school superintendent, a message that went to all parents through our school's Global Connect system.
It brought tears to my eyes as I listened to her inform us parents of the calling hours for Joe. She then went on to say that during the calling hours tomorrow, the school cafeteria will be open with refreshments as a place where the students can gather together. Further, although the funeral is being held in Lowell on Thursday morning, the town is supplying buses for those students who would like to attend, and free bag lunches will also be provided for those students. What an amazing tribute not only to Joe, but to our town that they care so much about our students, our teenagers, that they are reaching out to them and saying, "We get it, and we are here for you and will help you remember your friend."  
Say what you will about Winchendon, but I am proud to live here, in a community where we come together, we celebrate as one, we grieve as one, and we support each other.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Message to My Children, My Treasures

I have had this "saying" on my fridge for years, and there are many days that I look at it and try to do at least one thing on the "list" and then there are days like today that I take it down, reread it with a tear in my eye and think...

Just for this morning, I am going to step over the laundry, and pick you up and take you to the park to play.

Just for this morning, I will leave the dishes in the sink, and let you teach me how to put that puzzle of yours together.

Just for this afternoon, I will unplug the telephone and keep the computer off, and sit with you in the backyard and blow bubbles.

Just for this afternoon, I will not yell once, not even a tiny grumble when you scream and whine for the ice cream truck, and I will buy you one if he comes by.

Just for this afternoon, I won't worry about what you are going to be when you grow up, or second guess every decision I have made where you are concerned.

Just for this afternoon, I will let you help me bake cookies, and I won't stand over you trying to fix them.

Just for this afternoon, I will take us to McDonald's and buy us both a Happy Meal so you can have both toys.

Just for this evening, I will hold you in my arms and tell you a story about how you were born and how much I love you.

Just for this evening, I will let you splash in the tub and not get angry.

Just for this evening, I will let you stay up late while we sit on the porch and count all the stars.

Just for this evening, I will snuggle beside you for hours, and miss my favorite TV shows.

Just for this evening, when I run my fingers through your hair as you pray, I will simply be grateful that God has given me the greatest gift ever given.

I will think about the mothers and fathers who are searching for their missing children, the mothers and fathers who are visiting their children's graves instead of their bedrooms, and mothers and fathers who are in hospital rooms watching their children suffer senselessly, and screaming inside that they can't handle it anymore.

And when I kiss you good night I will hold you a little tighter, a little longer.  It is then, that I will thank God for you, each of you, and ask him for nothing, except one more day.

I love you, my child.

A Somber Reminder

This weekend I was busy complaining about my cold and my stuffy nose, driving to and attending my children's hockey games and trying to find time to clean and grocery shop amid it all.

Today finds me thinking about another mom...a mom in my small town, where everyone knows everyone, a mom who lost her teenage son in a tragic car accident Friday night.  No, he wasn't out driving recklessly, wasn't drinking and driving, but instead was driving home from work when another car crossed the center line and struck his car in a horrific head-on collision.  Up until a month ago, my own teenage son worked with this young man, many times on Friday nights as well, and he took the same route home from work that this young man did. 

I can't pretend to know what this mom is feeling.  How do you pull yourself together to even get dressed, shower, eat, talk, never mind pick out clothes for your son, write his obituary, plan his funeral?  How do you even pick yourself up off the floor?  My heart breaks for this mom, and although I've never met her, and I never met her son, I cry for her.

Today I was also saddened to learn of another's passing this weekend.  20 years ago, my former boss's husband was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, and she watched the man she married become dependent on others and lose his independence slowly but surely these past 20 years.  This weekend he lost the fight, and I cry for her and her young adult children who have lost their father.

So...the laundry isn't done, the house isn't spotless, the grocery shopping didn't get done, but tonight I spent time with my children, talking, laughing and just hanging out together, and this weekend has reminded me of what's important, that time is never guaranteed and there may not be a tomorrow to make a new memory, and once again, that life is a gift.