How are you?

A while back a friend inquired, “Has anyone asked you any stupid questions?”

After the conversation, I was still left lingering on the thought.  In general people make statements and ask questions which may come across as stupid, when really it’s with good intentions or out of complete ignorance.  I know I am guilty of this at times too, we all have been there.  When it comes to sensitive topics, these stupid questions can come across as insulting and evoke strong emotions.  Fortunately, I’ve been able to brush off some comments and find the humor in them.  There is always one question I get stuck on and don’t know how to answer.

“How are you?”

This usually simple question has a much different meaning to it when people look at you with their head already tilted to one side and a worried frown on their face.  My mind frantically looks for a reasonable reply and I wonder if I should state my mood right in that moment, or an average of the past day or week?  I give a thoughtful pause but really it’s to internally criticize my own response before it escapes my mouth.  I don’t want what I say to be too positive and have someone judging me for being happy or too negative and risk they might think I’m not handling things well.

“How are you?”

Does someone really want to know it’s a struggle to drive in the car alone with your thoughts at times, that for some reason those are the moments when the regrets become their strongest?  Is it okay I have had fun days full of laughter and smiles when I have been present in what’s happening in front of me?  Should I tell people there are lapses in time when I have been completely numb and have proven to be ineffective at everything?  When is the appropriate time to say I haven’t been able to keep myself together when my daughter is full of sorrow and I cannot possibly fix what she needs fixed?  Is it unhealthy for me to have times when I think I am accepting and other times when it is unreal, it didn’t happen and it’s not true?  Do people want to know I can be fine one minute and completely loose my mind in a sobbing mess all while washing dishes?  Is it alright to tell someone “I was great until you asked and made me think about it”?

“How am I?”

Dad passed four weeks ago today, how I am is existing moment to moment.  Sometimes I am good and sometimes I am really not.  There isn’t really a consistent progression of things getting easier, one day may feel less emotional and the next day feels as raw as the day he passed.   The truth is I don’t know how I am doing, I know I am doing the best I can and things will be okay.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

My Father, My Friend

Early yesterday morning my dad passed at home in his sleep, he had been ill and fighting for his life for the past year except we didn’t know how quickly it would take him from us.  How unfair it had been for him to get sick right at the time he should have been celebrating his retirement and living well-earned carefree years traveling with Mom.  I keep thinking of other things I wanted to tell him, words I wanted hear from him one more time and other ways we would have handled things if we weren’t acting out of a paniced fear.  My Dad and I knew each other in a way no one else on earth could relate to and I can’t think too long about how lonely life will be now without his connection.

I knew he was dying, I could see life fading away and I felt helpless to know there was nothing I could do to take the agony away from his body.  He pushed his body past it’s limits while bones collapsed and broke with no effort at all.  Dad’s steps became slower, his body weaker.  Towards the end he was sleeping more and eating less each day.  I knew he was dying, I could see life fading and I still believed I had more time.  His appearance became more fragile, he avoided having visitors because he didn’t want others to see him and remember him so sick.  For months I avoided being physically close to him when I came to the house, afraid I would unintentionally infect him with germs and make him feel even worse.

In the past few weeks I returned to giving him kisses on the forehead or cheek when I said goodbye.  Being so close, I could feel his bones protruding through his face and still I wanted to believe he would rebound, this would not be his fate.  I realize now our final interactions were my last goodbye.  If I had known, I would have stayed for longer. I would have told him I’m okay with him going because I don’t want him to be in pain.  I know he knows this now.

There are moments when peace calms the house and I feel reassured, Dad is not in anymore pain.  He is not suffering.  Our family is together now and connected by hugs, holding hands and laughter.  Then there are waves of grief which catch me off guard and squeeze the air tightly from my lungs, how did we get here to this point, how could this have happened to him?

Seeing how family and friends have responded in the last day has made me observe I am not the only one who has a unique and special connection to my dad.  It’s both comforting and distressing to recognize how influential my dad was to so many people.  He taught life lessons, was an example for how to be genuine to people and a devoted husband, father, brother, uncle and friend.  His cancer spread to impacting the lives of so many who loved and respected my dad, the grief is widespread.

In one of the moments of calm yesterday, I looked through the photos on his cell phone.  As predicted there were pictures of his grandchildren, of him with my mom, of his motorcycle travels with his brother, of the only cat he says ever loved him “Mozie,” and of the countryside in Italy where he took his last international trip.  Some pictures made me sob to see the joy on his face and the love in his eyes, knowing I wouldn’t ever see this in person again.  Then one image seemed to stand out from the rest, a heaven sent message from my dad for exactly this moment.oksign.jpg It hurts so much right now to think about him being gone and I know down the road everything is going to be okay, even if I can’t see it or feel it today.

My Little Storyteller

In the moments Parker will go play by herself it’s not unusual to peer into her room and find her occupied with books.  Sometimes she curls up in her brown corduroy rocking chair and looks through the illustrations.  My favorite is when she lines up her dolls or stuffed animals and presents the books as though she is reading to her own make-believe classroom.  She carefully tells the story of each page before lifting and turning the book to her viewers to see the pictures.  01booksEach night we read each other one story before bed too.  She has several stories or lines out of books memorized and even mimics the inflections and character voices I use when I read to her.  A lot of her reading is completely made up as she goes along incorporating characters from the story I had read or from events that happened in her day.  It won’t be long before she is truly reading the words on the pages but for now she is using her imagination and her own words for storytelling.

Parker has an advanced vocabulary and communication skills for her young five years.  She is full of opinions, questions and comments and is fearless about opening her mouth to speak.  I want to empower her to continue this since it demonstrates curiosity and leadership, while also trying to rein her in and ensure she remains respectful with her words.  It’s also been a priority for me to educate her on the proper use of her vocabulary and practice pronunciation.  It’s not uncommon for her to completely make up words and throw them into sentences.  She has a few words she frequently stumbles over, like before she could say computer and asked to play on the “paduter.”  There are two words which come to mind I hear currently mispronounced, as long as she is not still saying them this way five years from now they will be a fun memory of her growth.

“Mom, we are out of skabetty?  That’s just rediclius.”

(*Spaghetti, ridiculous)

Funny Thing in Threes

In a family of funny quirks, my daughter was bound to have a few of her own.  Though it is no surprise, some of her peculiar habits have me scratching my head.  Honestly, it’s scratching my head wondering where in the world that Little One has gone.  002See the Little Ones in her little world are small stuffed animals or toys, they are paired in sets of threes, there are certain ones for bath time and certain ones for bedtime, and the bedtime ones are interchangeable with different sets of Little Ones – following along?  She has never been a kid with a comfort item, no particular blanket or stuffed animal.  Instead she has lots and the important one of the moment.  Sets of Little ones are invited to ride along in car rides or on trips.  At Nana’s house she is thrilled to make tiny pillows for her Little Ones complete with tiny tassels or bows.  I find tiny pillows all over my house and car.  Sometimes it seems our lives are ruled by the Little Ones.

By some bizarre miracle I can follow along with which Little One she is referring to, even without it’s specified name.  And by my own psychic will, seem to be able to predict who will fall in and out of the set of three for bedtime.  With my mommy night vision, I am capable of reaching into the dark and find the missing Little Ones after lights go out and bedtime stories are long finished.  All of my super mom power still cannot fathom where this all began and how she came up with calling them the Little Ones.  I just chalk it up to my little girl and her funny things, this one being a funny thing in threes.

01

Kid Art

Each child is exceptionally unique in so many ways.  One thing which makes my daughter unique from other typical four year olds is her artwork.  I began noticing this difference when she plays with other kids, paper and a box of crayons.  While most kids near this age are focused on stick figures, my girl is coloring abstract shapes.  Even with piles of coloring books, this kid would prefer a blank sheet of paper to color her own abstract designs.

PJart2Sometimes I ask her what she is drawing and she always has an explanation.  “It’s a map to Aunt Bev’s house, and here is the park, and a dog, and a tree.”  All of which are blobs of color in a neatly connected Crayola collage.  She always has an explanation for everything so I never know if she is actually imagining these things as she is drawing or if when pressured to come up with an answer – makes it up on the fly.

Curious about her unique work lead me to inquiring with an art therapist friend and several Google searching sessions.  All of which lead me to no definitive answers.

PJart1Some sites claimed too much use of red and black has indications of anger or depression, then other sites added blue, brown and orange into this as well.  Other sources stated black equals dominance while red demonstrates excitement.  Contradictions in interpretation are confusing, especially if the explanation really has more to do with a child’s favorite color being red or black.  There may be parents out there freaking out with a child only drawing in red and missing the fact that it is the only available crayon not broken.

There was also some indications about the meaning of where the drawings are typically located, my daughter’s coloring is almost always oriented towards the top left part of a page.  Unfortunately, there was not a lot of consistency in this either.  Some references stated the left is often associated with mom or nurturing, whereas right is for dad’s.  Additionally left might be related to considering the past while right side is future thinking, then again another source reported drawings oriented to the top of the page indicate future thinking and confidence.

No matter what search terms I came up with I couldn’t find anything explaining what it means for my child to draw abstract patterns instead of the pre-schematic drawings typical for most four year olds.  Then, just like she does when I think I have any pattern of behavior established, she switches it up…  This morning while cleaning up the kitchen I glanced around the corner where she was quietly occupied on her dry erase board.  For the first time in nearly 6 months, she had drawn a pre-schematic drawing.

PJartAs my art therapist friend stated she does during her sessions, I simply asked her about her drawing.  “It’s me and you, Mommy.”

Now, I am not sure what a professional kids’ art interpreter would say this sketch means, to me it’s pretty clear.  Obviously that’s me on the left and a pretty accurate depiction if I say so myself.  Eyes so large they make half of my face, a skinny (stick-like) body and big ol jugs.  Then with her hand on like me, (as she usually is hanging, holding or laying on me somehow)  you can see her little body has wings since she is my little angel.  Her other hand in the drawing appears to be holding something and I am pretty sure I see a dollar sign, meaning this girl brings a wealth of happiness wherever she goes.

The use of only orange is a good indication she didn’t bother to remove the caps off any other markers.  And the random letters show how she loves to practice letters and is excited about words, though is stubborn about asking for help with spelling.  She chooses to write letters and hopes her random guessing will turn out something readable.

Who knows what her next art project with look like?  I think instead of figuring it out, I will just stand back and appreciate her uniqueness.

 

Santa Claus and Other Make Believe

We all looked to the sky and spotted the faint streams of red light as the chilled air blushed our cheeks.  “It’s Santa flying away in his sleigh,” one of the girls declared and the others chimed in with their own declaration they saw it too.  The excitement was contagious even with the suspicions the jolly fellow may have been an uncle dressed in the traditional fluffy suit.

My childhood best friend’s birthday fell in December, naturally there seemed to always be a Christmas theme.  After the holiday ornament making and cake tasting, Santa Claus arrived to deliver candy canes and listen to each girl’s present requests.  Once Santa left the house there became an urgency to determine his authenticity and spy on him, five and six-year-old girls in party dresses and ribbons, raced down the steps and out the front door to the driveway.  Half expecting to see a middle-aged man ripping off a beard getting into a beat-up old Chevy, I was utterly confused by the lights in the sky and reaction from the spectators.

In my home there was no truth to Santa Claus, he was as fictional as The Cat In The Hat.  Don’t get me wrong, we still had Christmas.  The “magic” of Christmas came in the form of everything else; cookies, cocoa, lights, snowman making, present wrapping, singing carols, holiday crafts, tree decorating, holiday greetings in the mail and being together with family.  We all loved the Christmas season without the belief of a mystical man breaking in through the chimney to fill our stockings and snack on our cookies.  It wasn’t because Mom and Dad felt a burning desire to secure our safety and avoid stranger danger, for fear we would habitually approach old men in white beards.  And it wasn’t with the mentality to make sure we knew they worked hard to provide instead of giving credit to this imaginary creature.  My parents, especially my dad, made the decision not to fuel the story of Saint Nicholas in the spirit of honesty.  They simply didn’t want to lie to us.

Their intentions were in a good place, except every other pupil in my early elementary school class did have parents who made them believe in Santa Claus.  Kids behaved because parents had warned not to get on the naughty list.  The man, the myth was reality for my classmates and I my naïve mind could not comprehend how it was true for them and not for me.  I began thinking Santa must be visiting everyone else’s house but mine.  It didn’t make any sense when my reality didn’t match those around me.  When my curiosity about this discrepancy reached a bursting point I took my concerns to my parents.  My dad, the always logical man, attempted to reason the explanation beyond what I could comprehend at the time.  He asked me to question how it could even be possible for a single person to travel to every home around the world in one day.  Still trying to conform my thoughts to the popular opinion of my classmates, I tried to justify it and sometimes tried to believe in Santa Claus even if just to fit in.

At varying points of age, all children learn the truth of Santa Claus and only then do they notice the signs were everywhere all along.  My disorientation from reality was relieved when fellow students and friends gained their own insight.  Truth isn’t always an easy adjustment to make, I know for many kids it was nights of crying themselves to sleep to know their beliefs were a lie.  I suspect too, each of those kids assimilated to finding a new happiness in the Christmas season.

When looking back on my early childhood conflict between what I knew to be true and what my peers saw as real, I now know the word for it.  Cognitive dissonance is the term to label the feeling of stress when two contradictory beliefs are co-occuring.  It is a theory which has long been studied in psychology to recognize the emotional discomfort humans experience when facts counter beliefs.  The parallel to my Santa experience and today’s American culture is tragically obvious.  While Santa Claus is no longer part of the belief, many Americans do hold true to a context of society which is not reality based and does not align with the facts.  Except it’s not parents telling us how to think, and it’s not Santa Claus we are told to believe in.  Citizens respect and accept the framework created by mass media, many place full trust in getting an accurate story about the most relevant news stories.  Dedicated viewers, intending to be well-informed, are guided how to think based on what is shown and more importantly what is omitted.  Most American’s don’t question their disillusion since it correlates with the popular opinion (much like I did with my classmates), even when confronted with details not supported in the “official” story.  The believers see America as being free and equal, they believe the American Dream is real and everyone has the same fair opportunity to achieve it.  I’d like to share this as a reality, except unlike my confusion about Santa, I can see through the present fiction.

In the last few weeks I have been absorbed with the turmoil in our country; viewing news programs, livestreams, monitoring social media and reading articles.  It’s been thrilling to watch the response of countless people demonstrating their frustration with the justice system, with racial disparity and with police militarization.  The variety of people aware and being active ranges to include all ages, religions, ethnicities and socio-economic status.  People who know and recognize the devastating effects felt from inequality and invasion of rights.  Across the country people have taken to social media to express their frustration, walked out of work and school in unison across the nation, held their hands up to political figures, boycotted Black Friday and taken to the streets.  Highways, bridges, train stations, malls and major intersections have been shut down by marches, attempting to bring attention to those distracted by the illusion of justice being served.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The activists across the country have overall been peaceful, despite the attention being placed on rioting and fires, coincidently a great focal point for the news to reinforce fear.  Watching these demonstrations happenings in every major city, some erupting spontaneously, typically with few arrests and no violence inspires my hope for progress.  My optimism rapidly deflates when I hear the media influenced comments like “He deserved it,” or “They’re just burning up their own neighborhoods with those riots,” the ignorant statements like “There’s not really racial disparity,” or “I haven’t heard about what’s happening,” and the actively avoiding “I have better things to worry about,” or “I’m sick of hearing about…”

Now the number of believers inconvenienced by protests are growing rapidly, their cognitive dissonance escalating too.  It is impossible to ignore the passion and effort people have for a cause when they take to the streets facing ridicule and risking arrest to voice the societal emergency being ignored.  Believers have to confront the idea of some truth to this if so many people are screaming to pay attention.  Believers begin feeling more and more uncomfortable when faced with facts opposed to their American truth.

Slave LaborThey defend their belief’s against statistics spelling out the value of profit over people in the prison system, the undeniable fact America has 5% of the world’s population and incarcerated 25% of the world’s prison population.  They find ways to justify how black men are arrested at least 2 to 5 times more frequently than white men for drug charges despite similar rates of use.  Believers ignore the fact 1 in 15 black men are behind bars, equating to more locked up and on parole in our country today than were slaves in 1850.  Believers have never had to experience trying to get a job after jail or had their rights to vote removed.  And they fail to connect poor education, fatherless children, and minimum wage positions which don’t support the cost of living with being ways to prevent criminal activity.  Instead believers blame the oppressed class and label them as lazy leaches of the system, denying the truth the system was created to do exactly this.  Americans are left squabbling about who is to blame while corporate America runs off with the profits and stay protected by the government.  For believer’s maintaining their comfortable life, they are aware of bailouts and corporate tax exceptions, yet they hang onto the idea if you work hard you are rewarded.

Believers find ways to excuse criminal acts by police officers often blasting the inherent worth of the victim as a person, forgetting we all make mistakes and ignoring accountability for the murder completely.  Even in the case of Eric Garner where the technique used was banned, it was determined a homicide and the whole incident was caught on video.  “Every time you see me, you want to mess with me.  I’m tired of it.  It stops today,” Garner said before being choked to death.  He was unarmed and committed no crime when he was accosted by the police.  He resisted, like Rosa Parks, tired of being black in America.

police military

Comply with the police – IT’S THE LAW!!

Believers say comply with police, it’s the law, except they don’t live the reality of being harassed.  They don’t know the experience of being targeted simply based on appearance.  #crimingwhilewhite and #alivewhileblack were two trends on Twitter this month.  Hilariously tragic when confronted by thousands of tweets illustrating how white Americans have literally gotten away with crimes or had minimal consequences, while black Americans are targeted by police on a regular basis doing nothing wrong.  One might say “You can’t believe everything on the internet, people can just make up things on Twitter.”  True yes, and still of the thousands of messages to consider this trend just imagined is complete denial of the problem.  Judgements on each side of the argument are defeating, not all police officers are bad, not all black people are criminals and not all white people are racist.

The marches happening in cities across the country are both inspiring and worrisome to me.  Thousands of brave individuals have banded together to draw more attention to the average American believer, and they are met with armies of officers intending to absorb any positive effect created.  The police force is frightening with tanks, riot gear, rubber bullets, tear gas and other military crowd control weapons like LRAD (Long Range Acoustic Device/sound canon.)  Believers see the militarized police force as crucial for safety, since they have been conditioned to fear people and want to maintain their comfortable routines.  They cannot imagine the dedication to a cause it takes to gather peacefully and have to face this

Boston Police State April 19, 2013

Boston Police State April 19, 2013

violent army.  Isn’t it astonishing how there are budget cuts in every government service to help people, yet there always seems to be money for war or to spend on police equipment when anticipating a protest?  Believers would prefer tanks down their streets and swat teams surrounding their homes to provide the illusion of safety.  I wonder how residents of Boston felt, in April 2013, when they were removed from their homes at gunpoint in the hunt for a teenager?

Trying to communicate rationally and educate about facts is often met with justifying the need to fear people, the need to place blame and the need to continue the militarized police strength.  Americans blindly give faith in their government officials to fix it.  They are convinced their values have to fit in either red or blue, conservative or liberal and stand by their identity.  Separation tolerated more blame and ignites arguments.  Being a non-believer, I cannot comprehend how 2 opinions fairly encompasses the views and needs of over 300,000,000 people.  Especially when those in power on both sides, are serving corporations and promoting the rich to get richer.  Americans feel the cognitive dissonance, wanting to pretend everything is fine, we are free and our democracy works; also recognizing the status quo cannot sustain us.  Constitutional rights and human rights are being violated in an effort to support a broken system.  The problem with admitting the belief is over and it’s time for a change evokes fear.  How do we give up how things are without knowing what is to come?

I know there is happiness in Christmas after Santa Claus.  I also know the believer’s reality where the police are given the power to use against people is a scary future for everyone.  The people don’t have to agree on how America will look in the years to come, there just has to be a united agreement this has to change.

police seattle group-of-policemen-wih-shields-and-weapons-in-street ferguson-missouri-9SWAT Robot

 

 

Catskills: Part II

The day of the wedding finally arrived.  I readied my little girl to her finest curled perfection and dressed her in the fall colored dress my mom made for the occasion.  I left Parker with my husband and dad so the ladies could all hurry off to my sister’s cabin in the woods.  Thank goodness she happened to pull up the country road behind us to follow her through the winding twists and turns we would never have found on our own.

Heather was radiating with bridal thrills and couldn’t wait to get the ceremony and celebration started.  My sister-in-law immediately went to work on her hair spraying, twisting and pinning.  Her soon to be sister-in-law prepared mimosas, because what bride prep wouldn’t be complete without some champagne?  My sister’s NY family/friends had made amazing individual gift bags of products, I Wedding Cabinshamelessly would never be able to justify buying on my own.  Although I had already gotten dolled up back at the hotel, I wanted to start over with my new colors…  Instead I took pictures and waited by my sister as her cup holder.

Once hair was set and make-up applied, my mom assisted Heather with putting on her dress.  While dress shopping I warned my sister not to find one too fast and to let Mom help with putting it on.  I remembered back to my own dress shopping, my mom was loving trying on dresses more than me.  Not just looking at them, the actual helping wrestle into them, lacing, zipping and adjusting.  I felt like I was taking a favorite hobby from her when I decided on one dress.  I knew that moment between my mom and sister was a special one, the final time she would be zipping up a daughter, I’m sure one or both of them had a tear.  She emerged from the bedroom, adorn with her beautifully simple satin gown to admiration.  Her soon to be mother-in-law helped with the finishing sentimental touches; jewelry from each of the grandmas who wouldn’t be physically present for the day.  Upon final observation at herself in the mirror the bride reported “Damn, I’d marry that.”

All of the guests were present when we arrived at her fiancé’s uncles’ cabin.  It was just the atmosphere they had planned, immediate family and a few close city friends on a cool fall day.  The party was underway as many guests had already poured drinks and were enjoying each other’s company on the deck.  Heather did a little touch-up in the bedroom before meeting our dad on the side of the house ready for her big entrance.  Guests found their seats, Parker and her cousins were ready in their claimed row holding hands.

My sister was stunning and my dad proud as they walked through the row of pumpkins, up the steps and down the aisle towards her waiting groom.  I wondered if he was as shocked as we all had been when she decided to wear a veil, if he was it was masked by the expression of pure happiness when he saw her.  The ceremony was officiated by her fiancé’s uncle, and he spoke to how honored he was to be asked and to be able to share his cabin for the event.

Following the ceremony, traditional wedding pictures were taken.  I acted as the photographer, keeping within the conditions they didn’t want strangers as part of the day at all.  They report they love the pictures, however, it was crazy anxiety provoking to know the pictures they will look back on FOREVER from this day are

I promise there were a lot more wedding pics and they are my sister's to have.

I promise there were a lot more wedding pics and they are my sister’s to have.

ones I am responsible for or responsible for messing up.   And simultaneously with pictures the party began.  A full bar, lawn games, socializing, adventures in the woods and crafts for kids, appetizers and dancing on the deck.  Once pictures were taken, some suits were replaced with jeans.  My husband also wanted to participate in dressing down, except his hodge podge of what he happened to bring must have been frightening to our company of high-class New Yorkers.  Imagine dress shoes, funky dress socks, light blue shorts and a black college hoodie.

With my sister living half a country away, I was removed from all she had been doing with wedding details.  Her attention to including grandparents into the day was thoughtful testament to how much they both appreciate their families.  On her bouquet was a thread of small pictures of four sets of grandparents. Wedding Day Heather hand painted wine, martini and brewery glasses with trees and fall leaves especially for the day.  Inside the cabin it was clear she spent a huge effort on exactly how she wanted the tables to appear with table cloths, runners, flower arrangements, and candle holders created the day before out of split logs and gourds.  And just like there was no professional photographer, there was no professional caterer, although you would think the fajita dinner was professionally done.

Since Parker already adores her uncle and his family, I was thrilled she would be able to meet his other significant family there.  It was a magical evening to watch her and her cousins interact with his family as if they had known each other their whole lives.  Throughout the day and into the night laughter and happiness came from two people and their families, the pieces fit just as they were meant to.  It was comfortable, intimate and personal just as they had been planning.

On Sunday, we figured since we had made our way to the Catskills of New York, we would need to visit Woodstock.  Disappointed by the fact that the actual farm where the hippie festival took place is not even near Woodstock, we still enjoyed the town, the hippie shops, hippie restaurants and hippie signs warning to STOPFracking.  My husband, parents and child found our way to the Woodstock Flea Market where we searched for an inexpensive replacement wedding band for my husband and settled for a hippie-toy guitar for Parker.  What could be more fitting as a souvenir from Woodstock?  We made one last rendezvous with the married couple before they headed back to New York City.  It would only be a few more days before we’d see them again for more wedding celebrations back in Kansas City.

The Woodstock Flea Market

The Woodstock Flea Market

 

 

Catskills: Part I

What do you mean you pack for him? The criticism was at the forefront of my mind as the cabin doors were closing and I stared at the vacant seat across the aisle from me.  I had chuckled at the idea of my friend packing for her husband on their trips, believing a grown man should be doing this for himself.  Except in the moment when my husband was still maneuvering TSA and our flight was securing its doors, I wished I had just packed his bag.

We arrived at the airport early, like the kind of early I will only wake for travel.  We were traveling as a family with my parents to my sister’s wedding in the Catskills of New York.  To say I was eager to get there is minimizing the feeling, I was ecstatic, the wedding celebrations were all I had been thinking about for weeks.  The anticipation of a year and a half engagement, ten-year relationship and all the suspense in sharing details for where in the world the ceremony would be had amounted to the peak of mania.  Who would have known the airport would have been buzzing with business before six o’clock AM, lines seemed longer than I’ve seen them in years for our convenient Midwestern airport. My parents and I adjusted baggage, ensured my four year-old Parker was holding a hand and prepared to find our way to the terminal.  My husband slowed with a look of confused concern, “I have to check my bag.” He borrowed a garment bag for the trip so that he could carry his suit neatly for the wedding.  My mom stepped in to reassure him the bag can be a carry-on and will fit in the overhead bin.  The concerned expression continued as he realized even if the size would fit he made packing errors which would make it impossible to bring it as a carry-on and began making his trek to the airline counter.

Security agents and airline personnel were as pleasant and accommodating as a box of hungry hedgehogs.  We watched him through the glass standing in the TSA line making slow progress to get closer to where we were.  I boarded the plane with Parker and my parents knowing my husband had not yet taken his shoes off but was literally a few sprints from where I sat.  The stewardess ignored my attention seeking as if it was impossible to stop checking seat belts to address a customer.  When she finally returned to my panic, she frankly reported “The plane is finished boarding.”  On the phone, my husband’s irritation was growing as he explained how they had only one line to accommodate security screens and chose him for a random search.  He added he was one of six people getting slowed down by processes who were meant to board the same flight.

By the time the flight was in the air I was fighting tears, all the excitement I had building about this amazing weekend were starting with a major absence.  I didn’t know what to be more mad about: TSA for only having one line to screen people, the airline for not ushering people who needed to get to flights, the fact that more than 2 oz of body wash is treated like gun powder to carry onto the plane, my perfectly-planned-for-travel pixie pants creating a sad muffin top or that I should have just packed the damn bag and avoided this.  By the time we got to flying over Washington DC (our connecting airport) and circling over for twenty minutes, then landing only to taxi for an additional 15 minutes; I decided my aggression was focused on US Airlines for insisting we had an on-time departure from Kansas City and leaving behind 6 passengers the 35 wasted minutes could have helped.

There was nothing I could do to remedy the situation so I focused on making sure Parker was comfortable with the flying experience, thankfully she laid her head in my lap and caught up on the early morning missed sleep.  One more quick flight and we landed in Albany for the long anticipated weekend.  We drove south down the interstate and then west to our destination in the Catskills.  I don’t think I had clearly envisioned what it would be likeIL01 in upstate New York, though I would have been wrong in a lot of ways.  The rolling hills of bright autumn leaves, picture perfect streams and creeks in the valleys all seemed familiar and foreign at the same time.  And even though my searches on maps and for rental properties showed limited occupied area, I guess I still imagined New York as a heavily populated land mass and was shocked at how rural living looked in the state.  The rich fall colors still clung to some trees when we arrived and by the end of the weekend most seemed to have fallen.

We checked into our hotel and waited for my sister and her fiancé to meet us after their wedding prep errands.  She was radiating energy to see us, screams of excitement and long tight-squeezing hugs.  Even her fiancé, with a typical all about business demeanor, showed a glowing smile of enthusiasm which stayed joyfully plastered throughout the weekend.  We followed them into Phoenicia, the nearest town where the main street consisted of a few restaurants, some gift shops and one pitiful grocery store.  My sister pointed out where we would be eating for dinner on Friday night at Brio’s.  I quickly realized the Brio in the Catskills is nothing like the Brio in Kansas City and I seriously overestimated the formality of my wardrobe.

The infinitely happy couple had dreamed of having their wedding ceremony in this outdoorsy romantic location.  They wanted their vows to be spoken in front of immediate family on the deck of his uncles’ resort like cabin retreat from city life.  All of the planning and organizing was finally coming to fruition, they were busy with final arrangements and checking into their own secluded cabin to meet up with us later.

In the haze of fatigue and frustration from the missed flight fiasco I omitted the discussion of plans for the evening and focused on the relief of knowing my husband would be flying out on the next available flight in the morning.  (This was paid for by the airline for recognizing their error in IL02abandoning six passengers.)  Finally when I clued in that dinner plans needed to be created a quick search lead me to finding a restaurant my sister and fiancé had never tried in their trips to the upstate getaway.

We met up with them for dinner at Peekamoose, an adorable spot further up 28.  The restaurant had a dining room, a playroom, a tavern and a patio off the side where you could enjoy a complimentary s’more after a meal.  We sat in the tavern where unique furniture, an eclectic grouping of artwork and tree trunks tastefully strung with white lights made for cozy gathering spaces.  The food exceeded expectations

A meal described as the cheese part of ravioli without the confinement of the pasta. Yum!

A meal described as the cheese part of ravioli without the confinement of the pasta. Yum!

starting with appetizers, bread and spreads.  I even took a picture of my meal, uncharacteristic of me, in the pleasure of the restaurant, the trip and the pending event.  Topping of the décor and the food was the entertainment of the night.  My daughter, deliriously excited and tired, interacting with her equally excited uncle.  At some points it was difficult to tell who was laughing more and by the end it was contagious to other tables at Peekamoose.

peekamoosegroup

Parker and I went directly to bed after dinner and both slept a solid twelve hours.  In the morning when we were nearly ready my parents came into the hotel room talking on speaker phone with my sister.  She added her fiancé’s uncle to the conversation to provide directions to the cabin where we would help them with wedding set-up.  He described turns, streets, crossing bridges, up hills, down hills and crossing back bridges.  IL04Between mascara brushes I watched my parents listening intently as the directions continued to mount.  Our morningIL05 chore was to pick up pumpkins before going to the cabin.  We found a market on the side of the highway to buy pumpkins and have a photo-op with a bear.  Then fearing my parents didn’t write a thing down in addition to no cell phone reception in these remote parts of New York, I didn’t think we would make it to the cabin.  To my surprise, like a comedic skit about two people who have been married for forty years, they bantered about the directions all the way up the mountain following my mom’s lead until we pulled into the driveway of the cabin – not making a single mistake.

Sister, fiancé and uncle were outdoors and dirty to greet us in the middle of potting flowers for the deck.  Not long after we arrived the fiancé’s family, also traveled the day before from Kansas City, got to the cabin.  After all the greeting and explaining why my hubby was not present, everyone jumped into tasks of moving, mowing, and decorating.  The cabin in the woods had a stunning kitchen, a magazine quality bathroom with soaker tub and the deck opened to views of a pond complete with a fountain.  My dad took my husband’s travel delay as an opportunity to escape the wedding prep and we left for lunch at the Phoenicia Diner and then a trip back to Albany with Parker.  At the Peekamoose I was impressed by the emphasis on local foods, then at the diner I realized this was just the norm in the area.

There was no chain restaurants and no franchise locations near the Catskills, it was a refreshing reprieve from my normal.  Except on the way back from Albany, after being reunited with my husband, I needed to kill my chai craving and made my dad stop at Starbucks.  I guess others felt the same withdrawal from franchise addictions because it was the longest lines and wait of any Starbucks I have been to.

By the time we made it back to the cabin, wedding preparations were complete for the day and there wasn’t anything to do except wait for dinner.  My sister was proposed to on her fiancé’s birthday and together they thought it would be fitting to get married on her birthday.  Since there wouldn’t be an opportunity on Saturday for the birthday celebration, we all planned to gather for a thirtieth birthday dinner in town on Friday night.  I left the dress I had brought hanging in the closet and opted for a more casual “weekend in the woods,” attire.  At Brio, our long table of family enjoyed beer and pizza.  Parker plopped herself down in the chair by her cousins where she colored and played contently throughout the meal.  My sister opened gifts and blew out candles.  It was clear her thirtieth birthday would be an unforgettable celebration and it was barely getting started.

IL06

Next: The Wedding Day

 

 

Happy Day

Sisters & FriendsAn older sister should be a positive influence, a leader, a helper and an inspiration.  An older sister should be a support, a nurturer, and a defender.  She should be calm and rational during times of adversity, she should be fun and creative the rest of the time.  An older sister should have wisdom and ability, she should be motivated and disciplined.  She should love with her whole heart, and not just her family and friends but her fur babies too.

In my family, I am the older sister, except these characteristics are things I look up to in my younger sister.  My younger sister is someone to admire, she is strong, beautiful and has a bosses’ dream work ethic.  Today she turns another year (and decade) older and I am so proud this amazing woman is my sister. I am bursting with excitement to be able to spend the whole weekend with her and with family.  Because, today is not just her birthday, it is also her wedding day.

They are a perfect pair, complimentary in everyway.  Their communication is enviable, they have amazing adventures around the world together, and have supported each other to fulfil their own individual goals.  He knows just what to do to make her giggle, which in turn makes him giggle.  The whole scene just makes you want to gag except all you can do is try to contain your own giggles, because they are so adorably wonderful together.  I’m so excited to be sharing this happy day with them.  I can’t wait to see what the next thirty years will bring.

I LOVE YOU SISTER!

Happily Ever After In The Present

Sam Smith’s song “Stay With Me,” will forever be my anthem for the summer of 2014.  Despite my belting out I’m on my knees only to realize much later the actual lyrics are You’re all I need.  The month of August came and went blasting me into new perspectives and refreshed determination.  I started securely and ended with so much uncertainty.  I lost my job and I thought my marriage was over.

Through the last two months I have been blessed with compassion and understanding from so many connections.  My appreciation for friends, family and colleagues who reached out, both in direct and subtle ways, can never be explained.  I am truly honored for all of the people in my life, those who are still present and those whose paths crossed at opportune times.  The lessons I have learned through stressful times and challenges difficult to overcome, have been invaluable.

Thank you to my family for unconditional love and support. For encouraging me when I was down, for special unexpected deliveries, for sharing your own personal stories of heartache, for offering reading material, opening your home to me and for being a faithful ear. I am so thankful for an incredibly unique cast of characters I get to call my family.

Thank you to my friends who are like family.  Attending a stress relieving happy hour, receiving a letter or phone call, and meeting up for a meal has been powerful tools in helping me maintain sanity.  I know in the last year I have lost my emphasis at staying connected to friends as my energy has been devoted elsewhere. I am touched to have so many friends who intentionally make themselves available for me.

Thank you to former colleagues in my recent position. I have regrets with how things unraveled and I didn’t have the closure I wanted with the team members, residents and families I had grown so attached to. I appreciate hearing there is no animosity directed towards me, only understanding it couldn’t have been any different, so I will continue trying to make peace with it.  The connections I made there, my advocacy for the team and their hard work was all genuine.  My hope is some of the progress we had made will stick beyond my employment.

Thank you to my daughter for tolerating the uncertainty in our lives in stride.  She was during this time and continues to be my everlasting joy.

And thank to my husband for clearing the muddy waters, for recommitting to why we are together and the future we will develop successfully.  If there is anything we have learned in our six loooooonnnnggg years of marriage, it’s that it takes work.  I know we are prepared to put in the overtime necessary to get life back on track and we are already well on our way.

Life happens for a reason and the challenges we are presented with have purpose.  I know this to be true and in the midst of crisis, this reminder came from my friends and family.  Because of the love I felt during the hard times, August was the both the best and the worst month, and I felt so much happiness despite my life’s circumstances.

Live Happily Ever After Now