Month: December 2009

Blue Moon Rising

As we welcome in 2010 there will be a little extra magic in the air…well, in the sky.  For the first time in two decades a blue moon will appear on New Year’s Eve.  Called a Blue Moon although it is not actually blue, this bonus full moon will grace us with its intrigue tonight.  The second full moon this month, the blue moon normally occurs every two and half years depending on the celestial calendar, but only arrives every 20 years on New Year’s Eve. 

This illustrious satellite will hover in the sky over First Night celebrations, light the way for joyful partygoers, and shine exuberance into our souls.  There is a captivating mystery about the moon in all of its phases, but especially when it’s full, a perfect sphere of seductive light hanging above us.  In its peacefulness it offers introspection.  In its glow it offers guidance.  Its presence provides reflection.  Where have we been and where are we going?  What do we wish for, long for, desire?  Who do we see in ourselves when we look at the moon, its radiance looking back at us.

New Years Eve also affords us the opportunity to ponder similar questions, about the year that we have lived, and a future yet to be had.  Every year I approach the New Year with cautious optimism.  After living through some pretty tumultuous years, each New Year’s Eve I feign excitement while really wondering what will happen next.  Like turning the first pages of an unread book, I open the New Year with anticipation, but neutrality.  A wave of hopefulness sweeps through me like a gentle breeze, and I wonder if it will stay or if I will just feel its softness for a few minutes. 

This year we have both the blue moon’s rare presence and the New Year’s annual return right in the palm of our hands.  A synchronous time for filling ourselves with beauty and belief.  Another year passes, but leaves behind a full moon that welcomes in a new year offering all the magic we can capture.

Sick and Tired

Coxsackie virus.  What is it.  And how did I get it.  Made the mistake of looking it up online after learning how to spell it correctly, and didn’t really like what I read, so stopped reading. 

But let’s back up to the part that says it is a virus spread among very young children, who I am not, nor do I have.  Which makes me wonder how I picked up this highly contagious strain of enterovirus that put ulcers on the back of my throat making it feel like I am swallowing glass, along with a flaming sinus infection, and low grade fever, that all came on clear out of the blue. 

I think I can trace it back to the Christmas Eve children’s pageant that we attended to see our good friends’ kids acting out the Christmas story.  Oh how glistening their daughter looked as the angel over the manger, and their son, a righteous camel.  Little did I know that I would infect myself with something so disgusting in such a holy place.

I was pleased that we had made it this far through the holiday season without any major illnesses. Somebody coming down with some infection on a holiday is often the case when you have offspring who pay little heed to the hand sanitizer pumps everywhere, including their own house.  I, on the other hand, pump a lot. 

But no.  I got sick this year.  And symptoms aside, it doesn’t even carry a name that is pleasant.  While I’m an optimist I can only imagine that my kids will probably have this passed on to them in time to go back to school.  Isn’t that always the way?  Just when I think I’m in the clear, there will be a reason for them to extend their vacation just a little bit.  One of them has already had the swine flu this year, he was quarantined in his room with the tv, dvd player, his iPod, a case of PowerAde, and the rest of us stayed healthy.  Sadly I can’t lock myself in my room with all the same but wine instead of electrolytes. 

So I carry on, a little feverish, unable to talk or swallow, coughing up things that should not be seen by the human eye.  I was advised to take a break from writing a post when I’m sick, and I quote, “Even God took a day off.”  Good point.  So I’ll stop now, put on my warm flannels, curl up in bed with the tv remote and a cup of steaming tea and call it a day.   Until somebody yells, “Hey mom, I need a ride to the mall.”

Charming

I came across a book today called, “Living A Charmed Life, Your Guide To Finding Magic In Every Day,”  (by Victoria Moran, Harper One, 2009.)   Intriguing concept for a gal who writes about fairy tales or the lack thereof.

Ms. Moran talks about why living in shades of gray seems a little ridiculous when there is bright, beautiful color to be had, and is found in ordinary, simple things, even when it’s not obvious.  I settled in for a few minutes to read this collection of aspiring essays which got me thinking about the charm in my day today.

My son slept in his street clothes last night.  Charming.

I stepped in cat puke on my way downstairs.  Uber-charming.

My email inbox was filled with all things Monday-morning that crashed the program.  Wonderful.

I had no less than 17 voice mails that I had not retrieved yet.  Fun. 

Mr. Ex decided to go into work late for no reason, giving me less time for a little peace and quiet before I had to start running the kids here and there.  Great.

I was sitting in the salon, hair gooped up in color, and my close friend decided to pop in with her man-friend who I have never met before.  Now that’s really charming.

My son’s therapist told me she is going to have to charge more after hearing about the last week in our family’s lives.  She was kidding, but you know, thinking about the meaning in that is pure charm.

Then I read on.  In the midst of this author talking about her full, rich, engaging life, she described the time that her teenage stepson unexpectedly died from a virus.  Whoa.   If that isn’t something that makes you stop and think I’m not sure what is.  Hence her book, how to live through profound circumstances and still find a way to live in the light.

I’m not promoting her book, but I could have written it, as I have lived by these concepts for a long time.  When you take a step back from your life and find some kind of gratitude in every possible part of your day-to-day living, it makes it a little easier to find the color.  I think it runs much deeper than optimism, than the glass is half-full concept, and even rose-colored glasses. 

Many of my lifelong friends and family would argue that I did not get where I am today by finding gratitude or joy every day.  In fact, maybe just the opposite.  They have listened to, supported, assisted, and lifted me up along the arduous journey I have had, rubber-band snapping me right out of despair during life-altering horrible situations.  But as they did that I listened, and I worked hard, while I fought for strength, for hope, for peace, and for joy.

It’s really about a sense of self, a sense of belief in who you are and what you want, what you need, and a determination of how to get it.  It’s learning to find serenity in what you can’t change and enthusiasm in what you can.  It’s about trying to live calmly when there is a hurricane around you, and seeing the beauty in the storm rather than the storm itself.  It’s about faith.  Faith that you will be ok no matter what.  That’s when the magic unfolds.

There was a lot of charm today.

My son did his own laundry.

My cat curled up on my lap offering unconditional love and fur.

My emails were abundantly rich in gratitude from others about things that I have done to help them feel better.

I talked to an old friend today that warmed my heart and made me smile. 

Mr. Ex actually has a job that he likes even if he was slower than usual in getting out the door.

I got to meet my dear friend’s future husband who I have only heard about for so many months.

And my son’s therapist is also my friend and invited me out for coffee so we could just relax together.

I don’t really need a guide to finding magic in every moment of the day, although there are days I could use a reminder.  I’ve had a lot of opportunities to practice, and this is life, so I’m sure there will be many more.  There is reality and then there is reality with a glimmer of polish.  I’m going to keep trying to bravely surmount every challenge this life presents with at the very least, the glimmer of a smile, and see it all in living color.

They’re Teenagers, Now What?

It feels like only a short time ago I was rocking my babies to sleep.  People used to say, “Just wait until they are teenagers.”  I never knew what that meant, but am learning every day with my boys. 

They are more mature than I thought they would be…maybe more than I was through those years.  It seems like overnight that they changed from being little kids needing my parenting to being able to interact with them on a more adult level.  The change towards maturity took place so quickly.  All of a sudden the boys don’t need their mom so much.  They turn to their friends, to other male role models, and to the cyber world for whatever they need to know. 

I’m actually surprised at what appears to be subtle innocence…I assumed by now they would have had their first kiss and more, would not show seemingly real honesty, nor have the ability to talk with them like adults.  But I’m watching them grow up faster than I thought they would, and I’ve had to learn to let go.  My oldest has his driver’s permit and many friends who already drive, so off he goes with them…to the mall, the movies, to their houses to “hang out,” and I wonder what he’s really doing. 

I created a social networking account to monitor my kids and am certainly learning a lot about them.  We didn’t have web interaction when we were teenagers, what did our parents do?  There weren’t cell phones, computers, or any other forms of technology that are continually available to us.  Parents relied on other parents to help monitor and raise their children.  We are now raising a culture of kids that do not even need to leave the house, as they are connected to the outside world at all times. 

So I try to keep up with their lives, their daily interactions with their friends, with who they are talking to and what they are saying.  Enter Urban Dictionary: “A searchable archive of contemporary American slang listed in alphabetical order.”  I find myself going there more and more to understand their language, which they have created out of necessity.  We can track them, monitor them, we can put restrictions on everything cyber-related, but they have created their own culture.  I suppose I did that, we used teenage lingo…ok there’s a word I recently used and was told by my middle son, “Uh, mom, we don’t use the word lingo.”  But I know I’m doing ok because I am now “friends” with most of their friends, boys and girls alike, and stay right in the game with them. 

This illuminates the important male vs. female perspective…and since I’m the only female in the house I have to work hard to help my teenage boys understand that.  It’s a conscious decision to use any kind of teachable moment I can about women—feelings, compassion, about how we think, how to treat us, and how not to treat us.   Girls plan.  They dream.  They envision adult lives for themselves early on, from wedding dresses to baby names, with pink corvettes and Barbie Dream Houses.   Culture, environment, socio-economic status all play roles, but how different is boy/girl interaction now than it was when we were growing up?  Maybe not so much. 

There is a different kind of freedom for me as the parent of teenagers.  I don’t have to be there every second watching their every move, but I have to try to be one step ahead of them, parent but befriend them, allow them the space to grow up.   I can watch them online, I can reach them when they leave the house, I can even track them on GPS.  But where do you draw the line.  They are teenagers after all, how  much do I really want to know. 

A long time ago we just did things that our parents didn’t know about.  Is ignorance bliss?  Ask me when I have grandchildren and watch my own grown kids try to figure it all out.

Write For Joy

If you read my blog you know by now that my life is not the fairy tale that I dreamed about. However, like a princess who has lost her slipper, I keep running with one shoe on. Every day is presented with opportunities to talk about addictions, autism, teenage antics, my castle that is still sale pending, and an assortment of things that a magic wand could wave away in one fell swoop. But since the wand is still on backorder I opt for a positive attitude, belief, hope, and whatever bit of joy I can find.

Today was a joyful day, even following the latest grim happenings. My oldest son’s school burned down two days before Christmas, and we all felt shock and dismay (see Up In Flames.) On Christmas day the reality of the fire hit my son hard enough that he left the room during the middle of opening gifts and sat by himself  in another room and cried. He asked me to return his gifts and give the money to his school. I wasn’t aware of how upset he truly was.

In the midst of Christmas preparation, I wrote a story about how the fire affected our family, my son in particular, and I submitted it to several local papers. Today my article appeared as a column, word for word. My goal was to show a side of the story that the media did not touch upon, how much losing a school that is like a home to the students and parents hurts. It wasn’t just that I got a guest columnist byline, but it was that my son’s words and feelings spoke for a community. I hope that our perspective will launch a fundraising effort to help rebuild the school, and maybe bring together a group of teachers, students and parents who need to feel validated and feel better.

When my son saw the column in the paper today he sat down, read the story, and smiled. He was proud of me and he was proud that together we created something that might help. Joy amidst sadness. With hope, belief, and a positive attitude there may just be a little touch of fairy tale sprinkled into reality, even without a wand.

Christmas Passed

Christmas came and went in the blink of an eye this year.  Despite the light snow that fell on top of the already snow-covered landscape…despite the last few weeks of holiday shopping, decorations, activities, and eager children…despite the deluge of gifts that were left on our doorstep a few days ago…despite the onslaught of visiting friends and family members…even attending a Christmas Eve church service, it did not feel like Christmas. 

For the last 24 hours I have been trying to figure out why all the pieces were in place for a happy and successful holiday but I did not feel it coming or see it going.  There is no logical explanation, everything went off without a hitch, all the way down to the last cookie crumb being eaten by Santa.  The kids were ecstatic with their piles of loot, the relatives had smiles on their faces, the champagne corks kept popping and the holiday feast was cooked to perfection. 

Apparently I was not alone in feeling a little lost this Christmas, and we got into a debate about why the majority of us at the dinner table shared that sentiment.  Some blamed the later than usual arrival of the winter weather, despite the white Christmas softly falling outside.  Some blamed the economy and the overall lack of feeling prosperous.  Some blamed old age, exhaustion, and those wonderful children just sucking the life right out of you.  In my house they were up before sunrise, and before the coffee brewed, before the fire was lit and the holiday music was on, the mad dash to the tree and present tossing was underway.  Wrapping paper and ribbon were flying everywhere, ecstatic loud delight was resonating through the room. As boxes were ripped open they barely stopped to take a breath in between gifts, creating a Christmas frenzy that even the cat participated in.  The morning hadn’t started before it was time to clean up the mess.

But that wasn’t it either, at least for me.  I can’t really put a finger on why I never quite caught the spirit of the season.  The day was merry for most of my brood, and I did not let a little wonder about why it didn’t really feel like Christmas bother me.  I peacefully and contentedly flowed through the holiday watching the happy chaos around me, enjoying laughter with friends, and remembering something I read last night, written by an anonymous author:

Love is what’s with you at Christmas, if you stop opening presents and just listen. 
It is love in your heart that puts Christmas in the air, not what’s under the tree, not piles of gifts.
Soon another Christmas will be over, decorations taken down, new things put away, school will start again. 
We must remember that Christmas is about love and love is about celebrating everyday life. 

Maybe I just skipped the Christmas step and went right to the celebrating everyday life part.  And that’s not such a bad thing at all.

A Christmas Poem

Twas the night before Christmas
That means Christmas Eve,
And the kids are all curious
What Santa has up his sleeve.
They can’t wait to see what’s under the tree,
I’m wiped out and they’re filled with glee.

Off to church we go to the pageant with friends
And sit in a crowd and wish it would end.
We need to get home for the rest of the night
To get everything wrapped and finish our plight.

Christmas is here, ready or not,
I checked my list twice, wondered what I forgot.
Not that it matters the event has begun,
Might as well give up and just have some fun.

Christmas is not about all the toys
It’s about being merry and finding the joy.
It’s a night that for most is laced with tradition
A little part of the human condition.
The holidays may be filled with distress
But in the end we really are blessed.

Twas the night before Christmas in 2009
Plenty is stirring and everything’s fine.
Wishing for you that your Christmas is merry
Love from your favorite Blog Princess fairy.

Up In Flames

We were jolted out of bed by an early morning phone call. “Good morning, I am calling to let you know that due to a problem, school will be closed today.  We hope you have a very happy holiday.”   

It was odd…today was the holiday festival at my oldest son’s school, which he had been looking forward to for weeks.  Barely awake and stumbling through the dark, I quietly went into his room to tell him school had been cancelled, thinking perhaps there was a minor incident such as no heat.  Little did we know until moments later when our phone started ringing to turn on the news, our son’s school was burning in an uncontrollable blaze that was quickly consuming the campus, while stopping rush hour traffic dead in its tracks.

Upset, shocked, and frantic I yelled to my family to get up and turn on their televisions for the live reports on every news channel.  A gas explosion had created a fiery and raging scene that was spreading fast and furiously…firefighters unable to control the ravaging flames.

Telephone ringing, computers booting up, tv remote controls racing through channels to get the live footage…and a teenage boy sitting on the floor watching the only other place he feels emotionally safe, come down right before his eyes.  He was immune to those of us around him who were consumed by the emotions of what was happening.  This school is like another home for our son, filled with a “family” that he cherishes, that we feel close to, that helps keep our son stable and grounded while providing an unsurpassed education to challenged children.

Unable to understand, wondering why it was happening, he couldn’t watch anymore, and went back to bed, shutting out his own flood of feelings.  Live blog feeds on the streaming computer video were clogging up with parents and teens that attend the school.  Media sources added to the ongoing cyber discussion.  Sky cams stayed in the air showing us every angle and every minute of play by play as the heroic firefighters worked in synchronicity to put out the fire.  My son was not able to take any of it in.

Hours later when he woke up he saw the continued live news footage…now nothing left but smoldering ashes and busy firefighters still voraciously doing their jobs.  The state of the art computer lab, the science lab and greenhouse, the health center, gymnasium, auditorium, restaurant-size kitchen, cafeteria, basketball court, the heart and soul of the school…all gone.  His expressions spoke a thousand words.  Where will I play basketball?  Where will we eat lunch and who will make it?  What computers will we use?  What happens if I need to go to the nurse?  How long will it be like this?  When will it be back to normal?  Will we have school in January?  What happens now?  He got dressed and put on his school jersey and hat and sat at the computer watching the ongoing news story, his esteemed school personnel almost speechless…somber and sorrowful, while trying to answer the media’s questions.    

This is the time of year that you think of fires in fireplaces, glowing light, spreading warmth and beauty into cozy homes and rooms filled with holiday cheer.  But that is not the fire that was experienced today.  It was devastating and destructive to a community, to families, to children and parents who treasure and depend on this copious resource of emotional and educational services. It is not just a school, but a foundation of strength and hope. 

When I asked my son how he was feeling, he said, “I guess I’m ok.  Fire is ridiculous.  But my school will turn this around and fix it just like that, because they are awesome and because they can.”

Santa Claus Came From Town

Christmas came early with the ring of the bell.  

It was bitterly cold outside, not like a typical New England December day, but more like the North Pole.  Shivering from the walk from the school bus to the door, the kids piled in tossing their coats and backpacks on the floor.  The anticipation of the upcoming holiday was growing and they could only focus on snacks, game consoles and trying to warm up.  When the frost wore off and they had settled in for the duration, the doorbell rang.  Not particularly interested in moving from their cozy spots, I went to the door wondering who would be popping in this time.  People don’t seem to call before stopping by when the holidays are near, so I put on a happy face of pleasant anticipation, only to find nobody there.  Instead I saw a porch covered with countless numbers of Christmas presents.   

Confused, I stood in the cold, door wide open, looking at the display of colorfully wrapped gifts, wondering where they came from and who they were for.  There must have been some kind of mistake, a bountiful delivery to the wrong family.  I summoned the children to the porch and asked them to help carry everything in while I tried to figure out who to call to see where these packages came from. 

The boys, now unaware of their previous disinterest in the doorbell, were full of surprise and joy as they saw their names on the gifts and came to life as they brought everything in from the cold.  They stacked them around the tree and sat together looking with amazement and discussing the possibilities.  Was it Santa?  I have always told them in order to receive you have to believe.  

That’s where I may have gotten lost.  In the belief.  We have lived in our quaint New England town for several years now, and have gotten to know a lot of people, but never knew the spirit of generosity that apparently thrives here.  People tend to keep to themselves, run in their own private circles of social networking, with an outward appearance of affluent perfection.  That is not who I am.  I have always lived my life giving and helping others as much as I can, and I never imagined, or expected, that someday people would give back.  

Several phone calls, questions, and reassurances later, I learned that yes, indeed these gifts were for our family, not from the North Pole, but donated by people in our town who knew the circumstances we have endured from a house falling apart to lawsuits, to illnesses and hospitalizations and more recently addictions and financial losses. 

Being accepting of the gifts was quite difficult for me…there are so many people whose situations are dire, and I live with gratitude every day for what I do have.  When on the receiving end of others’ generosity, from a town that you did not know noticed or cared about your personal story, it is quite a surprise, and  I was overcome with emotion. 

The joy of the season was silently delivered to us today, it will be a Christmas that is always remembered.

The Lines Are Open

Like a roving reporter, I am always on the lookout for a good topic to blog about. I am keenly tuned in to what is going on around me that resonates each day so that I can as eloquently as possible talk about something inspiring or provide insight, or just make somebody smile.  I start this quest from the minute I put my feet on the floor until the moment I go to sleep at night, and often times will even wake up in the middle of the night with something important to say and nowhere to write it down, hoping I’ll remember tomorrow.

Usually I will find something that works for me and when I have nothing, do end up thinking of something as I get my head in the game and sit down to write.  Today I have had several possible topics but none that I really want to develop…so I thought I would just write about what I thought about writing about.

Silly or serious…today’s potential topics:

Did my son really make out with his girlfriend at the basketball game after school while his best friend sat there with them?  Friend said yes, son said no.  Is the friend right and the son wrong?  You decide.

My wonderful, wise, therapist friend dubbed me a Blog Princess and asked me what’s the deal with fairy tales.  That post deserves some serious thought. 

Mr. Ex apologizes and things are quiet again (See yesterday’s post Not as Clean as the Pure Driven Snow.) 

My son is stressed out about his first real community theater audition in two days and it’s affecting all of us.  This is the son that was just in a low-budget theatrical production at his school and is now branching out to the big time.  If he’s this nervous now what happens when he goes for his first movie audition.  Baby steps. 

It’s a holiday week and my kids are home from school for 12 days.  Help. 

And my friend J’s thought (and I quote:) “The problem:  to eternally feel the softest part of love, the stingless catch of a new eye and that is all.”  What the hell is that.  Intriguing—sure.  But does it make sense?  And does it even need to.   

Nothing insightful, nothing inspiring, maybe not even enough to bring a smile.  So keeping that in mind, I’m opening up my blog for requests…and would love to know what my faithful followers would like to read about, as written by me, a blog princess who lives a crazy life filled with joy and despair, fun and dysfunction, and who loves to share her stories with the world so that maybe somebody will take something away with them that matters.

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