Categories
Holidays Life

Honest

It’s Mother’s Day here in the U.S.A.

Today, the phrase “Happy Mother’s Day!” will echo across the land, perhaps accompanied by flowers and candy and handmade cards, sparkly gifts and family dinners. It is a day for celebrating moms; 24 hours dedicated to glorious motherhood.

I’m grateful for the recognition; I also struggle with it. It seems a bit dishonest to pretend, on this day, that motherhood is entirely magical. Yes, there are magical moments, but in my experience, motherhood is truly a roller-coaster ride, full of ups and downs, twists and turns.

I am beyond happy to be a mom. I adore my sons. I delight in their presence and marvel at the intelligent, kind, funny, wonderful adults they’ve become. They make my heart sing.

But. However.

As much as I am and have been and always will be a loving mom, an adoring and appreciative mom, a mom who sometimes can’t believe that she has the great good fortune of having these beautiful boys in her life, I must be honest. I also am and have been and will be, on occasion, an exhausted mom. An angry mom. A confused and scared and bewildered mom. An impatient mom; a mom without answers. An imperfect mom.

I’m also a daughter. I love my mother dearly and will spend time with her today, celebrating the good in our lives. Our roles have switched, however. I am now the caregiver, the mother figure, and the strain of this responsibility has changed our relationship. I no longer think of my mother as a provider of safety and comfort and warmth. Instead, I worry about how to provide these things to her; how to ensure that she’s as happy as possible, that she has the things she needs and that she feels loved and cared for, even if she’s no longer capable of fully participating in the experience. At times, the grief and guilt and resentment are overwhelming, damaging my perspective on what it means to be a daughter and what it means to be a parent.

Today, I also think about the people I know who’ve had (and are having) their own motherhood struggles. Some of them want motherhood with all their hearts but have been unable to realize that dream. Others have experienced the devastating loss of a child and now have only memories. I know of friends whose children have medical or emotional or educational challenges, who anxiously worry about their children’s future, their safety and their potential. Some of my friends are like me, caring for their moms as they age. Still others have found themselves caring for grandchildren, nieces and nephews, children whose parents can’t or won’t parent them, filling a gap, taking on a role they did not necessarily anticipate. And, some have lost their moms and are now coping with feelings of being adrift or alone or simply missing the person they loved.

So. Therefore.

If you choose to wish me a happy Mother’s Day today, I’ll gratefully accept. And, if you’d like me to return the salutation, I’ll cheerfully oblige.

If, however, you’d prefer to offer something like “Yay For Us, We’re Hanging In There This Mother’s Day!” or “We Are Awesome, Watch Us Getting It Done This Mother’s Day!” or even a simple “Let’s High Five This Mother’s Day!”, that’s okay by me. And, I’ll offer you whatever message works for you in return.

We can strive for perfection yet still accept our flaws. We can be happy, we can be joyful and grateful and merry; we can also be sad and frustrated and overwhelmed. We can be mothers who are real human beings, full of real human feelings, doing the best we can to do the best we can. We can be good at that, and that is worth celebrating.

Here’s to an honest Mother’s Day.

Categories
Holidays Nature

Green

The Lake Isle of Innisfree
by William Butler Yeats

I will arise now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

Categories
Food Holidays

Luck

Where I live, it’s a New Year’s Day tradition to eat black-eyed peas. Doing so is supposed to bring good luck.

I’m not a fan of black-eyed peas, but I’ll take all the good luck I can get. Breakfast today is a bowl of tradition to go along with my cuppa.

What I’d prefer, however – what I really wish we had instead – is a New Year’s Day good luck tradition that requires me to eat ice cream. Or chocolate. Or maybe some pancakes or pie.

Now, that would be a tradition I’d enthusiastically support.

Categories
Holidays Life

Resolutions

I’m making two resolutions for this new year. Just two.

I’m sure I’ll end up setting other goals and working toward them as the year progresses. However, my optimistic resolutions from New Year’s Eve, 2019, didn’t survive the 2020 roller coaster ride. Best to start slowly this time around.

So, for 2021, just two.

One is measurable, easy to define: Read one book per month, for a total of 12 books by the end of the year.

I didn’t used to have to set a goal to read, but in recent years, my reading dedication has been displaced by other…stuff. That stuff is mostly social media silliness, which can be fun but which also eats up time without necessarily giving anything of value in return.

I’ve also found that I can’t concentrate like I used to, that I have to go back and read the same paragraph several times because my mind wanders in the middle of it. This state of distraction is related to the constant barrage of information coming from social media, 24/7 news, and eleventy-billion digital entertainment options, I’m sure.

Whatever the reason, I don’t want it to happen anymore. What I do want is to get lost in a story again, to become so wrapped up in the plot and characters that I lose track of time and forget where I am. I want to be inspired by words, to learn new things, consider new ideas, and enjoy the message.

One book per month is attainable and realistic. I suspect I’ll end up reading more as I get back into the swing of things, but one per month is good to start.

My second goal is not really something that can be measured. It’s more of an idealized perspective, a state of being: Be a nice human.

It’s a simple goal, one that can be achieved without much planning or preparation. However, it does require intent. It sometimes requires deliberate action and conscious choice. And that can be hard, at times.

So, I’ll work hard to achieve this goal, but I’ll also forgive myself when I’m not perfect. I’ll grant myself grace when I have a bad day.

I’ll also remind myself that being a nice human doesn’t have a finish line. Nobody’s waiting to hand me a gold medal on a podium as I complete the race. What matters is each decision I make, moment to moment, day by day. And if I keep trying, if I mostly choose to be nice instead of selfish, nice instead of angry, nice instead of rude or mean, petty or hurtful, I’ll have done something worthwhile.

Here’s to a new year and new resolutions. I wish you health, happiness, and all good things in 2021.

Categories
Family Holidays

Sleep

My sweet husband gave me this cuppa as a Christmas gift this year.

Our kiddos have outgrown Santa and toys. Christmas morning no longer involves happy giggles and excited shouts at the crack of dawn.

Like many other parents, however, our Christmas Day celebrations used to be preceded by late-night Christmas Eves full of wrapping and prepping and finalizing details. It was a labor of love, and we were delighted by our children’s bright, shiny faces when they saw the results. Nevertheless, our delight was shrouded in a haze of drowsy delirium. We were quietly grateful as the morning energy waned, and we were able to relax a bit, maybe even close our eyes for a few minutes while the boys played happily nearby.

Here’s to my husband, my co-creator of treasured family moments and my partner in sleep deprivation. Our holiday activities are different now, and remembering days past makes us a bit wistful. We haven’t stopped making special family memories, however, and now we’re getting more sleep. I’d call that a win-win.

Categories
Fun Holidays

Nutcracker

Yesterday, I came across a documentary series called On Pointe. It’s available on DisneyPlus, and it follows students through one season at the School of American Ballet. Much of the series is devoted to behind-the-scenes views of preparations for the annual performance of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker ballet.

I’m only a few episodes in, but so far, it’s been delightful. The young dancers are talented and sweetly watchable. The action feels sincere; there’s no reality-TV scripting of dramatic moments, as far as I can tell.

As a child, I took a few ballet lessons, but I never participated in a performance of The Nutcracker, never danced across a stage while Tchaikovsky’s music told the magical tale of a Sugar Plum Fairy and children and wooden toys come to life. My parents did, however, take me to see a live performance (not a Balanchine performance, but it was a full-fledged professional production here in our city). I have memories of the music hall and the stage, and of hearing the symphony and watching costumed dancers spin and leap and glide. It only takes a few musical notes to be back in those moments; to remember that experience.

The Disney docuseries was filmed before the pandemic, and there is no live New York City Ballet performance this year. There is, however, a streaming purchase option of the 2019 performance, which includes students featured in the series. https://www.marquee.tv/videos/nycb-nutcracker-2020. A quick internet search reveals that there are also many other performances, produced by other ballet companies, that can be found via streaming platforms and carefully-managed live performances. The show will go on.

Today’s cuppa celebrates holiday memories and the magical world of dancing and music. These days, it seems that sadness is never far away. The world can feel cold and bleak. Perhaps a little bit of cheerful holiday storytelling, a traditional performance of imaginary fun and delight, can help to keep us warm.


Categories
Fun Holidays Pets

Sweater

Today is National Ugly Sweater Day here in the U.S.

The real fun of wearing an ugly holiday sweater is sharing the experience with others, laughing at the ridiculousness and figuring out who has the silliest, most creative and hilarious attire.

I’m regretfully remembering that I got rid of my Ugly Holiday Sweater in one of my cleaning and organizing frenzies earlier this year. It won’t be possible for me to participate in National Ugly Holiday Sweater Day this holiday season.

But…Mollie and Charlie have sweaters. There’s no reason that dogs can’t participate in National Ugly Holiday Sweater Day.

Let the festive frivolity commence!

Categories
Family Holidays

Toys

When my first son was born, I received several toys as gifts. They were designed for infants, with smooth edges and soft materials, and I looked forward to the days when he’d be old enough to play with them.

As he grew, we added more age-appropriate playthings with bright colors and cheery noises. We also added baskets and buckets to hold the toys when they weren’t in use. Not everything got put away every day, but the routine worked most of the time.

Over the years, our family increased, as did our toy collection. And as the children got older, the toys became smaller, with detachable pieces and parts (so many pieces and parts). They became louder (so loud). Gone were the sunny rhymes, gentle music, and simple designs of the baby items; in their place were roars and sirens, bells and whistles, ceaseless chimes and tunes, symbols and signals that echoed favorite cartoons or movies or adventure stories.

We still had the buckets and baskets, but the cleanup routine didn’t work as well as it used to. In the rhythm of daily life, we chose to prioritize other activities. But every once in a while, I’d steel myself for a Day of Sorting and Culling. I’d put the pieces and parts back together, designate storage locations, fix and group, discard and organize. It was both frustrating and soothing, an exhausting exercise that yielded satisfying results.

Eventually, however, the toys would resume their command of the house. The parts and pieces would again lie in wait, preparing for their assault on our bare feet in the middle of the night or angling to be the first to get caught in the vacuum cleaner hose. We’d sigh and complain, but we also found it comforting, this youthful clutter, one of the realities of raising children.

Then one day, after the parts and pieces were culled and sorted and organized, the baskets and buckets filled and straightened…they remained that way. The contents went untouched; the toys were no longer appealing. My children had outgrown their playthings. They’d moved on to new activities, new interests. It had happened without notice, seemingly overnight. I’d blinked, and it was over.

I suppose I’m thinking about these things today because it’s the time of year when kids are making their wish lists, describing their dreams of what they’ll find under the tree on Christmas morning. I’m remembering the fun of those early morning hours when the presents were opened and the excitement was tangible, sparkling in the air amidst the delighted cheers and smiling faces.

I don’t miss the clutter and the chaos of the plastic and noise, but I do think fondly of the days when my family was surrounded by childhood magic. I’m grateful for those experiences and memories, for the imaginary fun they contained.

Our Christmas mornings no longer include toys, but it’s not too late to help to make those moments possible for other children. There are many organizations working to bring happiness to families this holiday season, and today’s cuppa celebrates the people who devote their time and energy to this work. It also reminds me that it’s still possible to be a part of the special fun that comes from pieces and parts, sirens and music, cheery symbols and childhood clutter.

https://toysfortots.org

https://www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/

https://www.operationhelpahero.org/operation-christmas-spirit.html

http://www.sharinglifeoutreach.org

https://wish.org

Categories
Holidays

Missing

I woke up this morning with the feeling that something was missing.

It nagged at me as I let the dogs out. It bothered me while I went about the morning routine of making coffee and distributing kitty kibble. It was a ghostly feeling, just on the other side of realization, not quite clear enough to understand but obvious enough to recognize.

Then, I opened the cupboard door to pick out a cuppa for my morning coffee, and the feeling made sense.

At the front, waiting patiently for my choice, was one of my Christmas cuppas, a gift from a work friend several years ago. Seeing it sitting there made me realize that something is, in fact, missing.

In years past, my December commute to and from work included Christmas music in the car. I’d select a station that was playing holiday favorites, turn up the volume, and sing along.

At the office, my colleagues and I would exchange cards and share homemade treats. We’d wear holiday attire and gather in groups to wish each other festive greetings of the season.

And in the early evening winter dimness as I drove home at the end of the day, I’d see Christmas lights on the houses and buildings. Each one, from the minimal displays to the Griswold-level over-the-top exhibits, was a message of cheer, a beacon of happy energy.

This year, I’m not commuting to work each day; it’s not unusual for me to go several days without even getting into my car. When I do drive somewhere, it’s typically during the daylight hours. I can’t remember the last time I turned on my headlights to see the darkened road. There are no workplace potlucks or cubicle decorating contests, no gift exchanges or holiday parties.

So yes, something is missing this year. The holiday traditions have been disrupted; certain experiences have disappeared.

Of course, in the big picture, these changes are insignificant; there are many more important circumstances and concerns happening in the world right now. And my family and I still have our traditions; we will still celebrate the season. We are grateful for our health, our home, each other.

But I think it’s also okay to acknowledge that little bit of a hollow feeling, that sadness for all that has changed and all that has ended, even if only temporarily. That feeling reminds me not to take the small moments for granted, to appreciate them when they happen. It reminds me that I am fortunate to have had moments that matter enough to be missed when they’re gone.

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” – A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh




Categories
Holidays

Gratitude

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” – A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh