Sunday, October 30, 2011

Ho Ho Halloween

A few days ago, I was thinking about carving my Halloween pumpkin. Unfortunately, the squirrels had nibbled it a bit, and I was considering buying another until I discovered that the grocery store was all sold out. Why am I carving a pumpkin, you might ask? After all, my kids are grown and/or away at college. But old habits die hard.
            Then came the snow, a highly unusual occurrence for October in New Jersey—even for the end of October. In fact, I can’t rightly recall that it’s snowed in October in the 29 years that I’ve lived in the “Garden State.”            
            The snow sent everything into a tizzy, of course. Tree limbs fell, power was lost, the town robo-called a “State of Emergency.” The weekend before Halloween was turning out to be not at all what I expected, at least weather-wise.
            This made me all the more determined to locate a pumpkin somewhere and carve it by Monday. I’ve been making a Halloween Jack-O’-Lantern for at least 28 years (the age of my eldest son) if not much longer (I may have missed a few years when I was in college). My dad always made a big deal of carving the pumpkin, and like many other holiday traditions, it’s stuck with me. There is nothing quite like walking up my dark hill at night and seeing the glittering candle-glow in Mr. (or Ms) Pumpkin’s mouth.
            I realize that I have no control over the weather, and very little control over what happens in the Universe at large. But there are little things we can do as human beings that keep us sane when chaos reigns around us. For some, it’s meditation or mantra. For others, it’s listening to Bach. Maybe it’s something as simple as straightening the kitchen counter.
            For me, carving a pumpkin is just one of those things, so even if I can’t get to the store tomorrow, and even if all the pumpkins are gone in the entire county, I am going to carve my squirrel-nibbled, snow-encrusted pumpkin and light a candle in the name of good old-fashioned predictability (which basically means that the only thing we can really count on is that the unpredictable is bound to happen).
            Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Date With a Real Dog

No, I haven’t been going out with unattractive men; actually, I had a date with a beagle/pug mix the other night. A friend of mine who adores animals had arranged to foster a little dog named Donna, who was likely to be put to sleep at a shelter down south. She will foster the dog until a proper home is found (my pal already has three greyhounds and a couple of kitties).
            As you may or may not remember, I am not a “dog person.” But I do like dogs, especially little ones. So I was happy to tag along for the midnight pick-up of this pet, and I hung around until 2 am when she was happily settled in her new NJ digs.
            Several others were waiting for the après-midnight drop off when we arrived at a dark, empty parking lot in rural New Jersey (yes, there is such a place!). One couple picked up a one-eyed boxer—welcoming the animal with open arms as if he were a long lost child. Another woman was there to collect several dogs that she said she’d swiftly find homes for—she’d already placed more than a dozen homeless pups just this year.
            I was impressed and humbled by the commitment and devotion of these animal lovers.  Yes, I love animals, too, though I don’t have any pets at the moment. Nevertheless, I certainly appreciate and honor the members of the animal kingdom.
             But these folks take being an animal lover to a whole ‘nother level. Would I drive a van full of barking dogs from North Carolina to Vermont in a single day, stopping all along the way to make canine deliveries? Would I take one of these little guys (or gals) into my home and swear to honor her or him in sickness and in health, to walk her every morning at 5:30 am., to take her to the vet for check-ups and shots, to let her sleep in my bed at night or turn all my black clothes into hair balls? Well…no. Not right now, anyway.
            It’s just that dogs require a lot of attention, time, and money, as I was reminded when sweet little Donna immediately peed and pooped in her new, clean doggie bed, just like a baby (but without a diaper). On the other hand, dogs don’t go to 50-thousand-dollar-a-year colleges (or any colleges, as far as I know, though school is definitely required for some). So even if there are costs involved, dogs are a heck of a lot cheaper than kids.           
            Much is written and thought about angels; whether you believe in them literally, metaphorically, or a mixture thereof or not, you do feel the presence of angels when you see and experience human nature at its best. What I witnessed a few nights ago –a simple exchange between humans and “man’s best friend”--reminded me that all living creatures are here on this earth to be loved and to offer love. What could be a more angelic message than that?
             Anyway, here’s to Donna--“Oh, Donna Oh, Donna…” with a nod to Ritchie Valens. Thanks to a miraculous combo of human love/savvy, a lucky twist of fate, and divine intervention, she was saved at the last moment from an undeserved and untimely demise. Animals are awesome (and so much fun to name!). Here’s to Willow, Pooh, Clyde, Giselle, Twinkie, Heidi, Sid, Toby, and Mindy, too!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Wonder of It All

Here's an excerpt from my new, expanded gift book: All About Motherhood: "A Mom for All Seasons" and Other Essays.  Go to or your favorite online bookstore to order (make sure you get the new, expanded edition)! Hope you enjoy!

You know that catchy tune about “The wonder of it all…”  that you can’t get out of your head, even if it’s driving you nuts?
            Well, that’s sort of the way I feel about parenting. “The wonder of it all...” describes exactly how the whole process works out, starting with that first little sweetly squalling newborn with those tiny feet that look so tasty you could gobble them up, and culminating in a grown kid you’re dropping off at college.
            The process is so perfectly designed. For instance, I just adore newborn babies.  I can’t fathom a more wondrous, magical time than those first few weeks with an infant.  But imagine if that infant never grew up. Imagine having to change little diapers ‘round the clock for the rest of your life? If our infants stayed infants forever, we’d never get any sleep. We’d never get to go out to the movies with our spouse, without paying a babysitter or dragging Grandma out. And forget about ever wearing high heels again. Yes, if that little baby stayed little for too long, we’d surely go crazy.
            So, the baby miraculously evolves bit by bit into a toddler, surely a wondrous process. And toddlers—filled with curiosity and energy—are marvelous, of course.  But if they remained toddlers forever, we’d never get to the bank because of all the dawdling, and our walls would perpetually have crayon marks on them, and we’d never want to chance getting that expensive white sofa or manage to put all the toys away. We’d be singing the same song over and over or reading the same story over and over or playing Candyland for the rest of  our lives. And that would get tedious.
            So the wondrous little toddler grows into a school-aged child, and school-aged children are surely marvelous. I adore those elementary school years; playing Frisbee or tag, having real conversations about ponies or volcanoes, watching our kids take up music lessons or sports. But if they stayed that age forever, we’d look like old grannies at back-to-school night, and the piles of homework would never get off our dining room tables, and we’d be endlessly mired at soccer fields or baseball fields, so that the laundry would never get done. So as much as I adore elementary school kids, I must admit it’s a wonderful thing that they do move on.
            I’ve always loved teenagers, to tell you the truth. I think they get a bum rap, because they’re really a lot of fun. I love having a house full of teenagers, love listening to their music, adore chatting with them about politics, religion, or football. But let’s face it, folks. If our kids remained teenagers forever, we would never get any rest.  We’d tire eventually of waiting for them to come home from dates, and we’d be worn out completely from carting them to various college fairs and tours. So as much as I love my teenagers, I must admit that at some point, it’s time to bid a bittersweet good-bye. And that’s just part of the wonder of it all.
Anyway, think of it this way: If you really love babies that much you can become a pediatric nurse. If it’s toddlers that are your thing, you can work in a preschool or become a pediatrician. If you love school-aged kids, well, of course, you can teach; you can take your pick between elementary and high school kids.
            So you see, the plan is perfect! And even though I don’t ever want my kids to grow up, I have to admit it’s a phenomenal blessing that they do. But no matter how old they get, I’ll still love their big feet and the sound of their raspy voices (though I’ll no longer nibble their toes). Ah, the wonder of it all!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Love the Place You're At

The other evening I met a friend for coffee at a local ice rink where her little boy was taking a hockey class. The place was teaming with kids in skates and hockey gear,  bustling with frazzled, harried parents who hadn't eaten dinner yet (and it was almost eight). Some were on their cell phones with spouses figuring out where they were going to meet (with the kids in tow) to dine later, or discussing what the spouse at home was going to order out or cook. The air was electric with excitement, and with kids coming and going off the ice, and parents either talking on their cells or chattering with their kids, it was almost impossible for my friend and me to hear one another.
          As I left the rink a little while later,  there was  a lightness to my step. I was leaving my friend to gather up her child, drive home and cook dinner or meet her husband at a kid-friendly restaurant. I had already had a leisurely, early meal and was looking forward to an evening of complete and utter solitude.  All around me were parents hauling hockey gear, kids tiredly dragging their feet after their practices or games. I thought to myself, somewhat guiltily, "Been there, done that, and glad I don't have to be there again!"
          The truth is, when I was transporting (I won't say hauling or dragging, though sometimes it seemed like it) my three boys to their many extracurricular activities over the years, I often wondered what I would do with myself when those days were over. My life was a whirl of Cub Scout meetings, softball games, band festivals, school concerts, trumpet and saxophone lessons, swimming lessons, art classes, fencing lessons, and so on and so forth (not all at once, thank God). But there were plenty of days when my kids were young when I did not stop driving or running until they were tucked in bed (or when they got older and needed to be driven to the mall, dances, or parties at all hours, until I was tucked in, well past my bedtime). Yes, I did my time and I loved it. But I'm not sorry it's over.
          Now some of you out there who have little children are probably feeling sorry for me (or at least you're wishing a horde of grandchildren upon me so I could get my life back in order). And some may be envious, because you may be feeling rather tired of carting kids around all the time. But the best reaction, I believe, to what I'm saying is exactly the point I want to make: Love the place you're at, the time of life you're in, no matter what it is. Don't look forward, and don't look back.
          Or, as we say in yoga (a phrase I really rather detest), "It's all good." But actually, it is. When your kids are little you're still young enough to  have the strength and stamina to withstand all that racing around (unless, of course, you're one of those guys who has married a much younger woman and you're in your sixties with infant twins or some such thing--and if you are then bless you), and when you're middle-aged and older and your kids are grown you deserve to rest on your laurels. You deserve to saunter out of an ice hockey rink with your arms empty, with no one dragging at your ankles, into an empty, cool, clear night of stars in which you will pour yourself  a glass of wine, or brew a cup of tea, crawl into bed with a wonderful book, and love the life you have.
          Yes, I'd adore day. But for now, the place I'm at is just where I want to be. My boys still get hugs and dinner when they come home from college or pop in for a visit, but then they stride out into the starry night on their own, happy as clams to be no longer holding my hand. The arrangement of growing up, it turns out, was quite a brilliant plan.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Just a Reminder!

Just in case you missed my last blog, this is a reminder that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month, and if you haven't already joined, it would be great if you could sign on with Dr. Susan Love's Army of Women, an online effort to find the cause(s) of and cure(s) for breast cancer.  And though I hate to be a nag, since I totally missed the fact that last month was National Yoga Month (even though I practice yoga almost every day!) I figure it's entirely possible that some of you out there are not aware that this is  a special month to raise awareness of breast cancer (though it's kind of hard to miss those pink ribbons everywhere--even on the Yahoo home page!). 
            According to Army of Women (, the initiative "is dedicated to recruiting one million women of all ages, ethnicities, with or without breast cancer, to sign up and participate in innovative breast cancer research studies." You can view the current research projects on their website; some are quite fascinating. I participated in one on life style and exercise and it was as simple as filling out a survey. Others are more complex.
          I love research (reading about it, anyway) so for me this is a perfect way to be part of the movement to eradicate this disease (sorry, but running isn't my thing. However, I would consider standing on my head if it would help).  If you'd like to join, thank you! If you want to take a pass, that's okay, too. You can also join (which basically involves getting emails from AOW about the work they're doing) and never participate in any studies--just pass on the info to women you know who might be eligible or interested. 
        That said, I'm declaring November as National Chickpea Month--so get ready!