Monday, December 17, 2007

I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas

It’s exactly one week until Christmas, and I am not ready. My heart is prepared. Hands are not. There are still gifts to purchase, wrap and ship. Pies to bake and deliver. Cookies to package for the neighbors.

My kitchen table is serving triple duty as a storage facility, wrapping island and veritable nerve center for the preparations still un-done. Tissue paper and ribbons and tape and scissors and markers and boxes stand ready to be put into service. But long days at the office and after-work board meetings and parenting responsibilities keep me from moving at the pace to which I had, for years, become accustomed.

These last three years have practically forced me to adopt a simpler approach to the Holidays. I have weeded out the frivolous from the essentials; trimmed my gift list; abandoned some earlier-treasured rituals; and adopted a “green” approach to help me accomplish all of the above while simultaneously helping preserve our planet.

That said: this week’s Newsletter is short, sweet and “green.” But first, if you are not keeping long lists each Christmas of what you purchased and for whom, and what you received and from whom, start doing this now. My own lists go back almost twenty years and have “green-ed” me up by saving our family’s three most precious resources: time, energy and money. Not having to re-invent the wheel every year saves one tons of pre-Christmas anxiety, too. I group families together as I do friends and business colleagues. If you are visually sensitive as I am, you will start “seeing” your Christmas list in your head, and every time you are out and about, you can start thinking of what you should buy for those you most love all year long. That said:

• Hand craft, bake or cook as many gifts as possible. They’ll be more appreciated by the recipient, save you money and prevent yet more stuff from accumulating in areas where that’s the last thing needed. Stick to your favorites and make them again and again. I make my favorite Kentucky pecan pie every Christmas for a half-dozen folks on my list and pick up stoneware pie plates whenever and wherever I can find them throughout the year.

• Buy antiques and gently-used stuff. It moves recycling one step further, the gifts will inevitably be more unique than those bought from department stores or catalogs, and the recipient will value the time you spent shopping for something extra-special for him or her. I picked up some gorgeous antique jewelry on my last trip into New York for a few people on my list; I know I’ll never see such wonderful stuff again. One of my best friends got something from a local antique store when I found them early this year. Know what your friends collect and keep your eyes open for it throughout the year. (Roosters anyone?)

• Make your lists concise and build around themes. You’ll be able to conserve shopping trips, visiting only a few stores rather then a dozen or more. We all need to do our part in conserving gas, and this one will add a few good measures to that end. I stock up at Trader Joe’s on all sorts of organic soups, chocolates, teas and coffees and give out healthier goodie bags than what I could purchase elsewhere, all at decent prices.

• Don’t go nuts on wrapping. Use brown paper bags and boxes wherever possible. If you get a box filled with Styrofoam peanuts, re-use it on another gift rather than dumping it; this stuff will last for years. Consider plain newspaper or popcorn for fillers instead. Go simple on gift tags and ribbons, too. Recycle old favorites and come up with your own style that is timeless yet festive. For years, I used manila hang tags tied to old-fashioned twine; now I use white round metal-lined mailing tags which already come with a ring, easily slipped through a silk ribbon and large enough to write a tiny inscription.

• Consider re-stringing your tree with LED lights. More expensive in the short run, they’ll outlast the old ones in the long run. And of course, they’re better for Mother Earth.

• The true “greenies” will tell you to buy a real tree, or better yet, to dig one up and re-plant it after Christmas has passed. We have allergies to the real thing, so we have an artificial tree. Nothing wrong with that either as it’s used again and again and again.

• Go through all of those paper shopping bags you have laying around (I did that this weekend and was aghast at how many we’d collected; I spent a good half-hour sorting and re-folding). I was also pleasantly surprised at how many of them could be used a second or even third time as most bags these days are quite beautiful. If you keep this kind of stuff, make sure they’re handy and in good shape so that you can do your part in recycling them for further good.

• Use recycled paper for your annual Christmas letter, if you still send one. Recycled cards, too. Our family’s list gets longer each year, and we’re happy about having an ever-expanding circle. I shop for cards the day after Christmas in order to buy them at half-price for the next year. Again, it’s all about planning.

• Lastly, consider throwing one big party where you allow Holiday cheer to pervade your home, family and friends. Spreading joy to those in your circles in this way allows you to touch dozens of folks at one time and keeps efficiencies of time, energy and money at bay. Splurge for one morning or one night knowing that you’ve filled lots of people with the Christmas spirit.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Spinning Your Holiday Web

If you’re in the same part of the Holiday preparation cycle as I am, you spent a good portion of this weekend shopping, standing in lines and fighting traffic. Making your list. And checking it twice. I was so crazed for a couple hours out that I actually did some shopping without first making my list…only to find once home that I should have doubled or tripled or even quadrupled some of the goodies discovered along the way. Nothing like hyperventilating for some shopping time sans kids or spouse without a little mental preparation first……

I faced the weekend wonderfully exhausted, returning about 1 AM Friday (after weather delays into La Guardia stalled my flight into the wee hours of the night) from a four day trip to Art Basel Miami Beach (organized by a man genius in the art world but for crying out loud, certainly not a rocket mom! I mean, who in their right mind would organize an international art fair during the month of December? Does he not have shopping-wrapping-shipping responsibilities?!?)

Anywho, I came back with my new friend with whom I attended the fair. Spectacular! And she wound up spending the night with me before heading back home. With about one hundred friends coming for brunch that morning, she went into over-drive to help me get my act together! Making ham party sandwiches, putting desserts on platters, lighting candles. She was a dream! And a brand new person spun into my web.

The doorbell rang all Friday morning, with friends popping in for coffee, cheer and chats. Holiday hugs were freely exchanged. It was a delightful way for my husband and I to kick off the holidays in our own little corner of the world.

And so as I watched each person come and go, I couldn’t help but think about how many of these friends have been in my web for less than a year. Many were professional associates, met in the normal course of business in my day job; others were friends of friends or spouses of friends. And some have been friends since we moved to Connecticut the first time, a little over seven years ago.

So when I finally took the time to do the preparation for that making-a-list-and-checking-it-twice-drill, I was struck by how, over the years, friends come and friends go. How they seem to be there for a season of our lives…and then quietly disappear as we enter another one. How they come in and spend a lot of quality time there and we assume that they’ll always be this intertwined in the daily activities of our lives, only to wake up to the realization that they will undoubtedly move on. And that others will fill that space that formerly held their reservations. And that it will happen without fanfare. And that one day you’ll realize as you look at your Holiday list, that some of your closest friends from last year do not even share a space in your life anymore.

And that it’s okay.

Because I tend to be like a golden retriever—holding on to people and rarely ever letting go—this sad little fact of life always used to put a lump in my throat. I hated how friends from past homes and cities around the country are simply no longer in my life, since the “exiter” was almost always not me, but the other party. He or she had simply dropped out. Moved on. Not meaning to be mean or hurtful or rude. But just because others now met needs once met by me.

Perhaps it’s called maturity. Or maybe it’s just waking up to some un-desired facts of life. But friends will not always be friends, except in a very few rare instances. And I am blessed beyond measure by those few precious gems. For webs get spun. And then they blow away and need to be spun yet again. With different threads. Different patterns. One not more beautiful than another necessarily. Just different.

One of the lessons of this Holiday for me has been the sharp realization that some of my friends will be with me forever and some will not. Some have come into my life and I into theirs because we are supposed to be bound forever and others have come into my life and I into theirs because we needed each other but for a season.

As you make your list and check it twice, give yourself—and others—the freedom to move on as needed. The separation might hurt for a little bit. For a day or a month. But others will silently move in to fill the void. And you will meet each other exactly where you need to.

Enjoy the Holidays with those whom you really love. Really enjoy your in-your-web friends. Don’t take this season of these friendships for granted. Meet them exactly where they are and enjoy them for all they are meant to be.

Until next week, many blessings….


Monday, November 26, 2007

An Enchanted Holiday

My fifteen-year-old daughter and I have a Sunday afternoon tradition of catching a matinee. Our favorite thing to do is drive downtown to our local playhouse, bumping into neighbors and friends in the process, but as it only ever has one offering, we usually wind up going to the nearest town which has an enormous complex with a huge variety from which to choose. Oftentimes, the movie line-up is so intellectually or emotionally barren that it’s simply not worth our time or gas money. But every once in a while, a little jewel comes along that practically demands that we scatter our cares to the winds and devote an afternoon to cinematic magic.

Ahh! Such is the case right now with Enchanted. It has received such rave reviews from both real live professional critics and us general folks alike that we knew we had to go and see what all the fuss was about.

And what a delight it is! With terrific talent, a happy-go-lucky musical score that found us singing it all night long, and a classic fairytale storyline, one will find it nearly impossible to wipe the persistent movie-smile off one’s face when the movie is long over. Every single minute found us giggling, laughing wildly out loud, tapping our feet and grinning ear to ear.

Wishing I was still in the theater yet finding myself at work first thing this morning, I couldn’t help but reflect on the many less-than-enchanted issues of our day. Given my job and the necessary constant contact I have with the public, I hear stories virtually all day long ranging from health struggles to over-indebtedness to marital woes to wayward teens. Let’s face it: these are interesting times, to say the least. The markets are in turmoil, wars are still raging, and homelessness and joblessness and helplessness abound.

As we enter into the Holy season, perhaps we can be especially mindful that adding a little enchantment to our days would be a very good thing. While most of us will not whistle while we work, or break into song while we vacuum or scrub the toilets—as do Giselle and her animal friends in the movie—doing either one certainly couldn’t hurt…and just might make our day seem brighter. Dressing into gowns for our breakfast of OJ and coffee isn’t exactly what we do these days either…but choosing to dress in red for the holidays rather than the stale brown or black outfit worn every other day might prove to be just the mood-lifter you’ve been looking for.

And for that persistent smile stuck on my face yesterday during Enchanted? Well, I know that others will be happier if I choose to wear it more often than not these next few weeks ahead. For the holidays can be stressful. Shopping lines can be long and credit lines can be depleted. The weather can be downright dreary. Every single person I know, regardless of job status or age or economic privilege or educational attainment, can stand to be enchanted.

So do yourself a favor. Take a little break out of your week, no matter how busy or grumpy you might find yourself. Grab your spouse or your kid or your girlfriend or your colleague. And go see Enchanted. And vow to bring even a tiny piece of the movie back with you for those who move in and out of your life.

At least through the holidays.



Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Juicy Fruit

This week found my husband and me in Spain visiting our oldest son, Nick, who is studying in Salamanca for his junior year of college. Since he left at the end of August, frequent emails and skyping and phone calls have kept us in close touch. But we needed to see him, hug him, squeeze him and spend time with him. We yearned to experience, first hand, his new life there. To meet his friends and his Spanish madre. Visit his classroom. Check out his bedroom. Shop where he shops and walk down the streets where he takes his daily walks to and from school. Eat in his favorite restaurants. See what his Spanish adventure is all about. Top to bottom.

As a writer, I’m supposed to have words to match emotions. Supposed to have the ability to paint word pictures. Word smith my way through the past five days. And yet I can’t. It was too much of an emotional high. It hit my gut and my heart much more than it hit my head. Hit my throat and my eyes in ways completely unexpected. Caught me “confounded by glory” (as my new friend Hattie describes me.) with frequent lumps in my throat and drops at the edges of my eyes.

Seeing your kid grow up nearing completion is one of the best fruits of the labor. It takes years—two decades really—of planting seed in the most fertile of soils. Applying daily doses of sunlight and water. And rich fertilizer. Soaked with oodles of time. Sprinkled with diligent prayer. And nourished by the passing of time, some of which is barely endured by silence or absence or distance or illness…or all of the above.

And then to wake up one day and see fruit! Not just hardly-ripe fruit. Fruit too hard to squeeze or of pale color or less than succulent aroma. But juicy fruit! Fruit that, when you grasp it, moves in your hands. Holds a delectable scent. And oozes out a few drops of liquid. It’s so ripe that it’s downright juicy!

That’s how I felt about our visit with our son. He has grown into a man of character and generosity. Of breadth and depth. Of balance. Concern and consideration for others. I know that, over the past three years, you have received “Nick Notes” on his continued progress. On his health. And his well-being. And I know that it will probably do your heart good to hear that he has grown into a person who I am happy to report is not only doing beautifully physically; he has grown into a man who I am delighted to call my son. He has born fruit. Wonderful, ripe, fragrant, squeezable fruit. Juicy. One of life’s most precious gifts.

It is my hope and prayer that as you journey though parenting that you, too, shall find juicy fruit awaiting you. If even in a couple of decades. It is so worth it. This labor that we call parenting—love—will take us to heights previously unimaginable. And Oh! What a ride!

I pray showers of blessings on this Thanksgiving to you and yours! Love the ones you’re with.

All my very best,


Monday, November 05, 2007

Whacked on the Head by Beauty

Robust reds. Brilliant golds. Burnt oranges. Crystal-clear blue skies. This scene—trees on fire set against gorgeous cerulean—blesses me every day when I drive up my hill towards home.

Outside, leaves rustle underneath my feet. Musty smoke cackles in my fireplace. Cold, fresh air fills my lungs. Window lights glow at our windows. The furnace kicks on inside.

Woolen sweaters have replaced our t-shirts. Cowboy boots our Crocs.

Hearty stews brew inside heavy Le Creuset casseroles. Football games consume Friday nights. Perfumed Seda France candles emanate from the downstairs foyer.

Oh how I adore fall!

One of my favorite things about living in New England is the generous changing of the seasons. There’s nothing subtle about living in Connecticut. We notice when fall strikes. Or when winter has officially arrived. Can’t help it. It hits our streets and our skies. Our skin and our heads. I sat—frozen—at our son’s football game this weekend, unprepared for the sudden drop in temperature. Dressed for a “casual Friday” at the office when I left early that morning and going straight to the stadium, I was ridiculously outfitted for the brissling cold outside; my twin sweater set, jeans and open-heeled mules were no match for it. I wrapped bright orange towels (given to us to promote both school spirit and our school color) over my nearly frostbit toes until I could stand it no longer and drove home for a quick exchange of lambswool-lined Uggs.

This lack of subtlety continued all weekend, and thankfully so. A quick peek into a new garden store revealed gorgeous fall arrangements, with silk turkeys, roosters and owls frolicking on the shelves with pumpkins and gourds. Freeze-dried artichokes accented centerpieces and terra cotta earthenware lined tabletops. What a fabulous ten-minute eye-candy break from my usual Saturday afternoon errand-hopping and grocery-shopping?

Sometimes, the beauty of the earth, the raw, unadulterated perfection of God’s creation just whacks me on the head. It jerks me out of my work-filled thoughts on my long drive home; the leaves literally demand that you stop doing what you’re doing or stop thinking what you’re thinking and give them your attention! The colors and patterns and flow of this season cannot be replicated by mankind.

If you do not live in a part of the world where you experience this beauty, I hope that you get the opportunity to visit someone who does. That you get the chance to take a long drive in the country, visit a pumpkin patch, pick apples in an orchard. Sit on a back patio and breathe in crisp air until it practically hurts your lungs. Allow yourself the dizzying awakening of being whacked on the head by beauty.

For winter shall soon be upon us. And the colors and patterns and flow will once again change. We’ll find, no matter where we live, that the rhythm of the winter dance will keep us moving at a tempo that would find us yearning for these lazier—glorious!—days of fall.

Monday, October 29, 2007

One Tiny Stamp

This weekend found me once again working with our town symphony orchestra’s Family Concert. It is a full-scale professional production that delights, if but once a year, the little tyke set in this picture-perfect New England town of ours. Year after year, we fly in the best talent who, along with our professional symphony, present top-rated performances to ensure that the rich heritage of classical music infiltrates the spirits of our favorite little citizens.

It is a precious gem of a thing, bringing a classical music concert to our toddlers and young people. One gift of which I am most proud to be a small part of. Art and music education is my personal soapbox, so I want to make sure that I do everything in my lifetime to ensure that the power of the arts continue for the generations to follow. That by planting a shade tree under which I will never sit, others will have the opportunities to feast upon the same joy that I was gifted as a child. That a love of fine music—and great art—will become a part of them, just as it has me all of these many years later.

But service—volunteerism—comes with a price. In my own case, I had spent the entire previous week out-of-state on a business trip. I returned home Friday night exhausted, without my bearings, to an (almost) finished kitchen renovation that still left a couple dozen unpacked boxes of kitchen stuff on my living room floor. Suitcases to unpack, books to organize, and four loads of laundry to sift though and deal with. On top of that, three of my husband’s longtime friends (and some of my favorite people in the world) were flying in for a weekend reunion. Both of our sons had away football games; our daughter had tennis practice. And my role in the Family Concert required an all-day commitment to everyone who was making this wonderful gift possible. Life felt insanely busy this weekend.

I went into overdrive. I had no choice. Needed walking space for houseguests. Clean towels and underwear. Food. Transportation for our own kids.

Service comes with a price. Sacrifices to families and to jobs. To spouses and to personal exercise routines. We need to acknowledge the sacrifices, knowing full well that when we volunteer to work in areas in which we feel passion, we feel that the sacrifices are worth it. We place a priority on those areas in which we feel led to serve. We know that we are helping others, and that without our efforts, the job may not get done at all, let alone get done well. And these things are, indeed, necessary for communities to function at their best.

But we need to be sure, as we simultaneously raise this next generation of sons and daughters for excellence, that our passion for service is appropriately placed. That as we’re all doing stuff outside of hearth and home that we’re ignited from within. Do a soul check. You know what I mean. Your gut matches your head. For as you enter into the whirlwind of everything that’s required for service, you need to feel that this is exactly where you’re supposed to be in this place and time of your life.

I felt that way this weekend, even though I am exhausted by it tonight. It wasn’t just enjoying the glorious music of Vivaldi, or seeing the dozens of little ones up on stage afterwards at our annual “petting zoo” meeting the musicians and touching their instruments. It was that inner exhilaration that made me believe that I left a tiny stamp in the footprint of my life that I stand for something larger than myself. That art and music will live on in at least a few children long after I die, because I invested in them when I could.

I hope you feel inspired to do something large. But that if you believe this isn’t the time in your life, that you will feel conviction to instead spend that time with your spouse and kids. That your tiny stamp will be done right inside the four walls of your home. And that, one day, you’ll have more time to go outside those walls. If even just a little bit.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Kitchen Renovation Diet

If you thought you “heard everything” when the South Beach Diet rolled out from underneath the sea, just embark on a major kitchen renovation and you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

Now, when I first started talking about The Kitchen Renovation Diet to my girlfriends, one of them asked if we were on a diet because the renovation cost so much money that we couldn’t afford to buy the food we had always bought previously.

“No,” I responded, somewhere around week three into the mess. “We’re on a diet because we have no water, no electricity, no sink, no fridge, no nothing…kinda hard to eat right when you’ve lost your kitchen!”

But here I stand at week fifteen (and someone told me the rule is that you’re supposed to stop counting after week eight…) and the truth is: we are on a Kitchen Renovation Diet because the renovation cost so much more money than we had planned that we cannot afford to buy the food we had always bought previously!

It is practically impossible to stay on budget during a major kitchen renovation. Because not only do you want to do more stuff “while we’re at it,” but a top-to-bottom renovation follows “the-hip-bone’s-connected-to-the-leg-bone” model, which is, it’s all connected and you just don’t know how or where to stop. The kitchen is connected to the hallway…so you re-paint and re-decorate the hallway, perhaps purchasing a new table or mirror or lamps or art along the way; the hallways’ connected to the powder room…so you re-paint and re-tile the powder room, getting all new fixtures and faucets, tile and toilet; and the powder room’s connected to the family room…so you double-check that frayed sofa and decide that now is, indeed, the time to re-upholster ”while we’re at it.” And on and on it goes.

Time to go on the Kitchen Renovation Diet.

OK. So you have no sink? Ripped up and out of sight? Water turned off? Pretty hard to make that morning cup o’ joe. Electricity cut off? Stove donated to the junk pile? Can’t even heat up a can of soup. Pots and pans in boxes? Now, you can’t really whip up a gourmet meal for two, can you? Sheetrock going up? So everything’s covered in white powder two inches thick. Floors sanded and stained and polyurethaned? Not allowed to walk on your own floors for three days! What’s a kitchen renovator to do? And just where, exactly, does the diet come in?

Look at the renovation as an adventure. And indulge in exotic foods. For the first few weeks into our own renovation, I enjoyed Finn crisp crackers spread with Greek caviar for my evening’s meal. Available almost exclusively at gourmet shops and places like Whole Foods, this delectable little treat wasn’t even on my radar until my friend, Hattie, turned me on to it. Turns out: it’s the perfect, exotic, organic treat for the KR Diet. You will need a cooler or spare fridge, though, because once opened, the caviar needs to stay cold. Also try artichoke and red pepper spread. Extremely inexpensive alternatives to what you probably ate most nights prior to your renovation.

Start drinking your coffee black. Yuck. I always loved mine with a splash of milk. But the KR Diet is serious business and it puts an immediate halt to double espressos with steamed milk and extra foam with shots of caramel and chocolate. No way to froth the cream, my dear. No way to keep all of that sugary junk fresh. And no way to afford those daily trips to Starbucks to purchase the four dollar drink. Try making black coffee…if you have an electrical outlet intact, that is, for the old-fashioned coffee maker. I’ve been making my coffee on my bathroom counter for the last nearly five months. Urgh. And getting used to the low calorie and low maintenance factor of black coffee while I’m at it.

Grill your veggies. No worries about deep frying, because you don’t have a stove on which to do so nor can you find that frying pan. But hopefully you have a grill sitting on your patio which you can fire up to your heart’s content. Great for doing dinner al fresco. Ditto for grilling meats, poultry and fish. Surely you planned the bulk of your renovation during the warmer months…….

Make cocktail parties and after-work get-togethers your official dinner plans. Of course, you will be eating out more than ever while you’re under intense renovation. And, in time, you will be so disgusted with either the quality of the food or the quantity of money leaving your bank account that you will put a nix to it before too long. You’ll be artfully engaged in “if I eat out tonight at this wonderful restaurant I cannot afford the oil-rubbed bronze faucets in the bathrooms” game. So get in the habit of using every possible social invitation for food as your loading zone for a meal. Know that it’s temporary, enjoy it for what it is, and appreciate every bite.

Start reading labels and look for foods that give you the biggest bang for your buck. You cannot afford to be a slacker about this. The crackers you eat need to give you the added nourishment that you’re now not getting from that morning high fiber cereal with milk; the chips you grab for game time need to provide those same unrefined carbs that you used to derive from whole grain bread on your favorite sandwich. Make every calorie count for something. Every ounce of protein or gram of carbohydrate needs to add significantly to your overall health and well-being.

Keep enough bananas on hand to feed the monkeys. Yes: nature’s perfect food is even more perfect during a major kitchen renovation. Requiring neither refrigeration nor preparation, they remain the breakfast of choice and the pre-exercise snack, before-bedtime snack and during-Monday-night football-snack for the deprived kitchen renovator, too. Make enough grocery store runs so that you are never without.

Stash dark chocolate bars. I had a major meltdown last Thursday night. Just couldn’t take it anymore. My pots and pans had been on my living room floor (covered in drywall dust) for almost five months; my dining room table is still covered with china, odds-and-ends glasses and dog food; my dishes are still being washed in the laundry room sink; and my kitchen doesn’t even yet look like a kitchen. No cabinetry nor appliances. I got choked up and whigged out and had, well, a serious KR meltdown. The next day, my husband came home with four super-sized dark chocolate bars. Exactly the prescription help I needed. Your nerves will likely take a serious beating during a major renovation. Keep plenty of chocolate in the house. Or any other food mood-lifter of choice. And remember that ice cream doesn’t generally work when you have neither fridge nor freezer…

Finally, keep your sights focused on the final outcome. It is sure to be what you had hoped for. Delays are inevitable (it always takes longer to get that weathered copper garbage disposal drain than you figured it would), budgets are notoriously under-estimated (did you seriously have any idea how expensive industrial-strength appliances are?) and construction workers are only human (my own master carpenter made a big “oops” on the length of my countertops). Remind yourself how fortunate you are to indulge in the luxury of a renovation. An up-to-date, beautiful kitchen is a wonderful thing to behold, indeed.

And to think that you can enjoy it…thinner!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Inspired by Brilliance

This weekend found me out-of-state for a long-overdue, albeit brief, visit to my sister and an all-day walk through the 2007 “Parade of Homes” in Raleigh, North Carolina. It marked the official launch of the Alexander Julian Collection in the new Julian Village of Fuquay-Varina, and I wanted to be there to check out his latest project. Julian is an icon of American design. I’ve followed his work for years and was not about to miss this. It was full-court press: he arrived in a stretch limo and kicked off an afternoon of festivities to a cheering crowd of fellow admirers. A glorious celebration! And a well-deserved jewel to add to his already-glistening crown.

Julian is a pro. And his latest designer homes, built by a premier construction team with a reputation for perfection, prove it. Here are 7 things I loved:

• Quality of materials. Quality ranks second only to the “location-location-location” maxim. Location and price will always be the driving forces in any home-buying decision. But as available land in decent locations becomes increasingly difficult to obtain, the decision needs to ultimately factor in this notion of buying quality over square footage; strength of materials over fleeting good looks; and attention to detail over lack of creativity. The Julian Collection figured out a way to deliver a high quality product at a reasonable price point. With the good looks you’d expect from this design genius. Julian delivered with stone countertops, oil-rubbed bronze faucets, porcelain sinks and tiled showers and bath tubs. No cheating or skimping on the good stuff.

• Emphasis on the “creativity premium.” “Creativity” is fast becoming the buzzword for this new era in business. And in life. The older I get and the more I look around, I notice the lack of creativity applied to simple facets of everyday living with utter dismay and deep-seated twangs of discouragement. My heart leapt when I realized that creativity was embraced at every turn in the Julian homes: two-toned paint on moldings, embellishments on woodwork, interesting twists in lighting, wonderful finishes on door hinges and door locks. Julian just did his thing and made sure that the construction team executed it on cue.

• Generous usage of updated hardware and finishes. Because brass is “out” and weathered copper and oil-rubbed bronze are “in,” both were used in abundance in bathrooms, the kitchen and in areas generally ignored by home builders and owners alike: every door in the house received oil-rubbed bronze hinges and knobs. A simple detail. But one that made a statement and added to the drama.

• Fearless use of color. It’s Julian’s trademark, after all. He is America’s master colorist. And he used it with reckless abandon throughout each room in the model homes. Cherry pinks, burnt oranges, bold teals, eggplant and celadon. It was as if Julian plunked himself into a box of Crayolas and colored to his heart’s content. Each model showcased something like 22 different colors. A far cry from anything most of us could ever dream of.

• Open floor plans. Natural sunlight floods living spaces: entry ways, bedrooms, bathrooms and hallways are wonderfully bright. A feeling of openness gives way to freshness and roominess. It added enormously to the “breathability” factor.

• Bells and whistles in the kitchens. The island in one model houses a full-sized oven. Counters are stone. Faucets and sinks are gorgeous. Floors glisten. Cabinetry is well-finished and smartly designed. The kitchen got the premium interior real estate that it deserves.

• Well-designed exteriors. With gorgeous color combinations that the average earthling would never consider using. But Julian shines here. With eggplant and sage green juxtaposed on the exterior shingles. Trimmed in white. Perfect proportions. Extensive brackets and generous moldings. Wraparound porches. Arts and crafts style windows. The right angles. Rooflines. Designed with the skilled eye of a pro who has devoted his entire lifetime executing perfect proportions. The houses reflect the real deal.

Julian’s philosophy of life can be summed up by the quote silk screened onto the back of the t-shirts which he autographed at the Grand Opening:

“Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans. Aim high in hope and work remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die. But long after we are gone will be a living thing. Asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watch word be order and your beacon beauty.” D.H.Burnham

Find a brilliant person whose life—or life work—inspires you. Follow him—or her. And move forward in the inspiration. Imparting something of your own genius along the way.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Keeping Up with your Dog

It all started with a fellow lap swimmer with whom I share the locker room first thing most work day mornings.

“So what are you doing here this late?” she asked, as I was past my normal out-of-the-pool-by-7-AM-and-into-the-primping-routine schedule.

“Oh, my dog needs to go to the groomers today and they don’t open ‘til 8:30,” I answered.

This led to “where do you take your dog?” to “what kind of dog do you have?” to “how often do you go?” to “how much do you pay each time?” to “do you tip the groomer?”

When we both admitted the extent to which our dogs received grooming attention, I laughed: “My dog gets better grooming than I do!” to which she responded: “Oh, not mine! I take really good care of myself!”

Well….it wasn’t as if I was neglecting my personal hygiene, but a quick “So where do you get your hair cut and your nails done?” revealed that my locker roommate was on par with our dogs while I was in the discount department on both counts. And the frequency with which I attend to my nails, was, well, horrifying, especially as of late.

I need to keep up with my dog.

OK. So, how about we look at our dogs’ grooming and diet and exercise regimens and see how we stack up:

Do you eat a balanced diet? And take your vitamins. My Bichon, Isa, eats an organic mix of wet and dry food that contains no fillers, preservatives, colorings or junk. And she gets a daily dose of vitamins, designed to keep her coat shiny, her eyes bright, her bones healthy and her step bouncy. This leaves little room in a people diet for Doritos, double espressos and ice cream cones with chocolate chips. Nor excuses to skip the daily vitamins either. The evidence: shiny hair, smooth and strong nails, muscular flexibility and overall cheerfulness.

Do you practice portion control? Isa eats small portions, measured out with a scoop so we know exactly how much food she’s getting. Portion consciousness goes a long way in keeping the fat off your tummy and thighs and bum. Otherwise, how will you really know if you’re eating 4 ounces of meat…or 6 or 8? One bowl of cereal…or three?

Do you go for a daily morning walk? And an evening one, too? Isa goes out first thing in the morning, and again at midday and at bedtime. Few things make us feel better than a walk in the fresh outside air. And our bodies need the vitamins from the sun, too. A walk everyday after dinner has been proven to fight excess pounds from creeping onto our middles.

Do you brush your hair? And keep your nails groomed? Few of us do the same daily hair brushing that our grandmothers did. And yet we use bleach, straighteners, perms and hot blow dryers, all of wreak havoc on our heads. We should all be getting those natural oils circulating. What’s the rule? One hundred strokes a day!

Do you take a nap when you’re tired? And do a full-body stretch when you wake up? Ahhh. The life of a dog. Fewer things energize your mind and body more than an afternoon snooze. Never feel guilty about getting your batteries re-charged. Even twenty minutes can be enormously satisfying.

Do you get a back scratch when you’re achy and exhausted? Heck, my dog gets a scratch just for showing up! It’s great to give those nerve endings and muscles a good work-out. Get a massage…even if it’s only when you’re getting your nails done.

Do you get a treat for being a good girl? My dog gets a treat for doing her business outside or for coming when called or for sitting still while we brush her. You certainly deserve a chocolate bar for doing your family’s laundry, driving your kids across town and taking care of them when they’re sick in bed. Good grief…..

Finally, do you wag your tail when you see your master? Or your spouse? Or your kids? Few things put a smile on my face more than seeing my dog’s tail go crazy when I come home from work at the end of the day…or even from a quick errand. Perhaps we can all be more mindful to give those whom we love more than anyone else in the world a “tail wag” when they cross our thresholds too. Hugs and kisses.

Keeping up with your dog. Now there’s a concept.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Ruling Your Roost

I received a request for this Newsletter topic from a fellow rocket mom…love those requests. Keep them coming! Your input and requests help me to keep a finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the different verses of the motherhood dance. (And I admit to sometimes finding difficulty in thinking up forty different newsletter topics in any given year, too…so to be thrown a topic releases me of that burden!)

This particular request came after one mom’s sometimes frustrating attempts at communicating her own “house rules” to other parents who did not necessarily share her version of things. Those of us rocket moms (and dads!) who have clear ideas—and distinct roadmaps—of how we’d like to nurture, guide and train our kids…indeed, we’ve proactively planned and thought about the kinds of childhoods we want our kids to have…will sometimes be at seemingly complete odds with others who either have different visions…or who have not yet taken the time to sort out parenting’s many, distinct nuances in the various cycles of the job.

I have found in my own parenting experiences, that through these many different stages of the cycle, and through distinct homes and neighborhoods and schools and states in which we found ourselves, that families everywhere do things vastly different than the way we do them around here. That family traditions vary and that lifestyles carry diversity and that values range and that physical closeness and emotional investment come in different degrees and colors from one home to the next. That not only are many surface issues decidedly distinct: one family allows TV during school nights (ours does not); one allows eating meals in bed while watching cartoons (ditto for “not”); and others permit junior to scream at mom and dad when the spirit strikes him (good heavens…..”NOT!”) that deeper issues hold vastly different resolutions with more serious implications for family life in the long term. And that even though most families profess love for each other that is stronger than that for life itself—a universal sentiment hard-wired into the DNA of mothers and fathers for their offspring—that the daily roadmaps for forging these bonds take twists and turns and backroads that can be either comforting—or nerve-wracking—depending on where we find ourselves.

That said, and following the request of the reader, here are some of our own “house rules.” They are not necessarily ironclad; we have made plenty of mistakes during our more than twenty years of parenting and try to admit when we err and make changes as needed. And what was a firm rule last year might have fuzzy lines drawn around it this year. But, for the most part, my husband and I have followed these “rules” with some success.

1) Follow your own gut. Even if it makes you look like a bird. When my oldest child, Nick, was turning three, our second child was a newborn. My gut told me to keep Nick home, but most of my friends advised me to send him to pre-school, for if he didn’t get into the right pre-school at age three, they claimed, he would never track correctly for elementary school and yada yada through college. Well, Nick dealt with a lot of childhood allergies, as well as childhood asthma, and he was also a bright kid. I never seriously worried about his ability to “track” well; I worried instead that exposure to lots of pre-school kids would wreak havoc on his health. Turned out, I was right. The pre-school class housed a bird (which I didn’t know about until weeks after the fact) and Nick was overly allergic to feathers. He spent most of that three-year-old pre-school year on antibiotics for allergy-induced bronchitis. I pulled him out of pre-school and schooled him myself for a few years…along with his little brother and the next two siblings who came along. My friends thought I was wacky. Completely out of the mainstream. Bohemian. A weird duck. I didn’t care. I stood by my gut and boldly followed through doing what I thought was in the best interest of my own family. Years later, I look back on those homeschooling years as “the golden years.” They were the years when I followed my own schedule, when we read the classics snuggled up on the sofa together, and when we made chocolate chip cookies whenever the spirit moved us. A far cry from my day-to-day reality now… glad I did what I sensed I should do.

2) Feel free to declare your “rules” to other kids and parents. It doesn’t matter if they get it, agree with it or want to “obey” them. They’re your rules and your kids and your spouse and your house, so let them figure out how to deal with them. We have a house rule, for example, that says that our kids cannot talk on the phone during the week until their homework is finished and chores and extracurricular responsibilities completed. That translates to no yakking until homework, reading, violin, football, laundry, room pick-up and garbage take-out is done. My daughter still gets calls every night (and I do admit to relaxing this one somewhat now that she’s older)…and so I jump in night after night as the nasty policewoman who gets the lovely little job of telling her friends that they need to limit the chat because it breaks our rules. Some of her friends dig this rule more than others. I could care less if her friends think I’m mean or unfriendly or overly strict; her friends are not going to be held personally responsible for ensuring my daughter’s health, well-being and development into mature adulthood. Engaging in parenthood does not—thank goodness—require enrolling in a popularity contest. So drop any notions of caring about what your kids’ friends, and their parents, think of you.

3) Stick to your guns. Only you were entrusted with your child. And you are responsible for securing his best interests. For his physical health, emotional development and happiness quotient. And for putting into place those rituals or lessons or traditions that will lead you and your child to these ends. If you believe, as we do, that nothing will develop your child’s brain more than learning to play a musical instrument, pooey to those who think you’re nuts. You don’t need to shove a white paper in neuromusicology in their faces; just stick to your guns, provide the lessons and make sure that your kid practices. Easier said than done, for sure. I have heard over the past sixteen years of “making” my kids play the violin that a kid should only do what he wants to do. What he’s passionate about. That you shouldn’t force a kid to do something that he doesn’t want to do. Heard it and don’t buy it. My kids are going to play the violin because it’s good for them. They can thank me in twenty years. And I can easily blow off the parents who think I need to lighten up. Again: they’re my kids and not yours. Do whatever the heck you want to develop your own kid’s brain.

4) Insist on both quality and quantity time. For years, we were sold the bill of goods that stated that quality time mattered so much more than quantity time, and so we could enjoy personal pursuits at the expense of our kids. Now before you get all huffy, I’m not indicting anyone. But the research is in clear agreement on this: quantity counts, too. So if that translates in your family that weekend nights need to spent as a family—together—on the sofa reading the classics together or watching a movie or visiting the aunts and uncles or playing tennis together, then your friends and their families will have to deal with that. Standing where I am with four kids at various places in and out of the nest, I can assure you that you will have no regrets about spending quality and quantity time with your kids. They really will be gone before you know it. That’s not a cliché. That’s the reality. Watch the updated version of “Father of the Bride” and cry your eyes out. Your kid will be walking down the aisle before you know it.

5) Maintain a sense of decorum. I remember when my kids were really really small, some friends coming over for dinner…their kids were mostly grown…and the oldest son commenting on how he couldn’t do something (I forget what) because I had a “high sense of decorum. ” Now, I hardly live in a museum (indeed, a far far cry from one), yet I have always yearned for an orderly and clean environment. Having kids—and boys in particular (we have three of them)—is no excuse for letting it all hang out. Neanderthal-style does not ring “best seller” in the interior design section of your local bookseller. Never has never will. Neatness has always counted. So our house rules dictate that: if you take something out, put it back; if you dirty something up, clean it; if you borrow something, put I back; and if you break something, confess it. It helps to have a high tolerance for chaos in this parenting gig. But chaos and orderliness can happily co-habit the same house.

6) If you screw up, apologize and ask for forgiveness. Messing up hundreds of times over the years has required many humbling moments before our kids. When things get ugly, when we are out of line or clearly wrong, or when we simply get in a foul mood, we are quite faithful to just stop, apologize, and ask for forgiveness. Likewise, if our kids mess up, they have been taught to do the same thing. And we have taught our kids that when one does mess up, it is right to look the offended person in the eye and make sure that he looks back. And that the question “Will you please forgive me?” needs to be asked with a spirit of true contrition. And that, once asked, the offender is released of the burden; that it is up to the offended to either forgive or not.

7) Have a decent attitude. We expect our kids to say “please,” “thank you,” “yes,” and “no.” If they can manage a “m’am” or “sir,” all the better. We don’t tolerate ill-mannered “yeah” or “huh,” especially when greeting visitors or answering the phone (one of my biggest pet peeves is to call someone and have a nasty, poorly-trained kid answer on the other end with a dull or goofy “huh”…poor parenting indeed…..We also expect an overall attitude of gratefulness. If I pick my kid up from football practice and he is just foul (“Mom, you’re late!” or “I told you to…” or “Why didn’t you…”), then he is grounded until he’s had an attitude adjustment. If someone in our family uses the resources of time, energy or money to do something nice for someone else, a grateful attitude is expected. We insist on a respectful and loving way of treating members of our family…and of friends and visitors as well.

In the end, only we are responsible for the well-being and nurturing of our kids. Whether or not our kids will have happy childhoods will rest largely upon our own square shoulders. For creating happy childhoods happens with lots of thoughtful planning and preparation. And yes, some rules, too.

I have always found it fascinating that as we go through the parenting years, we, as parents, think that we are raising our kids…which of course we do. Yet in the end, it is they who raise us. Our children raise us up. They make us become better individuals. As you rule your roost, try to make it one in which your kids will remember fondly once out of it….and one in which they will want to make frequent stops once their wings are strong enough to fly on their own.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Beating the Back-to-School Blues

More than the start of a New Year, the beginning of the school year causes me pause. And anxiety. Letters of instruction pour in from every angle: the principal, PTSA president, school nurse, sports coaches, booster club president, music instructors, orchestra directors, homeroom teachers and guidance counselors. Each one gives me to-do lists, opportunities for service, mandatory meeting schedules—and invoices.

And that’s just in the first week.

My husband’s work gears up, too, as does my own day job. Back from time at the beach, workers return with sunburned feet yet with boots on the ground. Computers hum and workloads pile up. The demands are palpable. Anxiety hits full force and I physically feel it: my chest pounds, palms sweat, stomach flip flops. And while I don’t personally get into a full-blown funk, I always feel the blues to one degree or another.

Coping Mechanisms

Exercise and chocolate have always been my addictions of choice. A strenuous bike ride or an hour of tennis does wonders for one’s body and mind. More than ever, taking time out to exercise amidst the stress of back-to-school integration is vital to keeping your sanity. Keep a few bars of your favorite dark chocolate stashed where kids and spouse cannot find them. Indulge as needed. And if coffee is your thing (as it is mine, too), and an afternoon latte seems to generally help the day go more smoothly, don’t sweat it. I could think of worse things used to de-stress.

Pass the torch. I used to feel that I would always work with kids…because for what seemed like forever I always had elementary-aged kids. And then my kids grew up. And I slowly lost my appetite for dealing with kids in this age group. I desired to work with pre-schoolers. The 3, 4 and 5-year-old set. Leading cherub choir. And with fellow moms (in the Rocket Mom Society). Feel free to pass the torch if your passion has dried up. You are not obligated to continue volunteering in areas that you have mentally outgrown. Toss up those years to exciting challenges…and then move on. Map a completely different course. Take a risk. Grow in an area in which you’ve always had a deep-seated desire. Find something which brings you joy. Makes you happy. Write a book. Take up painting. Work at the soup kitchen. Everyone else in your family is—in one way or another—growing independently of you. Give yourself the freedom to expand your own horizons.

Build in personal time. Yeah yeah. We hear this all the time. Bubble baths and manicures. But make sure you take time out for yourself lest you become the world’s most insufferable martyr. If that means nightly grooming rituals or long cups of tea sipped by yourself in your closet, give yourself some daily private time so that you are emotionally and physically equipped to take care of those in your charge.

Re-assess priorities. Do you really need to be doing the same things you’ve been doing these last few years? Can you teach the kids how to do their own laundry? Ask your sitter to help start dinner or go to the grocery store for you? Can you train your kids to start picking up some of the slack around the house? Should you be re-arranging your schedule this year? Exercising in the morning rather than at night? Doing the laundry twice a week instead of everyday? Is it time for you to back out of the workforce? Or re-enter it? Spend time in personal reflection over the course of this week as to how you believe you should best spend your days.

Just as the first few weeks of school throw me in to a tizzy, they force me to stop and think about what I’m really trying to do in all of the various roles in which I find myself. I look forward to exploring this next year together with you. Hang in there. I’m sending you all my best,


Monday, June 04, 2007

The Positive Pact

With hurricanes, tornados, fires out of control, mud slides, flooding, severe thunderstorms tearing up the country from one end to another, and with the threat of bird flu and terrorist attacks, "Are we sure this is a good time to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance?" Jay Leno

Early in our marriage, with two careers, our first house and few years of maturity under our belts, we used to get down. On life. On each other. On our jobs. On whatever. Not long into this sometimes downward spiral of negativism, my husband came up with a subtle sign which he injected whenever one of us needed to get back into positive territory. He made a plus sign with his fingers and called it “the positive pact.” We literally made a pact with each other that if one of us noticed the other one getting down, we’d make a plus sign in a visual, kick-yourself-in-the-pants-way to help the other one snap out of it.

So when I got an email this week from one of my readers, it struck a chord. A little snooping revealed that the author’s source had been incorrectly attributed to comedian Jay Leno; the correct attribution needs to go to Craig R. Smith. As we Americans celebrated Memorial Day last weekend--and both a trip to see my mom out-of-state and an overload of responsibilities at work and home prevented me from writing a Newsletter—I thought I’d pass it along to you this week. While I don’t see eye to eye on every one of the writer’s points, I do think the resounding message should be well-taken: we need to develop an attitude of gratitude. So here goes:

"The other day I was reading Newsweek magazine and came across some poll data I found rather hard to believe. It must be true given the source, right? The Newsweek poll alleges that 67 percent of Americans are unhappy with the Direction the country is headed and 69 percent of the country is unhappy with the performance of the president. In essence 2/3s of the citizenry just ain't happy and want a change.

So being the knuckle dragger I am, I started thinking, ''What are we so unhappy about?'' Is it that we have electricity and running water 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? Is our unhappiness the result of having air conditioning in the summer and heating in the winter? Could it be that 95.4 percent of these unhappy folks have a job? Maybe it is the ability to walk into a grocery store at any time and see more food in moments than Darfur has seen in the last year?

Maybe it is the ability to drive from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean without having to present identification papers as we move through each state? Or possibly the hundreds of clean and safe motels we would find along the way that can provide temporary shelter? I guess having thousands of restaurants with varying cuisine from around the world is just not good enough. Or could it be that when we wreck our car, emergency workers show up and provide services to help all and even send a helicopter to take you to the hospital.

Perhaps you are one of the 70 percent of Americans who own a home. You may be upset with knowing that in the unfortunate case of a fire, a group of trained firefighters will appear in moments and use top notch equipment to extinguish the flames thus saving you, your family and your belongings. Or if, while at home watching one of your many flat screen TVs, a burglar or prowler intrudes, an officer equipped with a gun and a bullet-proof vest will come to defend you and your family against attack or loss.

This all in the backdrop of a neighborhood free of bombs or militias raping and pillaging the residents. Neighborhoods where 90 percent of teenagers own cell phones and computers. How about the complete religious, social and political freedoms we enjoy that are the envy of everyone in the world? Maybe that is what has 67 percent of you folks unhappy.

Fact is, we are the largest group of ungrateful, spoiled brats the world has ever seen. No wonder the world loves the U. S. yet has a great disdain for its citizens. They see us for what we are. The most blessed people in the world who do nothing but complain about what we don't have, and what we hate about the country instead of thanking the good Lord we live here.

I know, I know. What about the president who took us into war and has no plan to get us out? The president who has a measly 31 percent approval rating? Is this the same president who guided the nation in the dark days after 9/11? The President that cut taxes to bring an economy out of recession? Could this be the same guy who has been called every name in the book for succeeding in keeping all the spoiled ungrateful brats safe from terrorist attacks? The Commander in Chief of an all-volunteer army that is out there defending you and me?

Did you hear how bad the President is on the news or talk show? Did this news affect you so much, make you so unhappy you couldn't take a look around for yourself and see all the good things and be glad? Think about it....Are you upset at the President because he actually caused YOU personal pain OR is it because the "Media" told you he was failing to kiss your sorry ungrateful behind every day. Make no mistake about it. The troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have volunteered to serve, and in many cases may have died for your freedom. There is currently no draft in this country. They didn't have to go. They are able to refuse to go and end up with either a ''general'' discharge, an ''other than “Honorable” discharge or, worst case scenario, a ''dishonorable'' discharge after a few days in the brig. So why then the flat-out discontentment in the minds of 69 percent of Americans? Say what you want but I blame it on the media. If it bleeds it leads and they specialize in bad news. Everybody will watch a car crash with blood and guts. How many will watch kids selling lemonade at the corner? The media knows this and media outlets are for-profit corporations. They offer what sells, and when criticized, try to defend their actions by "justifying" them in one way or another. Just ask why they tried to allow a murderer like O. J Simpson to write a book about how he didn't kill his wife, but if he did he would have done it this way...... Insane!

Stop buying the negativism you are fed everyday by the media. Shut off the TV, burn Newsweek, and use the New York Times for the bottom of your birdcage cage. Then start being grateful for all we have as a country. There is exponentially more good than bad. We are among the most blessed people on Earth and should thank God several times a day, or at least be thankful and appreciative."

Source: Smith, Craig R. "Made in the USA: Spoiled Brats" WorldNetDaily. 20 November 2006.

A Quick Note

The offices of FourQ Press close between Memorial Day and Labor Day so that I can work on book projects (among others…) My second book is in the proof-reading stage and will then go into design phase for its Spring 2008 publication. Details to follow as soon as I am fully allowed to share. I’ll be working on my third book for most of the summer….feel free to email me or call. Until then, have a happy, fun-filled summer with those whom you love!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Renovating the Heart of the Home

In towns across New England, spring house tours—and specifically kitchen tours—sprout up like crocuses on a cool May Morning. Synced up to perfectly align with Mother’s Day, they provide women the distinct voyeuristic pleasure of peeking inside the lives of those who might otherwise hide behind barriers—physical or economic—too high to otherwise scale.

Such was the case this past week when in my own tiny town seven homes were opened for our annual kitchen tour. This Friday I will also visit a Designer Showhouse with a girlfriend; others dot the weeks ahead, but hey, you can only peek into so many lives. As is usually my observation at the end of the day: we have become proficient fluffers and featherers of our nests. Call it the cocooning movement, call it a thrust in home entertaining…or call it the desire for conspicuous consumption: we are decorating and renovating our homes like there is no tomorrow!

I cannot criticize the efforts of these best-intentioned homeowners. For I am officially in their ranks. Previously involved in an extensive renovation of the third floor of our house, we have also done less glamorous projects. We’ve ripped up carpeting to lay down hardwood. Removed wallpaper to paint ceilings to floors. Replaced lighting fixtures. Added bamboo shades and silk panels. And now we are getting ready to enter the kitchen demolition phase. The builder is lined up. Plans drawn. Master carpenter commissioned. Appliances configured.

I fully understand the angst.

Somewhere between the eighties and the start of the new millennium, we collectively (as a nation) decided that a completely remodeled, bells-and-whistle-loaded kitchen would be the benchmark for a good house. That whether we cooked or not, we needed industrial-strength appliances. That we required six burners, even if our family was small or our nest was getting emptier and quieter. That we had to have stainless steel, regardless of its penchant for attracting tiny fingerprints. That cabinets had to be perfectly configured. Drawers had to silently glide.

I spent a good deal of time sorting all of this out. Trying to get our heads—and our checkbook—wrapped around the scope of the project. To figure out what was really necessary and what was purely frivolous. In doing my research, I stumbled across an interesting little statistic that claims that most people do a kitchen renovation because of—drum roll please—peer pressure! That it’s not only to get a house up to speed or for re-sale or for aesthetics or because we might want to improve the odds that we’ll actually cook in it. We want renovated kitchens because our friend did it. Or our neighbor. Geez.

Chances are, you are either in the midst of a renovation yourself, you have just finished one or you are about to go down the path towards one. So keep your eyes open for the following trends:

1)Glass-fronted refrigerators. Martha Stewart just put one in her New York house. They’ll certainly be the rage within a year. I wanted one—in fact, it was the one thing I requested in my own renovation—but I’m not getting it. Couldn’t get anyone in my family to come on board with me. Couldn’t get anyone excited about keeping it looking the way they do in the magazine ads for them. But stay tuned. They’re going to be big.

2)Stone countertops that are not granite. Granite has been used. A lot. We’re now seeing stone that is not in the ubiquitous category. Look for more limestone and marble. And some very good stone look-alikes.

3)Steamer ovens. OK. I think this is a guy thing. I tried to convince my husband that an old-fashioned pot works just fine when heated over an open flame, but he is convinced that we’ll eat more steamed broccoli if we buy a unit designed for just that. (And steamed fish, chicken and cauliflower, too.) Whatever. They’re a great size for a wall or island installation and are selling like hotcakes.

4)Warming drawers. Seems like I’m in the minority here by not getting one. But something’s gotta give. Can’t have everything. They do a great job of keeping things warm until everyone gets home from soccer and piano lessons.

5)Fabulous hardware. Look for wonderful knobs, drawer pulls and hinges. Available in a huge variety of styles and finishes, these will impact character to your cabinetry and add the visual punch that the room deserves.

6)Lighting fixtures take up space. Look for wrought iron in black and bronze finishes. Saw quite a lot of interesting ones at market. All price points, styles and shapes. Lighting has really taken a place of prominence in the overall room design and budget.

Kitchens reign supreme as the official stamp of the home. They mark the personality of the homeowners. Of their tastes and of their stage in life. They are the first room to which would-be home buyers make their first beeline and the real deal maker—or breaker—of the home. As you wake up your senses and follow the call of spring (and you can feel it, can’t you?), open your eyes and minds to the endless possibilities, creative stirrings and nurturing opportunities in this most important room. They don’t call it the heart of the home for nothin’.

Blessings on your week,


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

It’s What Mom Really Wants for Mother’s Day

A good night’s sleep. Without interruption.

A clean house. Without asking for it.

Food in the fridge. With the shelves cleaned out before the new stuff goes in.

Breakfast in bed. With dark chocolate on the side.

Time to read a book. Without pictures.

Laundry folded. As if you knew that.

What mom really wants for Mother’s Day is for you to be her mind-reader. To know before she even asks for it what it is she really wants.

Moms of newborns and toddlers are too sleep-deprived to be articulate. You need to figure her out because she cannot quite put her desires into words. Moms of teens are too emotionally-charged to be sensible. You need to understand that she is hormonally-challenged (very low in the estrogen department) at exactly the same time that she is parenting other hormonally-challenged creatures (very high in the testosterone or estrogen departments) who, for the first time ever, are witty enough, quick enough and strong enough to stand up to her! (I never understood this law of nature by the way!) Moms with fully-grown kids are both thrilled at new-found freedoms but saddened by the lack of feathers in their nests. You need to provide her with the stimulation of which she had become accustomed.

I find that my own desires for Mother’s Day change with each passing year. They have ranged from getting away from it all to a deep-seated desire to be particularly close to home. From hoping for another baby to praying for a completely-healed teenager. And from material desires ranging from a new mixer for my kitchen to a completely new kitchen.

Motherhood always involves evolution. For its twists and turns take us to places both fully-expected and completely improbable. It requires re-invention, both of yourself and of your role. I marvel now at how I evolved from picking up my toddler’s toys only to stand back and watch them pick up after themselves for a few golden years…only to evolve once again to having to pick up after them as their teen brains have seemingly cleared out all of those cells holding the memory of exactly how to do just that!

However you choose—or happen—to spend this Mother’s Day, I hope that it gives you just the space you desire. Whether in the company of those you love or in the solitude of total silence; at home or far away; with your spouse and kids or without. That you get one day—if only one—to be the queen of your castle and of your kingdom. Big or small. Noisy or quiet. Celebrate the lives in your care. And may you feel blessed.

Wishing you a wonderful week!


Monday, April 30, 2007

Mirror Mirror Part 2

Very short Newsletter tonight. Life is hectic, husband is out-of-town, laundry is screaming and the dishes in the sink won’t stop whining. Nuf said. Here goes:

Had a great weekend with my two old friends coming in from Kentucky for a three-day visit. We did the shop-til-you-drop thing in New York City, rural Connecticut (combing for some of the most gorgeous antiques in the country) and up the shoreline. Ate and shopped. Shopped and ate. Perfect weekend.
Funny how when one does this with old girlfriends it is so gosh-darned wonderful!

Here are more tips and treats discovered over the course of the week, both from my two friends and from the rocket moms who responded to last week’s Newsletter:

The Costa Rican rainforest mud was a hit with my girlfriend (and I have a photo to prove it). As promised, here’s the contact info: Or call 877-596-7582.

Pure olive oil Marseille soap is truly the best and we found it in several shops while out and about. Also look for a liquid hand soap version. If you have trouble getting French soaps (and this in particular), please go to and order the olive oil bricks (Savon de Marseille). The consensus between my girlfriend and me is that the rectangular brick is easier to use over the long haul than the hefty square one. Better also to use one of those slotted soap dish liners; your soap will last longer and you won’t get that slimy mess that sometimes happens when you don’t use the slotted soap dish liner thing.

If you have access to L’Occitane, wander in there and get their olive oil soaps. Perfectly wonderful. Also check out the L’Occitane line of hand lotions, especially the lavender one. Luxurious and well-priced.

Look also at Doux soaps, made from shea butter and olive and palm oils. For hand washing. Like my grandmother used decades ago…..quite glorious.

If you get a chance, please do visit the Kiehl’s store or at least their online site: I completely love their whole line.

Another rocket mom friend of mine wrote to let everyone know about LacHydrin 5, apparently the best stuff for calloused dried-out alligator feet. Cheap and easily accessible at your local pharmacy. She also likes CVS’s VICHY line. Everything in it, too, from night creams to moisturizing masks. Also loves the Purpose soap and the CeraVe cream or lotion. Simple packaging and inexpensive (my kind of stuff). Her last suggestion: the fruit enzyme mask by Murad.

OK, rocket mom. This ship needs to spend the night on the landing pad. Until next week, all blessings to you and yours.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

“The magic of a face.” Thomas Carew

Funny how when I look in the mirror these days, I notice tiny little lines framing my eyes. Slightly-sagging flesh drooping past my jaw line and brownish spots in my otherwise relatively blemish-free skin. Ahhh. Middle age. Gravity. Character lines.

Taking care of one’s face—particularly when one approaches thirtysomething (let alone forty or fiftysomething!)—ranks right up there with nightly flossing and frequent showering. Freshly-scrubbed skin remains a virtue as well as a sign of health and vitality. Rosy-colored cheeks always win over paleness, as do bright, sparking eyes and clean, clear teeth. Indeed, the impact of physical attractiveness, of cleanliness and vitality, cannot be denied in our culture as well as of those around the globe. Research in Social Psychology suggests that we assume that physically attractive people are friendlier, more popular, smarter, wealthier and more “put together.” Called the “physical attractiveness stereotype” by the pro’s, it defines the idea that physically attractive people possess socially coveted traits. And excellent facial skin care is the first step in that direction.

Ok ladies. The first step: Develop a beauty regimen. All women need some type of daily beauty regimen. This has nothing to do with your natural beauty or bone structure or genetic stroke of luck or misfortune. It has everything to do with simple but excellent daily grooming habits and a specific regimen of helping to ensure optimal attractiveness. Specifically, it involves a daily plan for taking care of your skin, hair and nails. Who wouldn’t hold someone in deeper respect who has clean, clear and glowing skin, shining hair eyes and hair, white teeth and strong nails? These are hallmarks of sound health and vitality and of a disciplined life!

The next step: Take a personal inventory.

Is your hair clean and shiny? Do you shampoo regularly? Do you apply regular hot oil treatments? Do you get regular cuts and coloring? Is your hairstyle attractive? Is it current? Are your teeth clean and cavity-free? Do you both brush and floss regularly? Do you regularly schedule dental cleanings? Do you need to consider braces or bleaching? Are your nails nicely manicured? Are they strong and pink? Are they nicely shaped? Do you keep them polished? If not, do they look healthy and strong? How about your toenails? Do you frequently apply lotions and salts to keep them soft and smooth? What about your complexion? Is it clear, clean and smooth? Is it well-toned? Do you completely remove your make-up at bedtime? Do your eyes sparkle?

10-9-8 etc. Blast Off: Use skincare products that are as close to a natural state as possible. Experiment until you find something that truly works for you. What works for your best friend may be out of your budget or cause you to break out in hives. No worries. Keep playing with products until you find something wonderful. Remember that expensive skincare products are oftentimes overrated. Beware of expensive packaging and advertising; make-up and skincare manufacturers and marketers are experts at selling “hope in a bottle,” a concept upon which Revlon built its fortune. Always be on the lookout, instead, for products which are perhaps less well-known but superior in content. (See my thoughts below for those that pass the Rocket Mom sniff test.) Regardless of what you wind up putting on your face and skin, remember that your skin absorbs everything wholeheartedly! Avoid anything containing petroleum (like Vaseline) or mineral oil if possible. Take the time everyday to do the routine that works for you and that leaves you feeling positively wonderful. Invigorated and well-nourished.

Research shows in study after study that physically attractive people view themselves as happier. They apparently cultivate an increased self-confidence and a happier life view. Cultivate good skincare and good grooming in general, and smile at the world.

She is not fair to outward view
As many maidens be;
Her loveliness I never knew
Until she smiled on me:
Oh! Then I saw her eye was bright,
A well of love, a spring of light.
Hartley Coleridge

Rocket Mom’s skincare favorites:
• Dr. Bronner’s Natural Castile Soaps have been my personal favorites for over twenty years. Soft enough for a newborn’s skin, they are environmentally safe and heavenly-scented. Nothing is more glorious after an hour-long swim or a hard workout than a hot shower with Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Soap. Nothing.
• Marseilles Olive Oil Soap is the only thing I use to wash my face. Been using it seemingly forever. It’s been around for hundreds of years and is completely organic. Sold in bars, it is like pure gold to me. Buy it online, at a great apothecary or through L’Occitane.
• Costa Rican lava mud masks. Okay. Sounds hokey. But it is the best darn thing I’ve ever put on my face, outside of all-natural lotions and, of course, the above-mentioned olive oil French soap. Wash your face with warm water and scrub it gently with a wash cloth. Apply organic Costa Rican mud on face—it’s very green!—and let it dry. Keep it on for about a half hour or so. Blemishes will be gone by the time you wash it off. Amazing. Completely natural. Look for it online. I know it sounds like I’m a bona fide tree hugger—and truth be told—if I was stranded on a desert island and could only take two things for my face, it’d be my olive oil soap and my rainforest mud (particularly amusing as those who know me well would hardly describe me as a “nature girl”…but they are truly the best-est of the best!
• Kiehl’s is the paragon of simplicity and purity. This line of all-natural skincare delivers easy-on-the-face ingredients with a relatively easily digestible price tag to match. Purchase their products in the New York City area or over the Internet. This is my personal favorite. Extremely tough to beat.
• Arbonne skin care from Switzerland. Swiss originated but American made, these products were demo-ed at our Rocket Mom Society meeting last night. We all hung out in my bathroom while skincare consultant Joan applied glorious all-natural, fruit and vegetable-based lotions to our freshly-scrubbed faces. The invigorating salt is my favorite. If you’re interested, I’ll be glad to pass along a way that you can order them from wherever you happen to live.
• Burt’s Bees makes a darn good product at a truly reasonable price. Some of their stuff is better than others. I love the carrot seed facial mist. It should be in the make-up bag of every rocket mom on the face of the planet. Apply a light layer of moisturizer after gently misting your face with the sweet smell of carrot seed. Divine.

Why don’t you email me with your personal favorites, too? There’s lots of stuff out there, so sometimes it’s tough to sift through the clutter. As always, the simpler the better. Once you find a winner, keep using it, regardless of the newest fad beauty product. Pay as little as possible. Stay fresh and clean. And keep it green.

Big hug,


Monday, April 09, 2007

You Want Me to Do What?

“When our eyes see our hands doing the work of our
hearts, the circle of Creation is completed inside us; the doors of our souls fly open and love steps forth to heal everything in sight." Michael Bridge

It wasn’t like I had nothing else to do. Or wanted to do. Could have put my feet up on the sofa (like my teenage son did seemingly all afternoon). Could have gabbed on the phone with a long-distance girlfriend—or even my mother for that matter. Could have taken a bubble bath or read a magazine or caught up on the news.

But last night, when the other members of my family were doing their own thing, I had the dog on top of the washer machine for a long overdue beauty session. Cut, shampoo and blow dry. Our precious pup, who gets way more grooming attention than I do, had missed her regularly monthly scheduled appointment way back in December and was past the point of no return…in the beauty department, that is.

The other family members had noticed that her eyes were no longer visible from overgrown puppy bangs. That her fur was matted. That her toenails were too long. That she had developed an odor. That she was in desperate need of a bath. But they had blown it off. Figured it would take care of itself.

Have you ever noticed how your kids think that things just take care of themselves? That lights are always on when they need to see and that the heat comes on when it’s cold inside? That the fridge is generally full of food and that the bathroom usually has a roll of tissue paper on the holder? That laundry finds its way—neatly folded—to their drawers and that crumbs find a way off the floors?

When our daughter looked up at us on Easter day and proclaimed regarding some of the above said wonders of the western world: “But it’s your job as parents to do these things for us!” my husband asked her if she appreciated her heated bedroom, lighted bathroom mirror and instantly accessible cell phone.

She had never paid much thought to them. And admitted it (albeit with a discernible rolling of the eyeballs.)

If you ever feel “’Tis but for the grace of God go I,” you are not alone. While not doormats, we certainly are the glue that holds our families together. We are the ones who get our kids out the door to school and the ones who remind them to take their backpacks and lunch bags. The ones who fret when they do not have enough clothing on their backs in the wind and the cold and when they walk through the rain without a hood on their heads. When they forget their homework and forget to eat breakfast.

We are the ones who sweep the kitchen floor because we notice the crumbs that no one else does. Who wash the sheets that they are willing to sleep on long past the point when the health inspector would fine us for neglect. Who wash the plates before we put them into the dishwasher to ensure that hardened spaghetti will be completely forgotten.

We are the ones who forego our free time to bathe the family dog!

At the end of your day –or during the middle of it for that matter—when you think you are at your breaking point and someone in your family asks you to do just one more thing, you need to ask incredulously—for melodrama if for nothing else—“You want me to do what?!?” And then take a deep breath, drink a glass of water, and remember that we are, slowly but surely, marching towards Mother’s Day. When you will have one day where you should be expected to do nothing.

Blessings on your week. I’ll chat again in two weeks. My daughter is playing in Vienna and Salzburg with her youth orchestra and I am accompanying her as a chaperone. Hey, I’ve swept those crumbs, washed those sheets and bathed the dog. I deserve it.


A Quick Note

As the list of rocket moms around the globe grows, it has come to my attention that many of you do not know about the book that started this whole thing. ROCKET MOM! 7 Strategies to Blast You into Brilliance can easily be found online through dozens of outlets. If you’d like an autographed copy, simply email me. I’ll take care of it.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Defrizzling the Frazzle

Men travel faster now,
but I do not know if they go to better things.
-- Willa Cather

Families are moving too fast these days. Speeding through life from one activity to another with hardly a thought as to what we’re doing for whom and why. I am as guilty as the next mom: rocket mom or alpha mom or stay-at-home mom or working mom or single mom or married mom. Step-mom or Stepford mom. We’re moving too fast.

We come home at the end of the day—after playgroups and errands or chauffeuring our kids between school to activities or ourselves between work and home—completely exhausted. Frazzled and overwhelmed. Too tired to cook. Too tired to talk. Too tired to appropriately engage in our families. My personal end-of-day fantasy is that someone would bring me over a warm roasted chicken (every night would be just fine!)….and put it my mouth and chew it for me, too.

I have few answers. Only one tiny step in the right direction. I am committed to spending (at least) one night during the week eating dinner around my dining room table with my husband and children. With wholesome food on china plates. Candles lit, cloth napkins in our laps. All sound machines turned off or unanswered. I am committed to sitting down and enjoying the company of the people in the world who I am most in love with.

For stopping—and the key word here is “stopping”—to eat with my family is one of the highlights of my week. Taking at least one night out to pause between the regularly-scheduled stuff—the tennis and lacrosse practices, violin lessons, errands and homework—is a difficult maneuver to pull of with any regularity. That bewitching end-of-the-day thing—dinner and time with the spouse and the kids—is oftentimes an impossible feat. It’s so sad yet so true. We live in frenzy.

I know I am not alone. I hear it everyday. From almost everyone. Neighbors and colleagues. We frazzle at simply being female. In fact, I read in our church bulletin about a new class being offered on “the frazzled female.” The chord has been officially struck.

So let’s make a pact together—every one of us—that we shall try to stop at the end of the day. That we will force ourselves to slow down. To cook a little. Rest a little. Read a little. Talk a little. Perhaps do the dishes together as a family. Perhaps sit by the fire and relax with your spouse. Perhaps do some needlework or crossword puzzles. Draw or scrap.

How about we all take this week to reflect on what we need to do as mothers to get ourselves to a “place of quiet.” To reflect. Enjoy the simplest things.

Elizabeth Kubler Ross passed on this bit of wisdom as she reflected on the things that she had learned from people in their last days:

"Not one of them has ever told me how many houses she had
or how many handbags or sable coats.
What they tell me of are tiny, almost insignificant moments in their lives --
where they went fishing with a child
or mountain climbing trips in Switzerland.
Some brief moments of privacy in an interpersonal relationship.
These are the things that keep people going at the end.
They remember little moments that they have long forgotten,
and they suddenly have a smile on their faces.
And they begin to reminisce about the little joys
that made their whole lives meaningful
and worth the living."

Especially during this week, Holy Week, enjoy your days with those you love.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Hello Miss Sunshine!

It’s official. Spring has sprung. Goodbye, Mister Gray Skies. Hello, Miss Sunshine.

I hope you have walked around your house and de-winterized it. Threw away anything resembling that season. Pinecones, evergreens boughs and holly berries have got to go. It’s time to display bird nests and eggs, daffodils and butterflies. Open your windows. Wash the blankets. Get a puppy.

Winter and spring have become for me—this week especially—metaphors for everyday living. I have noticed—more than usual—a predominant and unfriendly ethos floating around the world. A winter-like “graying” of people and their zest for life. With the arrival of spring, it’s time to change that. And for good.

Just last week, when I was changing in the gym locker room, a fellow lap swimmer waltzed in donning the cutest bathing suit. Totally fabulous. Orange tankini. So I commented (couldn’t help it of course): “Wow! That’s a great suit!”

No response.

Thinking she was hard of hearing, I looked her in the eye and repeated myself. “GREAT suit!” inflecting my voice so she would really take note.

She looked straight at me, kept walking and said nothing. Just opened the door towards the pool.

What’s up with that?!?

I stood back and shook my head. “What a hag,” I thought. She couldn’t have even stopped to say “thank you?”

And so it goes. People in their own little worlds. Without thought or time for anyone else. Wandering around with no bounce in their steps nor sparkle in their eyes. Living in “winter moments” of gray rather than “spring moments” of (lime) green.

My plea this week is simple: Live as if you believe in the hopes and promises of spring. Greet others with a smile. Say “good morning” to a complete stranger. Look at a colleague in the eyes and ask how he is doing. Laugh with your eyes. Shake someone’s hand firmly. Answer the phone cheerfully. Open the door for the mailman gratefully. Drive courteously.

You will stand out in the world. And be respected and admired for embracing life with spring-like exuberance. With joie de vivre. It’s not difficult. Takes very little extra energy. Just requires thinking about others. Of shifting one’s mindset.

It’s what the world needs at spring. Totally. Spring has sprung. Live it.



Monday, March 19, 2007

No Big Deal

Ok. This is the first time I am publicly admitting to it: I am accident prone. Now, if you’ve ever “googled” me, it would be readily apparent. It’s been completely disclosed over and over again in my writings. I’ve been hit by a car while crossing the street not once but twice (and how many people do you personally know who could say the same thing?) First time: I was hit while walking and wound up unconscious for awhile before waking up in the ER and spending four days in ICU. That was followed by a month in the hospital, months in physical therapy, a couple of major surgeries and permanent damage to my right leg (it’s almost one inch shorter than my left as a result of being crushed to smithereens). Second time: I was hit by a car while biking by a j—k who failed to look before he leapt into the street, hitting me broadside, re-breaking my pelvis and my left shoulder (which required complete reconstruction and excruciating physical therapy for almost one full year. )

I haven’t had any major accidents since then, nor have I had many minor ones, except for the very occasional fender benders, the likes of which seem to mess up moms like me, teenage drivers and others who sometimes have other things on their minds. Mind you, I am a low risk driver. Middle-aged (ouch!), careful and not-given-to-convertible-sports-cars-due-to-turning-middle-age. But I have so much on my mind these days: the whereabouts of four kids in three different schools, my husband’s travel schedule, the dog and guinea pig’s dinner schedules (OK, I am kidding; I spend zero time fretting about the guinea pig) and the soon-to-be-remodeled kitchen subcontractor’s bidding schedules. Not to mention the state of the economy, the upcoming presidential race, the war in Iraq or stamping out global illiteracy.

As moms, we carry the weight of the world on our shoulders! And that weight, while dragging down our physical beings, wreaks havoc on our brain waves!?!

Just last week, while driving pleasantly enough to work (my office is a good 45-minute commute through mostly idyllic country two-lane roads) I took my foot off the brake when the light turned green for one teensy second while simultaneously looking down to change the radio station (I’d blame this on my daughter’s delay in organizing that mysterious iPod I got for Christmas but I don’t think that argument would stand up in court) and boom! Metal hit metal as I ran into the backside of the enormous SUV now directly in front of me. Yuck. Out I got, on this rainy, cold Monday morning (the first day back from my birthday celebration in sunny Miami nonetheless) and met the slightly irritated woman SUV-driver-owner. I apologized profusely, told her I took my eye off the wheel for one teensy-weensy second as we stood there, in the rain, inspecting the damage. A coin-sized bubble messed up her otherwise perfect fender and, after offering my insurance info as well as payment and restoration in full, she smiled and said: “I’ve done that before. No big deal. Go and have a good day.”

I thought I had left the scene completely unscathed. Thought I had done zero damage to my own car, until a week later when Nick, who was home from college, commented on my messed-up front fender. I hadn’t even noticed……but it was, indeed, noticeably banged up and lopsided.

I had global illiteracy and the state of the economy on my mind.

As I sit at my computer and look at my (somewhat messy) house (and think about my messed-up car), I realize what an imperfect world we inhabit…and what an imperfect piece of work I truly am. The guinea pig’s bedding is strewn all over the kitchen floor; a sweeping tonight will only guarantee more mess in the morning. The laundry basket is emptied and clean clothes are lined up in my drawers; tomorrow, dirty socks and tennis clothes will fill up that space. A candlelit dinner is enjoyed in our dining room and china has been washed, dried and put back in the cupboard; breakfast will bring another round of dried cereal and milk in bowls that will not quite find their way into the sink.

And so it goes. On and on and on. A relentless stream of accidents and mishaps and messes. And mistakes. Innocently enough, yet inevitable. Life is messy. And motherhood can be even messier. Sticky. Dented.

And would we have it any other way?

As you go through these years carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, I hope that someone—your spouse or your kids or your parents or your best friend—will give you grace. Let you get through the messes without being too hard on yourself. (My own husband’s reaction to the discovery of my dented fender? Laughter.)

As laundry and dishes and things and puppies and toddlers mess up your days, give them plenty of grace. Sweep or wipe or mop as need be. And try to let it all roll off your shoulders. Try to smile and believe: “No big deal.”

And then go and have a good day.

Easier said than done. Yup. Especially when hormones impair our best-intentioned good humor. But we are, after all, in the season of Lent. Reflection is in order. Perspective.

I wish you all blessings on your week,


Monday, March 12, 2007

Happiness Revealed Through Family, Girlfriends…and Chocolate

And great food and drink. Sunshine. Dancing.

I just spent my birthday (“the big one”) holed up in a hotel room and conference center in New Jersey where I was committed to a three-day business meeting. Nothing against New Jersey; I could certainly think of worse places to be. I had, after all, heat, hot water and electricity. Plenty of coffee. But the days were long. And my heart yearned for home. My familiar and favorite spots. My own bed. Shower. Closet full of clothes. And hubby, kids and Bichon Frise pup snuggled up on my legs during my just-before-bedtime ritual of watching the news sprawled out on my down-cushioned sofa, plump pillows supporting weary head.

But work responsibilities called and, truth be told, there is something extremely satisfying about living up to work responsibilities. So I attended this meeting without too much whining. It helped a lot that we had a treat awaiting us with—as serendipity would have it—perfect timing (which took away any of the pain I was experiencing.) For my husband happened to have qualified for a recognition trip gifted by his company which took us both to South Beach (Florida) for four days (in the middle of winter) conveniently convening as soon as my New Jersey business meeting ended.

On the last night in New Jersey, my husband met me in my hotel so as to spend my actual birthday night with me. He surprised me with the dozens of cards and emails that you—my wonderful and faithful readers of this Rocket Mom Newsletter—sent to me. He organized them all in an album and wrapped up the whole thing in a beautiful box, presenting it to me at the end of a long work day which found me too exhausted to even find my way downstairs for a bite of dinner. So I just sat in my hotel room—facing my husband who sat across from me to watch my reactions—with dark chocolate bar in one hand and the card-and-email-stuffed-album in the other.

It was a lumpy-throated hour. Some of your notes, frankly, totally choked me up. Others filled the room with gut-busting laughter (the “Carolina Machina” was priceless, Deborah! I laughed and laughed until I cried. ) As I leafed through notes from my oldest girlfriends as well as from new ones, those of you who, though scattered across the globe and whom I shall probably never meet, have become connected to me each week through this Newsletter—I understand with every cell of my being the value of family and friendship (OK, and chocolate, too).

To those of you who wrote to me: thank you from the bottom of my heart. I laughed and cried out loud. This was a tender time spent in a quiet hotel room in—of all places—New Jersey. With the love of my life. And with you all. Your notes invigorated me to continue writing despite the increased demands on my days, a tough day job and book contract being the two heavy “new-ish” factors in our family’s already bulging equation.

Your friendship—along with the great food and drink, sunshine and dancing for which SoBe is famous and of which my husband and I appropriately indulged in celebration of “the big one”—meant the world to me on my birthday. As it does on this day, too.

Thank you for being my friend. For celebrating with me one of my life’s greatest days.

Big hug,